Which states decide on the presidential elections

Donald Trump or Joe Biden : Where the US presidential election will be decided

The countdown is running. America will elect a new president in just over a week. Whether it's the old one, whether Donald Trump gets a second term in office despite all the scandals and a stable backlog in the polls, or whether the Democrat Joe Biden beats him, is the question that people all over the world are currently asking themselves.

If the polls, in which Biden has been leading more or less clearly for months, were election results, the question would be answered quickly, and all those who fear Trump for four more years could breathe a sigh of relief. But it is not that easy. Because of the US electoral system, the voters in a handful of so-called swing states ultimately decide who can rule from the White House for the next four years.

That's why the candidates and their supporters are currently only touring a fraction of the country - the president even holds a rally in a different location every day. Will that change anything? For Trump, at least that much is certain, time is running out.

The complicated voting system

The Americans do not elect their president directly on November 3rd - otherwise Hillary Clinton would have won in 2016 with a lead of almost three million votes. The voters only determine the so-called Electoral College. That happens in the individual states. Each state sends between three and 55 voters to this body, depending on its population.

How these are determined varies from state to state, but the “winner takes all” principle usually applies. This means that the respective winner receives all votes available to the state, regardless of the lead with which he has won. The 538 electorates determined in this way elect the new president in mid-December. The winner is whoever has at least 270 voters.

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In most states it is already clear what the outcome will be. This is how liberal California becomes - a “Blue State - definitely vote for Biden and the conservative Alabama - a "Red State" - Trump. That is why the election campaigners are concentrating in the final sprint on those states in which the polls predict a particularly tight outcome and / or those that have constantly switched back and forth in previous elections.

An example: Trump secured all 29 votes in Florida in 2016, although he only won this important swing state by a margin of 2.2 percentage points. The Democrats' concern: If Trump manages to narrowly win again in such states, Biden could end up losing, despite his lead in the national polls. Like Al Gore in 2000, when the Democrats voted over half a million more people than the Republican George W. Bush. But Bush ended up becoming president after winning in Florida by just 537 more votes.

The Electoral College Problem

The complicated American electoral system means that not every vote counts equally. Currently, the electoral body favors the Republican Party. Because it doesn't matter how many millions of people in California or New York vote for the Democratic candidate Biden, there are no more than 55 voters per state.

In 2016, Trump won a quarter of his electorate more than 191,000 votes in the four states where the race was the closest. In six swing states - Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin - he secured 99 voters.

According to the Swing States critics, the “winner takes all” rule gives way too much weight. And there are more people in these who tend to vote Republican: They tend to be older, white, with a lower level of education - and those were Trump's core voters in 2016.

The survey site RealClearPolitics describes 17 states as swing states, the election blog FiveThirtyEight 16. Most election researchers pay special attention to nine to ten states.


Perhaps the most classic of all swing states is extremely exciting for survey experts. They are currently in agreement: As in the last six elections, which ended three times in favor of the Democrats and the Republicans, it will be very close again. In the Sunshine State there are super Trump fans in the conservative northwestern corner ("Panhandle") of the state and a disproportionately large number of pensioners who prefer the year-round warm weather to colder regions and tend towards Trump - at least until the corona crisis.

The many Latinos in Florida, on the other hand, are a diverse group: While many migrants in the south of the state around Miami are closer to the Democrats, migrants who fled socialism in Venezuela and Cuba are considered conservative - and they are politically very active. Those who secure this state and its 29 electorates have taken a big step towards victory. According to the polls, Biden is currently very close to the front in Florida.


In return, Trump leads easily in Ohio. This state in the American Midwest also went back and forth in the past six elections. In recent years, residents have tended to vote Republican. While the Democrat Barack Obama won here in 2008 and 2012, Trump got the 18 electorate in 2016.

But since Biden is more popular with the white working class and older voters than Hillary Clinton, he has a chance. No Republican has become president without winning in Ohio. If Trump loses Ohio, other, less conservative states in the Midwest will probably also go to Biden.


This state, which Trump won surprisingly in 2016, is currently more inclined towards Biden. Here, too, the democratic candidate is much more popular than his predecessor. In addition, he hopes for a lot of support from voters in the suburbs and a high turnout of blacks in Detroit. Here, however, the corona pandemic, which affects Afro-Americans particularly badly, is a big unknown. 16 voters are available.


