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Here are Biden and Trump’s paths to victory in the Electoral College

Jamie Roberts By Jamie Roberts May30,2024

The 2024 general election is heating up, with President Biden and former President Trump traveling the country as their parties’ presumptive nominees.

Both candidates have made several stops in the key battleground states already and will be a regular presence there for the next 6 1/2 months. Even as tens of millions of people will vote in the general election across the country, just about a half-dozen states will likely determine the race.

The Electoral College requires the candidates to pay attention to the math of what combination of states will clinch their victory. This interactive map from Decision Desk HQ and The Hill shows all of the possible paths the candidates could take to win enough votes.

Here are Trump and Biden’s most likely paths to victory in the Electoral College:

Biden’s path

Biden sweeps all 2020 states

Biden has seen some reasons for being more hopeful lately when it comes to the polls. Biden and Trump are basically tied in The Hill/Decision Desk HQ national polling average, and several recent polls have shown Biden leading by a few points nationwide. 

The polls that have not been as bright are those in the battleground states that Biden will need to have a path to reelection. He has been trailing in several of the states he would need — including some he won in 2020 — by a few points for months. 

But he has improved recently in a few states that will be crucial to his path, and he still has numerous paths to win the election, like Trump. 

The most obvious path for Biden to win in November is to recreate the electoral strategy that swept him into the White House in 2020. That would entail winning the key battleground states he won four years ago: Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. If he were to win those states, Trump could still win North Carolina and Biden would be reelected.

Winning the 2020 coalition of states would garner Biden 303 electoral votes to 235 for Trump. Because of the redistricting process that took place after the election, that would be three electoral votes fewer than the 306 he had four years ago. 

But from a historical perspective, that seems unlikely. Throughout U.S. history, there has never been two consecutive presidential elections where every state votes for the same party, though it is of course possible. 

Biden wins ‘blue wall’ states

Polls shows reasons for Biden to be worried in several of those states, such as Georgia, where Trump has been consistently leading. But should Trump ultimately win Georgia, Arizona and Nevada, Biden could still eke out a win so long as he holds on to a trio of “blue wall” states: Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.

A Bloomberg News/Morning Consult poll from last month showed Biden still down but narrowing Trump’s lead, especially in those three. 

If he took all three of those states, Biden would stand at 269 electoral votes, needing just one more from some other state of the battlegrounds to put him over the top. 

Nebraska and Maine both distribute their electoral votes in part by which candidate wins in each of their congressional districts, instead of the winner-take-all system of the other states. Maine’s 2nd Congressional District has voted comfortably for Trump the past two elections, but Nebraska’s 2nd Congressional District narrowly voted for Trump in 2016 before flipping to Biden in 2020. 

If Biden can hold on to just that congressional district along with the blue wall, he would not need any other state to be reelected, reaching the 270 threshold. 

Trump’s path

Trump wins all major battlegrounds

The former president appears to have the polling advantage in the key states necessary for a winning coalition, and he has expressed confidence, at least based on where the numbers have been recently. 

Based on the polling average from The Hill/Decision Desk HQ, Trump is leading Biden by a few points in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada and North Carolina, five of the seven battleground states that likely will determine the election and enough to put him above the 270 electoral votes he needs. 

Trump narrowly leads Biden by less than a percentage point in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, the two other main swing states. 

If the election were held now and the polling with Trump ahead is correct in all seven states, Trump would defeat Biden comfortably in the Electoral College, 312 electoral votes to 226. That would include all five key states that Biden flipped in 2020 to put him over — Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — flipping back to the Republican column this year. 

Trump wins mix of Sun Belt, industrial states

If Trump were to fall short in the two states where he and Biden are essentially neck and neck — Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — but take the others, he would still win, though more narrowly, with 283 electoral votes to Biden’s 255. 

Of course, in the Electoral College not all states carry equal weight, and some states are more valuable prizes based on their populations. Pennsylvania, with its 19 electoral votes; Georgia, with its 16 electoral votes; and Michigan, with its 15 electoral votes, may be more likely to get a candidate’s total up quicker, but Nevada’s six votes could be critical in a particularly tight race. 

Of all the battleground states that Trump is eying, he may be most able to count on North Carolina’s 16 electoral votes. It was the only state of these seven Biden did not carry four years ago. 

The state also has narrowly voted for the Republican presidential candidate in each election since 2012, despite strong Democratic efforts to win the state. If Trump holds onto the Tar Heel State again, he would need to win three or four of the remaining battleground states to clinch a win. 

That would still be the case for Biden as well, but losing North Carolina would make it more important for Biden than Trump that he carry at least two of the three remaining largest battleground states — Pennsylvania, Georgia and Michigan. 

If Trump wins North Carolina and the state where he currently has the largest lead in The Hill/Decision Desk HQ polling average, Georgia, he would need to win just two of Arizona, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Biden would need at least three in that scenario. 

One unlikely but possible scenario is a 269-269 Electoral College tie between Biden and Trump. That would happen if Biden keeps the blue wall with Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin, but Trump wins the other battlegrounds of Arizona, Georgia, Nevada and North Carolina, plus Maine and Nebraska’s 2nd congressional districts. 

If that happens, the election would be decided by the House, with each state receiving one vote decided by a majority of its delegation. Under the current makeup of the House, Republicans have a majority of the House delegations in 26 states, while Democrats have a majority in 22 states and two state are evenly split between Democrats and Republicans. 

This likely means that Biden would have to win the Electoral College outright, because Trump would be better positioned to win in a tiebreaker decided by the House.

Jamie Roberts

By Jamie Roberts

Jamie is an award-winning investigative journalist with a focus on uncovering corruption and advocating for social justice. With over a decade of experience in the field, Jamie's work has been instrumental in bringing about positive change in various communities.

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2 thoughts on “Here are Biden and Trump’s paths to victory in the Electoral College”
  1. Biden seems to have a tough road ahead in the Electoral College, especially in the battleground states. He needs to focus on regaining the ground he’s lost and securing key victories to clinch the win.

  2. Biden has seen some reasons for being more hopeful lately when it comes to the polls. He and Trump are basically tied in The Hill/Decision Desk HQ national polling average, and several recent polls have shown Biden leading by a few points nationwide. The polls that have not been as bright are those in the battleground states that Biden will need to have a path to reelection. He has been trailing in several of the states he would need — including some he won in 2020 — by a few points for months. But he has improved recently in a few states that will be crucial to his path, and he still has numerous paths to win the election.

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