Election News

Introducing the 2020 Democratic Delegate Calculator

December 7, 2019

The road to an uncontested Democratic nomination requires a candidate to earn 1,990 pledged delegates1 and begins in Iowa on February 3. To that end, the first version of our 2020 Democratic Delegate Calculator is now available.  It is based on available statewide polling.  An interactive version, where you can create your own forecast, will be available in the near future.

As we launch, the display shows all candidates projected to earn delegates based on polling, as well as anyone with a national polling average higher than that of the lowest delegate-qualifying candidate.  As of now, five candidates would earn delegates based on polling: Biden, Warren, Sanders, Buttigieg and Klobuchar.  Also displayed are Bloomberg and Yang, who have a higher national polling average than Klobuchar.

Unlike the GOP, the Democratic Party allocates pledged delegates the same way in each state. It is a proportional allocation, with a 15% minimum to qualify for any delegates. However, within each state, delegates are split into groups.  There is some variety, but in most states this means some delegates are allocated based on the statewide vote, with the remainder based on the vote within each congressional district. The 15% threshold is applied to each location, meaning a candidate who gets less than 15% statewide could still earn some delegates

Several important caveats here:

  • Due to the Thanksgiving holiday - and probably the holiday season in general - there hasn't been all that much recent state polling released. Until that catches up, this page may lag the true state of the delegate race. 
  • As noted above, statewide polling - which is all we have to work with - is unlikely to mirror the vote within each district.  That means even if the polling average we've calculated ends up being exactly right, the actual delegate allocation could be somewhat different. 
  • While the overall number of pledged delegates for each state is known, the numeric distribution by groups is not final.  As those become better understood, the calculation for each state could change slightly, even if the polling doesn't.  You can click/tap the '+' in each state row to see the estimated breakdown.
  • The primaries and caucuses take place over a four-month period, with each contest influenced by the ones before it. Candidates will gain/lose momentum, and many will drop out. The point is that polling today may in no way reflect the race closer to a state's primary.  The interactive version we are building will give you the option to predict a dropout date for each candidate as a way to somewhat model this dynamic.

This number might still change slightly. 

Rep. George Holding to Retire; First Casualty of Redrawn Congressional Maps

December 6, 2019

GOP Rep. George Holding of North Carolina has announced he will not seek a 5th term in 2020.

Holding is the first casualty of North Carolina's new court-approved 2020 congressional map. From the Cook Political Report's Dave Wasserman: "Talk about a 'total makeover:' under the new map, the 2nd CD sheds Republican outer suburbs and picks up all of the city of Raleigh, converting it from a district President Trump carried by 12 points to one Hillary Clinton carried by a massive 24 points - and rendering it unwinnable for any Republican."

Here is a comparison of the old and new maps, from Sabato's Crystal Ball.

The new map is expected to net the Democrats two additional seats in what is currently a delegation of 10 Republicans and 3 Democrats. The new 6th district "unite(s) the urban Greensboro and Winston-Salem areas. In the old map these two cities were split between the 13th and 5th districts. With the shift, the 6th District would move from a Trump +15 district to Clinton +21." That seat is held by Mark Walker, now in his third term. There has been some speculation that Walker will challenge incumbent Sen. Thom Tillis in the Republican primary next year.

The new map will likely only be in effect for the 2020 cycle. Most states will redraw their districts in 2021 based on the outcome of the 2020 Census. Those new boundaries will be used beginning in 2022.  

Holding is the 31st current member of the House to announce they won't seek reelection in 2020. 

The 270toWin Consensus House Map includes ratings changes around redistricting as they become available.  However, the lines on the map itself are still the old boundaries. We'll have that updated in the next few days.

Rep. Tom Graves of Georgia Will Not Seek Reelection in 2020

December 5, 2019

Six-term Republican Rep. Tom Graves of Georgia will retire at the end of this term, he announced Thursday. Graves first won election to congress in a 2010 special election in the state's 9th district. In 2012, he ran in the new 14th district, established in redistricting after the state gained a congressional seat from the 2010 Census.  

The 14th district is in the northwest corner of Georgia, and is one of the most heavily Republican in the country. Donald Trump won here by 53 points over Hillary Clinton in 2016, the president's 10th largest margin of victory by congressional district that year.  The district is therefore expected to stay in GOP hands.