Ten electorates want Biden here after Trump surprisingly won Wisconsin in 2016. The polls see the Democrat ahead, largely thanks to his large lead in the cities of Milwaukee and Madison. Instead, the rural areas are deep red. It will be interesting to see how the unrest in Kenosha affects the election. Serious riots broke out in the city of 100,000 at the end of August after a police officer shot the African-American Jacob Blake several times.


Even this industrial state, like Michigan and Wisconsin, which helped Trump to power in 2016, according to surveys, leans towards Biden. His 20 votes could ultimately make the difference if the election is tight. But they could arrive late, because the postal votes are counted here after all the others.
Because the decision may be made in Pennsylvania, the election campaigners crowd here. On Wednesday even Obama performed live for the first time in this election campaign in Philadelphia. By the time Trump won, the Democrats had won Keystone State six times in a row.

The rule of thumb is: Biden, who was born here in the working-class town of Scranton in 1942, has to win so high in the cities of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh and their suburbs that it undermines Trump's victory in the very conservative, rural part of the state, where the craze for the incumbent is huge.


Trump's victory in this agricultural state in 2016 was overwhelming - with a lead of nine percentage points, he secured six votes. The fact that the race in this conservative state - only in the cities of Des Moines, Cedar Rapids and Davenport are the Democrats clearly ahead - is close at all - the two are almost even, clearly shows the weakness of the incumbent.

Trump supported the suffering farmers with billions in aid, but it was he who started the trade wars in the first place. In addition, there is the pandemic, which is currently getting worse here as in other states of the “rust belt”. How effective the Trump administration has been against the virus will play a huge role at the ballot box.

North Carolina

Actually, this state is very conservative. In 2016, Trump also won it. But now it could be tight, with Realclearpolitics and FiveThirtyEight, Biden leads with a wafer-thin lead. This is another reason why Trump has already visited half a dozen times in the past two months.

Almost all of the scenarios in his campaign stipulate that he must win this state in order to secure his re-election. There are 15 votes to be won here. Republicans have won ten of the past twelve presidential elections. Obama surprisingly won in North Carolina in 2008 - for the first time since 1976.

Four years later he lost there again to Mitt Romney. But the state is changing forever, and similar to the neighboring state of Virginia in favor of the Democrats. The excellent universities, medical centers, and tech companies attract well-educated, ethnically diverse newcomers. In addition, there are many African Americans who traditionally vote democratically - if they do vote. Here too, however, the rural regions are deep red.


This conservative southern state may also become a swing state after 28 years of Republican domination. The Democrats have long been hoping to get the 16 votes here - the last to succeed was the southerner Bill Clinton in 1996. Biden leads by a wafer-thin margin on the average of the polls at RealClearPolitics and now also at FiveThirtyEight.

The demographic lines are also shifting in Georgia. The metropolis of Atlanta in particular is growing: in the past ten years from 5.3 to six million inhabitants. More than half of the population in Atlanta is black, and in all of Georgia it is just under a third.

The rising black middle class is gaining influence - and is clearly leaning towards the Democrats. During the “Black Lives Matter” protests, the African-American mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms became known nationwide and was even traded as a possible candidate for the vice presidency of Biden.


In Grand Canyon State, too, demographics are shifting in favor of the Democrats. In this actually conservative state, too, the Democrats are waiting for the “blue turn” - and hope that 2020 will happen. In 2018, a Democrat, Kyrsten Sinema, won the Senate race, and the party hopes that former astronaut Mark Kelly will do something similar this year. Biden leads the presidential race with a little more than two percentage points on average in the polls. In 2016, Trump secured the eleven votes in Arizona.


Texas is not a classic swing state. The last time a Democrat won here was in 1976. But in the meantime some observers count the "Lone Star State" among the states in which Biden could achieve a surprise victory - with 38 voters, the most votes are at stake here after California (55). One of the reasons that it could become scarce - as in Arizona - is that the rapidly growing population, especially in the metropolitan regions around Houston, Dallas, Fort Worth, San Antonio and Austin, is becoming more diverse - and thus more liberal.

Part of this demographic change can be traced back to the immigration of Latinos. But if George W. Bush was able to tie them to the Republicans to a large extent, Trump has done a lot of damage with his anti-immigration rhetoric. At least it cannot be ruled out whether it will be so far this year that the majority will tip over. If it came to that, Trump would have lost all along the line.

RealClearPolitics sees him just ahead, at FiveThirtyEight Biden has just caught up. It is observed with great interest that voters have been able to vote for a week, do so in record-breaking numbers and sometimes queue for up to ten hours. It is not yet clear whether Biden will use this automatically.

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