The Road to 270 is a weekly column leading up to the presidential election. Each installment is dedicated to understanding one state’s political landscape and how that might influence which party will win its electoral votes in 2020. We’ll do these roughly in order of expected competitiveness, moving toward the most intensely contested battlegrounds as election day nears.
The Road to 270 will be published every Monday. The column is written by Seth Moskowitz, a 270toWin elections and politics contributor. You can reach Seth at email@example.com or on Twitter @skmoskowitz.
The Strength and Weakness of Wyoming Voters
In presidential elections, Wyoming voters are electorally powerful but more-or-less ignored by the nominees. The state is the most over-represented in the Electoral College but has voted the same way for over half a century.
Wyoming is allocated three electoral votes — one for each U.S. Senator and one for its at-large U.S. House Representative. At 570,000 residents, it is the least populous state in the country. There are just 190,000 people per electoral vote, the lowest ratio of any state. Compare this to California, with a population of nearly 34 million and its 55 electoral votes. Here, there are over 600,000 residents per Electoral College vote.
However, Wyoming’s Electoral College votes are also essentially preordained to go to the GOP. In 2016, Donald Trump won here by a 46% margin over Hillary Clinton, making it the least competitive state* in the country. This margin and lack of competition means that there is little voters or activists could do in recent elections to change the state’s electoral prospects. This is almost certainly going to be the case again in 2020.
Wyoming’s Republican Roots
Wyoming has been dark red for the past five decades. It is tied with eight other states for the longest ongoing Republican streak in presidential elections. These states have all voted for the Republican nominee going back to 1968 (see map below). This was the first election following Democrat Lyndon Johnson’s 1964 landslide, when he just lost just six states — five southern ones and Arizona — to Barry Goldwater.
This Republican control has not been isolated to the presidency. The last time Democrats won a federal election was a U.S. House race in 1976. Voters last elected a Democratic Senator in 1970. Further down-ballot, the state government has been locked in a Republican trifecta since 2011 when Gov. Dave Freudenthal — the last Democrat to win a statewide office in Wyoming — completed his second term.
Current Republican Dominance
Recently, Wyoming has become the most Republican state in both election results and party identification. The state has ranked first in Republican identification eight times since 2008. In 2018, 59% of Wyoming residents said they were Republican or leaned that way. The corresponding Democratic number was just 25%. Similarly, in 2017, 49% of Wyoming residents called themselves conservatives and only 14% liberals.
Not surprisingly, this has led to large and expanding Republican margins in recent presidential elections. Each year since the turn of the century, Wyoming has been around 20-25% more Republican than the nation overall. Going back to 2008, John McCain easily defeated Barack Obama in Wyoming by a 32% margin (65% to 33%). Four years later Mitt Romney expanded that margin to 41% (69% to 28%). In 2016, Trump beat Hillary Clinton by 46% (68% to 22%). In just eight years, Republicans expanded their already dominant 32% margin another 14%, to 46%.
The state is divided into 23 counties, 22 of which Trump won in 2016. The only district that voted for Clinton is Teton County on the western border of the state. It had only about 13,000 voters in 2016 and gave Clinton 58% to Trump’s 31%. The county’s demographics help explain its blue tint: 54% of its population have a bachelor’s degree or higher, double that of Wyoming overall.
Demographics also explain the largely Republican dominance outside of Teton County. Wyoming’s eligible voting population is 88% non-Hispanic white. 63% of the state’s voting population are non-college educated whites, a key demographic of the Republican base. Interestingly, though, Wyoming has the second highest high school graduation rate in the country. This leads to a dichotomy, where Wyoming ranks 40th among the states for proportion of college graduates but 2nd for high school graduates.
That educational split becomes less surprising when considering the jobs that drive the economy. The state's largest industry is mining and extraction. It is the nation’s number one producer of coal, responsible for 42% produced in the country. Coal, natural gas, and the mining of other minerals helped buoy the state’s economy during the economic recession a decade ago. But, when energy prices fell in 2014, Wyoming was hit especially hard.
Since the turn of the century, when George Bush ran on support for mountaintop mining, the Republican Party has been seen as the party of coal. Meanwhile, Democratic efforts to reduce carbon emissions has been seen as an attack on coal and coal miners. When Hillary Clinton said, “we're going to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business” at a 2016 CNN Town Hall^ in Ohio, it likely did little to help her with voters here.