Graves is the 30th current member of the House to announce they will at the end of this term. 21 are Republicans, 9 Democrats. Of these 7 Republican and 1 Democratic seat are seen as competitive for 2020. Click or tap the map below for more information.

Rep. Denny Heck of Will Not Seek Re-election in 2020

December 4, 2019

Democratic Rep. Denny Heck of Washington announced he will not seek a 5th term in 2020. He serves on the House Intelligence Committee, which most recently conducted a high-profile impeachment inquiry into President Trump. The findings were sent on to the the House Judiciary Committee, which began formal hearings Wednesday morning.

Heck is the only person to have ever represented Washington's 10th district, created after the 2010 Census gave the state an additional representative in Congress. The district sits in western Washington, encompassing the capital, Olympia and the southern portion of the Seattle Metropolitan Area.

Heck won his 4th term in 2018 by about 23 points, while Hillary Clinton won the district by about 11.5% over Donald Trump in 2016. Democrats are likely to hold the district in 2020 despite the loss of incumbency.

 

Sen. Kamala Harris Exits Presidential Race

December 3, 2019

California Sen. Kamala Harris ended her bid for the presidency Tuesday, telling supporters that the campaign "simply doesn't have the financial resources we need to continue."  After a breakout performance in the first Democratic debate, her polling numbers had been moving in the wrong direction. There has also been turmoil in the campaign organization. A top aide recently resigned, saying she had never seen an organization "treat its staff so poorly."

Harris' recent national polling average was 3.8%, a sharp drop from the mid-teens support she was receiving in July after the first debate. This placed her fifth in the field, in a group with businessman Andrew Yang and former NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg, who just joined the race last month.  Her polling was also in the 3-4% range in the four early states, limiting her opportunity for an early breakthrough* in those critical contests. 

Despite those troubles, she was one of just seven qualifiers thus far for the final Democratic debate of the year. That debate is December 19th in Los Angeles. The six others include Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar, Bernie Sanders, Tom Steyer and Elizabeth Warren. It is possible that Tulsi Gabbard and/or Andrew Yang may still make the stage; they have until December 12 to qualify.

*Contrast this, for example, to Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who is fourth nationally at 11%, but is leading the field with 22% in Iowa 

The Road to 270: West Virginia

December 2, 2019

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. Contact Seth at s.k.moskowitz@gmail.com or on Twitter @skmoskowitz.

West Virginia

West Virginia’s Political U-Turn

West Virginia has undergone an astounding political reversal in the last two decades. The state began reliably voting Democratic in 1932, when Franklin Delano Roosevelt picked it up as a part of his New Deal Coalition. Between 1932 and 2000, the state only voted Republican in the landslide elections of 1956, 1972, and 1984. George W. Bush’s victory in West Virginia in 2000 marked a turning point for the state. In each election since 2000, the Republican nominee has expanded on his predecessor’s margin of victory. This progression culminated in 2016 with Donald Trump’s 68% to 26% blowout over Hillary Clinton.

The reversal has been even more acute in non-presidential politics. After the 2012 elections, Democrats held both chambers of the state legislature, five of six state executive offices (including the governorship), both U.S. Senate seats, and one U.S. House seat. Fast forward seven years and Democrats have just one U.S. Senate seat and one state executive office. 

West Virginia’s Origin

To understand West Virginia’s politics, it’s important to know the state’s history. West Virginia and Virginia were once just one state called Virginia. While the cultural and geographic divide between the two regions had been simmering for decades, Virginia’s secession from the Union in 1861 exacerbated resentment in the western portion of the state. Two-thirds of delegates from the western portion of the state voted against secession. After the state decided to leave the Union, western Virginians, fed up with being dominated by their eastern counterparts, began to form their own state. They were officially accepted into the Union two years later. 

West Virginians initially voted with Abraham Lincoln’s Republican Party in 1864. The state then flipped between parties several times over the next 70 years. It eventually settled in as reliably Democratic during FDR’s presidency. It would remain safely blue, except in landslide elections, for the next 70 years. 

Coal, Coal, Coal

Coal and coal mining are central to life in West Virginia. The state flag and seal features a miner with a pickaxe, anvil, and sledgehammer. Even the state’s pledge of allegiance references “rich veins of coal”.

