The Political Chessboard is Set:
What to Look for Between Now and November
Now that the Republican and Democrat conventions are over, the political chessboard is set for the fall.  Some key dates and information:

Upcoming Debate Schedule:
  • September 29, 2020 (Cleveland, OH)
  • October 7, 2020 (Vice Presidential - Salt Lake City, UT)
  • October 15, 2020 (Miami, FL)
  • October 22, 2020 (Nashville, TN)
Vote-by-Mail & Early Voting:
  • Universal Vote-by-Mail: California, Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Utah, Vermont, Washington, Washington, D.C.
  • 40 states (plus the District of Columbia) will permit "no-excuse" early voting
Here's an overview of the current political landscape.  

Setting the Table. Putting battleground states aside for a moment, the Biden campaign can safely count on a base of approximately 223 electoral votes, including the West Coast, New England, and Mid-Atlantic states through Virginia, Illinois, Colorado, Nevada, and New Mexico.  The GOP's base of support runs through the Deep South, including Kentucky, Tennessee, and West Virginia, as well as the Dakotas, Kansas, Montana, Missouri, Idaho, Utah, Wyoming, Texas, and Oklahoma, giving them roughly 170 electoral votes as a base. 

This leaves 145 electoral votes, out of nine states, that will be battlegrounds for both campaigns. The 2020 battlegrounds can be broken into three categories: The traditional, the "Blue Wall," and the New Frontier.

The traditional battlegrounds are very familiar: Ohio, Florida, and North Carolina. "The Blue Wall" states are well documented and gave Trump the electoral votes needed in 2016: Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin. The New Frontier States are Arizona, Georgia, and Minnesota.

Americans are most concerned about the coronavirus pandemic, the current economic slowdown, and maintaining law and order. This will guide the 2020 election cycle from the top down.
Topline Polling Considerations. The Biden-Harris ticket is currently polling well and sits atop a healthy 9% national lead. Over the last 40 years, no incumbent President running for reelection has been this far behind at this point in the campaign and still prevailed. However, remember that President Trump was statistically behind Secretary Clinton for most of the 2016 campaign. He did lose the popular vote, by over 3 million votes, but achieved a shocking electoral college majority.

However, if the Biden-Harris ticket can win in Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Minnesota, then that provides 279 electoral votes -- game over. The Biden-Harris ticket currently leads polls in all of those states, but the leads are small. Trump can then carry all the other battlegrounds and still lose. 
Using the Past to Look Ahead. Trump's 2016 campaign relied on discrediting Sec. Clinton and focusing on ethical challenges that had long plagued the Clintons. A significant segment of voters intensely disliked both candidates, and when FBI Director James Comey announced he was reopening the investigation into Clinton's email usage less than two weeks before the 2016 election, these voters moved significantly toward Trump. Joe Biden does not generate the same level of animus Sec. Clinton endured, and there is neither a credible scandal waiting to unfold nor an insinuation of bad ethical behavior. 

Furthermore, there are no credible third-party candidates that could siphon away votes from the Democratic ticket. If the Biden-Harris ticket can win back these swing voters, these "Blue Wall" states, and others, will be more fertile ground for a Democratic resurgence. During the 2018 midterms, Democrats recruited candidates who performed well in the affluent suburban communities. The so-called "soccer moms" or post-9/11 "security moms" have gravitated away from the GOP and elected a cadre of Democratic moderates to Congress who will also be up for reelection in November.

These voters are the key targets for 2020. The Trump campaign can and will try to use scare tactics to discourage these voters from choosing Biden-Harris. However, these voters are also looking for new leadership. The uncertainty of the pandemic and the haphazard federal response make these suburban voters more likely to respond to empathetic messaging provided by the Biden ticket. 

The battleground states have their fair share of suburban, persuadable voters. Georgia and Arizona saw Democrats winning elections in 2018, and over-preforming in the affluent suburban areas. Other battleground states, such as Florida, have been rocked by high rates of COVID-19 infection and poor response by Republican governors urged by Trump to reopen businesses too early, only to reverse course. 
The pandemic will certainly alter how the campaigns target their core constituencies. This will be a Presidential race like no other. Your WSW team continues to track all of these fronts, and will keep you updated in the days and weeks ahead.