Your guide to US election night blowout: How to watch, what to track

Record early voting numbers, Florida, Florida, Florida, and a ton of Pennsylvania. Those ingredients are par for the course on November 3. But if you want to mix it up a bit, watch the toss-up states that have gone from solid Republican to purplish, putting Joe Biden and Kamala Harris within striking distance of states that Donald Trump won in 2016, get comfortable with the idea that we may not have a winner on election night, follow the parallel fight in the courts, stay on alert for signs of 2016 style polling errors and the resurgence of the shy Trump voter.

The US Supreme Court has issued a string of last-minute election orders about extended timeline for receiving and counting ballots in some really key states. The nation’s top court has not resolved all the issues, leaving open a path for post election challenges.

If the election result is delayed,it won’t be the first time. The 2000 election was finally called only on December 12, when the US Supreme Court declared George W. Bush the winner and ruled that Florida must stop counting votes.

Among toss-up states, Georgia (16), Iowa (6), Maine 2nd congressional district (1), North Carolina (15) Ohio (18) and Texas (38) are in play. The numbers in parentheses indicate each state or that area’s electoral votes in the race to 270. Maine and Nebraska award two electoral votes to the winner of the statewide race and one electoral vote to the winner of each congressional district.

In must-win Florida, Clinton led on the early vote here by 6 points in 2016, Trump won the election day vote by 12 points and carried the state.

Trump is banking on election day turnout. Election Day vote traditionally favours Republicans but the coronavirus pandemic that has killed more than 227,000 people in the US and sickened 9 million, has thrown all pre-cast calculations into a tizzy.

For Trump, there’s no escaping the gale-force headwinds of his government’s coronavirus response. His poll numbers are slipping where cases are roaring back. In Trumpworld, this is what they’re betting on: A giant polling error and the resurgence of the shy Trump voter, who doesn’t answer pollster calls, doesn’t talk to reporters and doesn’t put billboards out on the yard.

Texas, a Republican stronghold, is the new darling of polling punditry in the final stretch; it’s sending chills down both sides. Texans have already set a record, casting more votes in the 2020 presidential election than they did in 2016, an unprecedented surge. As of Friday morning EST, more than 9 million votes are already locked in, crossing the 2016 total of more than 8.9 million votes. Asian Americans are favoured to be the ‘make or break’ factor.

Ohio, once seen as Trump territory, has emerged as a battleground. Trump won this State by a 8-percentage-point margin in 2016, the state was almost untouched by the midterm blue wave in 2018, Trump’s message of bringing back jobs resonated with workers but the ground seems to have shifted after General Motors shuttered its plant here.

Next up, Iowa. In 2016, Trump won big here, carrying the white working class vote. Four years later, the state is a presidential toss-up. Republican strategists think that even if Trump wins Iowa in the low single digits in 2020, it means he might have lost the plot on Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania – three crucial battlegrounds he won in 2016.

Trump won a total of 306 electoral votes to Clinton’s 232 in 2016. Both Florida and Pennsylvania are emerging as must-win states for Trump in his re-election bid. You could think about this another way too: Trump must carry at least one of the three rustbelt states he won in 2016: Pennsylvania, Wisconsin or Michigan.

Going purely by the way the polls look, Trump’s chances of winning a second term now mean winning states where he trails Biden.

“You hold the power. If Florida goes blue, it’s over,” Biden told supporters in the state this week.