During and after World War II, the high demand for coal and coal production was a boon to West Virginia workers. In the early 1950s, mining accounted for about 23% of jobs in West Virginia. Mining jobs paid well and the population of the state expanded, peaking at 2 million in the 1950s. The number of mining jobs plummeted in the late 1950s and 1960s, primarily due to automation. In 1950, West Virginia had over 127,000 mine workers and in 1960 there were just 59,000. By 1999, the state had just 20,000 miners.

West Virginia’s population has tracked with the demand for coal and the number of mining jobs available. It dropped from 2 million to 1.75 between 1950 and 1970, rose again to nearly 2 million by 1980, then fell again to about 1.8 million by 1990. Until recently, the population remained relatively constant, peaking again at 1.86 million in 2012.

In just six years, though, from 2012 to 2018, West Virginia’s population fell about 50,000. This is, as before, partly due to the number of mining jobs. In 2011 the state had 23,000 coal mining jobs, but by 2018 there were just 14,000. Decrease in coal purchases from China, substitution by cleaner alternatives like natural gas, and more coal production in other areas of the country, has reduced the demand for coal, and the associated jobs, in West Virginia.

Unions and New Deal Democrats

The Great Depression and violent, failed mining strikes in the 1920's had decimated union membership in Appalachia. Before Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s presidency, the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) had fewer than 1,000 members in West Virginia. Roosevelt’s New Deal Coalition, in particular his pro-union stance, helped him, and the Democratic Party, win back the state. The last Democrat to win West Virginia had been Woodrow Wilson in 1912. In 1928, Republican Herbert Hoover beat Democrat Al Smith 58% to 41% on his way to winning the presidency. Four years later, Roosevelt dominated the incumbent by 54% to 44%.  

Roosevelt’s New Deal allowed the Union to begin organizing and rebuilding its strength. The National Industrial Recovery Act, passed in 1933, allowed collective bargaining, outlawed so-called “yellow-dog contracts” and made other pro-union reforms. Between 1933 and 1945, national union membership nearly quintupled from 3 million to 14 million. By 1969, 90% of West Virginia miners were members of the UMWA. This union power, along with the popularity of Roosevelt’s other New Deal social programs (in particular Social Security) helped Democrats win the state for most of the next half century. 

The Republican Turn

The state’s political leanings would change quickly and intensely. Bill Clinton easily won the state in both of his presidential elections — carrying it by 13% in 1992 and 15% in 1996. Four years later, Republican George W. Bush beat Democrat Al Gore by 6% (52% to 46%).

Since then, each election has seen the Republican nominee expand upon their predecessor’s margin. In 2004, Bush beat John Kerry by 13% (56% to 43%). Then John McCain defeated Barack Obama by a slightly larger 13% (56% to 42%)*. Four years later, Mitt Romney more than doubled McCain’s margin to 27% (62% to 35%). Finally, in 2016, Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton by 42% (68% to 26%).

Unsurprisingly, West Virginia’s recent political turn largely comes down to coal.

In 2000, George Bush positioned himself as the candidate for coal. He supported mountaintop mining, investing in clean coal technology, and favorable trade policies for coal. Al Gore, on the other hand, wanted to curb carbon dioxide output and was seen as an extremist by many in West Virginia. The economic interests of coal industry and its workers and the social conservatism of West Virginia, in particular on gun control, tipped the state to George Bush.

Democrats have not done much to help themselves in the socially conservative state that still relies on coal. Barack Obama restricted permits to allow mountaintop mining, using the authority of the Clean Water Act to do so. When Hillary Clinton, at a 2016 CNN Town Hall in Ohio said^, “we're going to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business”, she further cemented her doom in West Virginia. The UMWA, once resolutely supportive of Democrats, did not endorse presidential candidates in 2012 or 2016.   

Even if the UMWA had endorsed, it would have likely made little difference. Labor unions in West Virginia have lost the influence they once had. In 1969, 90% of miners were union members and as of 2017, this had declined by two-thirds. Automation, the decline in mining jobs, and West Virginia’s status as a “right to work” state have contributed to the decline.

Beyond Coal

Not everything, however, revolves around coal and mining. West Virginia’s expanding Republican margins mirror national trends. The state is rural and sparsely populated, with just 77 people per square mile. There are no major urban centers — the biggest city in the state is Charleston, with only 47,000 residents.

West Virginia is 94% non-Hispanic white, behind only Maine and Vermont. And the state has the highest proportion of non-college educated whites. These voters are the core of the Republican Party and make up 75% of West Virginia residents. The state’s population is also very religious and skews older, two hallmarks of the Republican coalition.