Wyoming is also one of the most sparsely populated states in the country. Only Alaska is less dense. There are just 6 people per square mile. This is partly because a huge portion of the state’s land is owned by the federal government. The state has a portion of Yellowstone National Park, Grand Teton National Park, and several national forests. Most of this land is along the western border with Idaho. There is also the Wind River Indian Reservation, the seventh largest reservation in the country, which comprises over 3,400 square miles.
Wyoming’s sparse population is also due to the lack of any major urban center. The largest city, Cheyenne, has only 64,000 residents. Cheyenne is not dense for a city, with just 2,400 residents per square mile. Compare this to its neighbor, Denver, Colorado, which has over 700,000 residents and 3,900 people per square mile.
Not Your Typical Republican
Despite its deep red nature, Wyoming has a unique breed of Republican. The state is more libertarian and less Christian conservative than most other Republican strongholds. Ted Cruz won 66% in the state’s 2016 primary while Trump only received 7%. Republicans in Wyoming don’t always align with their party on hot button issues like transgender “bathroom bans”, gun rights, and tightening access to the ballot box. Laramie, a city in southeastern Wyoming, recently passed an ordinance banning discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
Despite these libertarian (and occasionally progressive) tendencies, Democrats have no federal representation and number in the single digits in both the State House and State Senate. Republicans — libertarian or otherwise — have the state locked down. This doesn’t look to be changing anytime soon, especially not before next November.
* Washington D.C. has been less competitive than Wyoming, as we covered last week, but it is not a state.
^ For the record, that often-quoted comment didn't capture the full context of what she actually said.
In a press release, Bloomberg said "I’m running for president to defeat Donald Trump and rebuild America. We cannot afford four more years of President Trump’s reckless and unethical actions. He represents an existential threat to our country and our values. If he wins another term in office, we may never recover from the damage. The stakes could not be higher. We must win this election. And we must begin rebuilding America. I believe my unique set of experiences in business, government, and philanthropy will enable me to win and lead.”
While initially passing on a 2020 run, the former mayor has more recently concluded that the current field of Democrats was not well-positioned to defeat President Trump in the general election. Prior to his official entry, Bloomberg had filed for primaries in Alabama and Arkansas, to meet those states' deadlines.
It appears he will skip the early nominating contests in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina to focus on Super Tuesday, March 3. It's a risky strategy, but with a personal fortune of over $50 billion, Bloomberg may be one of the few with the wherewithal to stay relevant even without the momentum that those that do well in the early states will bring to the delegate-rich states to be contested in March and beyond.
Earlier this week, Politico unveiled its 2020 Election Forecast, providing initial ratings for each state in the presidential election, as well as for next year's congressional elections and gubernatorial contests. The forecast detail includes a short note on each key/competitive race, as well as recent results in that state or district.
We've created interactive versions of the ratings; click or tap a map below to access.
Politico sees the presidential election as too close to call. They see eight states and a district in Nebraska as toss-ups, worth 112 electoral votes. This includes the three "blue wall" states of Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin that Donald Trump flipped in 2016 on his way to winning the presidency.
The toss-up states give each party about 30 ways to get to 270 electoral votes - explore this with our Road to 270 feature.
35 seats will be contested next year, 23 held by Republicans and 12 by Democrats. Overall, Politico sees a map that leans in favor of the GOP. To gain control, Democrats must gain 3 seats if they win the presidential election, 4 seats if they do not. That math gets more difficult when considering the Democratic-held seat in Alabama is the most likely to flip parties.
Note that Politico has not yet made a projection for the Georgia special election. We expect they will do so after Gov. Kemp announces a replacement for Sen. Isakson, who is resigning at the end of this year. For now, our map is using the same rating (Lean R) as the state's other Senate seat, which is up for a regular six-year term in 2020.
As is true every two years, all 435 seats will be contested in 2020. Politico sees Democrats as favored to hold their majority. That task will likely be slightly easier once court-directed redistricting in North Carolina is finalized. Democrats are likely to pick up at least two seats there.
Politico's North Carolina forecast is based on the redrawn map recently submitted by the Republican-controlled legislature. That may or may not be the final map. Note that our map reflects Politico's forecast, but uses the current geographical borders of the districts. We'll update our map once redistricting is finalized.
GOP currently holds 27 governorships, to 23 for Democrats. This will go to 26-24 when Democrat Andy Beshear takes office in Kentucky on December 10. There will be 11 gubernatorial elections in 2020.
The map below includes recently completed 2019 elections shown as safe for winning party.
Editor's Note: 50 Mondays after today is November 2, 2020, the day before the presidential election. That gives us 50 weeks to review the 50 states.
The Road to 270 is a weekly column leading up to the presidential election. Each installment is dedicated to understanding one state’s political landscape and how that might influence which party will win its electoral votes in 2020. We’ll do these roughly in order of expected competitiveness, moving toward the most intensely contested battlegrounds as election day nears. Leading off is Washington, D.C., the only non-state entity that casts electoral college votes in the United States presidential election.
The Road to 270 will be published every Monday. The column is written by Seth Moskowitz, a 270toWin elections and politics contributor. You can reach Seth at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @skmoskowitz.
The quadrennial contest for Washington, D.C.’s three Electoral College votes is consistently the least competitive in the nation. The District's residents began casting votes for president in 1964 and no Republican nominee has ever won an electoral vote. In 2016, Hillary Clinton received nearly 23 votes for each one cast for Donald Trump, winning by a 91% to 4% margin.
Before getting to the District’s outlook for 2020, let’s look at its history as our nation’s capital and why it has electoral votes at all.
Constitutional Cliff Notes
The Constitution stipulates in Article I, Section 8 that the U.S. Congress has the power to choose the seat of the Federal Government. It specifies that the District cannot exceed ten square miles and that Congress shall “exercise exclusive legislation in all cases whatsoever, over such District”. The Framers gave Congress this exclusive power over the District and separated it from the states so that no one state would have untoward influence over Congress. This independence also meant that the Federal Government would not have to rely on the states for physical protection.
Following ratification of the U.S. Constitution in 1788, New York and Philadelphia served as the temporary seats of government. In 1790, Congress decided that the future capital would be along the Potomac River. This was a part of the secretive Compromise of 1790 involving Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and Thomas Jefferson. Madison and Jefferson agreed to allow the Federal Government to assume states’ debts while Hamilton agreed to establish a southern capital.
The president, George Washington, was given the power to decide the exact location of the capital. He settled on a tract of land between Maryland and Virginia. This federal territory was named the District of Columbia after Christopher Columbus. The city inside, Washington, was meant to honor the first president and man who chose the permanent capital’s location. In 1800, Congress officially moved to Washington, D.C.
The people living in the new seat of government, however, were no longer residents of a state. And because the Constitution only delegated electoral votes and congressional seats to the states, Washington, D.C. residents lacked federal representation.
This lasted until ratification of the 23rd Amendment in 1961. The Constitution grants each state electoral votes equal to its total representation in Congress (senators plus representatives). The new amendment gave Washington, D.C. a number of electors “equal to the whole number of Senators and Representatives in Congress to which the District would be entitled if it were a State, but in no event more than the least populous State”. In practice, this limits Washington, D.C. to three electors because seven states, including the least populous state of Wyoming, have just three.However, it is also the number of electoral votes it would have as a state based on its current population.
At the time, the Amendment’s ratification was not crushed by political partisanship, as would likely be the case today. The primary political wedge endangering ratification was race rather than partisanship. According to the U.S. Census, the District was 54% black in 1960. Only one former Confederate state, Tennessee, voted to ratify the Amendment even though Democrats controlled most of the Confederate state capitals. Likewise, Republican-controlled northern states did vote to ratify. By 1970, the District had become 71% black, increasing 17% in just 10 years. This demographic change along with the 1964 Civil Rights Act made ballot access easier for black and minority residents. It shifted the District safely into Democratic hands.
The Ongoing Push for Statehood
Today, though, any structural reform that would tilt the electoral landscape is unlikely. Statehood, or any legislation that gives Washington, D.C. full representation in Congress, would essentially guarantee Democrats two additional Senators. It would also give residents a Democratic voting member in the U.S. House^. Even back in 1978, by which time the Democratic Party’s advantage in Washington, D.C. had become clear, a proposed Constitutional Amendment giving the District full Congressional representation failed. Although the amendment passed Congress with the requisite two-thirds support in both chambers (the last time any proposed amendment has done so), only 16 states voted to ratify it. This was far short of the 38 states needed.
The partisanship that defeated the amendment back in 1978 has only strengthened. The Republican Party’s 2016 Platform calls for “Preserving the District of Columbia” while Congressional Democrats in both the House and Senate have introduced bills that would create the State of Washington, Douglass Commonwealth. Two hundred and twenty-three Democrats* have sponsored the House Bill and 36 Democrats have sponsored the Senate version. No Republicans have signed on to either.
Washington, D.C.’s Electoral History and Demographics
In every presidential election since the 23rd Amendment, Washington, D.C. has voted overwhelmingly for the Democratic Party. This was the case even in 1972 and 1984, when GOP incumbents (Nixon and Reagan) had landslide 49-state wins.