West Virginia also ranks first for opioid deaths and prescriptions per capita, fourth for poverty rate, fourth for number of food stamp recipients, and third for population loss. These unfortunate titles characterize a struggling population unsatisfied with the direction of the country.

Perhaps it is unsurprising that “Make America Great Again” resonated with these voters. Trump’s margin was the largest margin in the state’s 156-year history and 39 presidential elections. It was one of just two states, the other being Oklahoma, in which Trump won every county.

Down-ballot Republicans

West Virginia’s reversal on the presidential level was quick — it only happened 20 years ago.

The toppling of down-ballot Democratic power is even more recent. In 2014, the third and final West Virginia congressional seat fell to Republicans. That same year Republicans also flipped one of the U.S. Senate Seats. Then, in 2014 both state legislative chambers flipped to Republicans for the first time since the 1930's.

Democrats thought they got some relief when their candidate for governor, Jim Justice, won in 2016. But Justice flipped and became a Republican one year later.

The only federal power that Democrats have in the state lies with U.S. Senator Joe Manchin. However, in keeping with his constituency, he campaigns and votes as one of the most conservative Democrats in that chamber. In a 2010 campaign ad he literally shot a rifle through Obama’s cap and trade bill. More recently, he was the only Democratic Senator who voting to approve Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.

2020

As late as 1960, West Virginia had six congressional districts and eight electoral votes. By 2012, this had fallen to three and five, respectively. As one of just three states to have lost population this decade, the state is likely to lose another district (and electoral vote) following the 2020 Census.

For the 2020 presidential election, West Virginia will have five electoral votes. And while the state was once a reliable member of the Democratic New Deal Coalition, it is now one of Republicans’ easiest wins. The reversal, at least on the presidential level, is complete. Even a year out from election day, it’s safe to etch West Virginia’s five Electoral College votes in the Republican column. 

*Rounding makes the margin appear to be 14%. The real margin was 13.09% (55.58% to 42.49%).

^ For the record, that often-quoted comment didn't capture the full context of what she actually said.

Next Week:  Oklahoma

Prior reports in this series:

   
Washington, D.C. Wyoming

 

Steve Bullock Ends Presidential Campaign

December 2, 2019

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock said Monday that he is ending his bid for the 2020 Democratic nomination. Bullock made the announcement on Facebook, linking to a longer statement on Medium. He said that "it has become clear that in this moment, I won’t be able to break through to the top tier of this still-crowded field of candidates."

Bullock is in his 2nd term as governor of Montana, a deep red state that voted for Donald Trump by a 58-33 margin over Hillary Clinton in 2016. It has voted only twice for a Democratic presidential nominee since 1950. Bullock frequently used the talking point that he was the only Democrat in the field that won a Trump state. However, it wasn't enough to help him break out in this historically large field.  His national polling average was well under 1% at the time of withdrawal.

The Democratic field is now at 16, still massive by historical standards. The last several weeks has seen three lagging candidates leave the race. In addition to Bullock, former Rep. Joe Sestak departed Sunday and Miramar, Florida mayor Wayne Messam suspended his campaign on November 20.  However, this winnowing has been largely offset by two new entrants: Former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg and former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick. 

Joe Sestak Drops Presidential Bid; Democratic Field Now at 17

December 1, 2019

Former Rep. Joe Sestak has ended his bid for the 2020 Democratic nomination. Sestak entered the race in June. He barely registered in polling and did not qualify for any of the party's debates.

 

There are still 17 candidates vying for the nomination, 64 days before the February 3 Iowa caucuses. The party's final debate of the year will take place on December 19 in Los Angeles. 

The Road to 270: Wyoming

November 25, 2019

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 s.k.moskowitz@gmail.com or on Twitter @skmoskowitz. 

Wyoming

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.


Click the map to create your own at 270toWin.com

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 white63% 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.

Next Week:  West Virginia

Prior reports in this series:

 Washington, D.C

Michael Bloomberg Officially Enters 2020 Race for President

November 24, 2019

Former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg announced Sunday that he is running for president in 2020. 

Join our team: https://t.co/7ezlUeouqH pic.twitter.com/IyOeS3aWaF

— Mike Bloomberg (@MikeBloomberg) November 24, 2019

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.