Both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton continued the legacy of Democratic domination in the capital. In 2012, Obama beat Mitt Romney 91% to 7%, an 84% margin. In 2016, Clinton beat Donald Trump 91% to 4%, an 87% margin. By comparison, the most Democratic state in both those elections - Hawaii - went to Obama by a 43% margin in 2012 and Clinton by 32% in 2016.
Today, the District is approximately 48% black, a reliably Democratic voting bloc. In comparison, non-college educated whites, a key Republican constituency, only make up about 2% of the population. The District as a whole is densely urban and continues to grow quickly. These demographic trends make it clear why it is Democrats’ deepest blue stronghold.
And the Capital’s political effects are not contained within its boundaries. D.C.’s expanding suburbs helped Democrats flip Virginia's 10th congressional district in 2018 and partially explain why Virginia is becoming a reliably blue state in presidential elections.
Come next November, the Democratic nominee is all but certain to win Washington, D.C.’s three Electoral College votes. It’s nearly impossible to imagine a world - at least in the foreseeable future - where a Republican wins the nation’s capital.
^ Whether this would be a net gain for Democrats is unknowable. The number of voting seats in the U.S. House is fixed by law at 435. Assuming no change in the law, one state would lose a congressional seat.
The runoff election for Louisiana governor takes place on Saturday, November 16. Incumbent Democratic Gov. Jon Bel Edwards is seeking a 2nd term. He faces off against Republican businessman Eddie Rispone. Polls close at 9:00 PM Eastern Time. Live results will appear below after that time.
Saturday's election is a top-two runoff, necessitated when no candidate received a majority of the vote in the state's all-party primary on October 12. Edwards ended up at about 47%. Rispone and GOP Rep. Ralph Abraham split most of the remainder of the vote, with Rispone finishing slightly ahead.
While the polling may ever so slightly favor Edwards, Saturday's vote could still go either way. In Rispone's favor is the fact that the two main Republicans combined for 51% of the total vote in the primary and, of course, Louisiana is a deep red state. President Trump also held a rally for Rispone in Bossier City earlier in the week.
This is the last of three gubernatorial elections in 2019, all competitive races in Republican strongholds. The parties have split the other two races, with the GOP prevailing in an open seat contest in neighboring Mississippi. Democrats flipped the seat in Kentucky, defeating the incumbent. There will be 11 gubernatorial elections in 2020.
Republican Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin has conceded the governor's race to his Democratic challenger, Attorney General Andy Beshear. Bevin, who trailed by about 5,000 votes in the Election Day count, had requested a recanvass of the vote. That was done Thursday, with a change of only one vote. Beshear will be sworn in on December 10.
We've updated the 2019-2020 consensus Governor Interactive Map to reflect the Kentucky result, as well as the GOP win in Mississippi.
This Saturday, the final gubernatorial race of 2019 will be decided, as Louisiana holds a runoff election. Incumbent Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards is seeking a 2nd term. He's opposed by the Republican nominee, businessman Eddie Rispone. Polling has shown a very tight race, but most surveys give Edwards a 2-3% lead. This Mason-Dixon poll is reflective of that.
Polls close at 9:00 PM Eastern on Saturday. Visit 270toWin for live results.
Ten Democrats have qualified for the 5th Democratic debate, to be held on November 20 in Atlanta. The event will be hosted by MSNBC and The Washington Post and broadcast live from 9:00 PM to 11:00 PM Eastern Time.
Those making the stage include former Vice President Joe Biden; New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker; South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg; Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard; California Sen. Kamala Harris; Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar; Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders; businessman Tom Steyer; Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren; and entrepreneur Andrew Yang.
Update: The candidates will appear in this order, from left to right on stage: Booker, Gabbard, Klobuchar, Buttigieg, Warren, Biden, Sanders, Harris, Yang and Steyer.
Neither Texas resident that participated in October's debate will be in Atlanta. Former HUD Secretary Julian Castro did not meet the Democratic National Committee's polling requirements, although he did cross the donor threshold. Former Rep. Beto O'Rourke withdrew from the race on November 1.
Looking ahead, the final debate of 2019 will be held on December 19 in Los Angeles*. It will be hosted by PBS and Politico. At this point, six of the ten candidates in next week's debate have met the DNC's more stringent qualifying criteria.
Former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford's brief challenge to President Trump has ended. Sanford, who had announced his campaign for the GOP nomination in early September, said Tuesday that he was suspending that effort.
Sanford was averaging less than 2% in limited national polling. Former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld and former U.S. Rep. Joe Walsh remain in the race, but are also seeing little traction against an incumbent president who enjoys broad support within the Republican party.