Election Day is tomorrow!!!

After a year-plus of covering this election cycle from the primaries and impeachment onward, and more sleepless nights trying to keep up with it all than I’ll ever fully recover from, it’s finally here.

Although, it’s pretty apparent now that this election won’t have an official winner until much closer to Christmas than Election Day.

One the eve of the 2020 presidential election, Joe Biden is favored to win both the popular and electoral college votes. However, the Trump campaign’s breakneck rally schedule to close out the campaign, mixed with some underwhelming early voting margins for Democrats have some sensing another 2016 upset brewing.

2020 Presidential Nominee Betting Odds
Joe Biden -175
Donald Trump +135
Kamala Harris +10000
Mike Pence +10000
  • Betting Odds at MyBookie as of 11/3

If Donald Trump is to pull off another comeback, he’ll need to take several battleground states in which the pollsters have shown him trailing for months.

Betting on some of these individual electoral college contests can payout better than Trump +135, especially if your favorite political betting site accepts election parlays — so it’s worth a shot!

For this article, I thought I’d focus on two crucial battlegrounds in which the President is an underdog:
Nevada and Pennsylvania.

(Remember, these are just some interesting picks if you think Donald Trump will outperform his polling – as I suspect he will do, based on early voting totals.)

Nevada

The latest Real Clear Politics polls for Nevada give Joe Biden a +3.6-point advantage heading into Election Day. That’s tightened after hovering between 5 and six points since at least September. Nate Silver’s 538 model only gives Donald Trump a 12% likelihood of carrying the Silver State, which is in line with MyBookie’s betting lines’ implied probabilities.

Which Party’s Nominee Wins Nevada?

  • Matchup Odds
  • Democratic Candidate -400
  • Republican Candidate +250

Here’s an update on early voting from the Las Vegas Review-Journal on November 2:

“As of 8:30 a.m., 1,125,580 ballots have been submitted statewide in this year’s general election. More than 582,000 Nevadans have voted by mail, and about 543,000 participated in-person through the state’s early voting period (Oct. 17-30).”

“These figures do not include mail ballots collected on Monday. Traditional Election Day polling places open at 7 a.m. Tuesday, and mail ballots postmarked by Tuesday will be counted if received before Nov. 10.”

Those numbers are a major uptick from 2016 when 1,125,429 people voted in total. Voter registration has also increased. While that 2016 figure represented 77% of the registered base last election, the higher total number of ballots cast before November 3 only amounts to 62% of this year’s active registered voters.

Democratic turnout has been higher for mail-in and in-person early voting, as expected. However, not to the degree initially forecasted by strategists:

“Overall, about 40 percent of ballots have come from Democrats, 36 percent from Republicans and 25 percent from nonpartisan or third party voters.”

“Much of the Democratic lead is buoyed, as it historically often is, by populous Clark County, where Republicans trail by a little less than 12 percent. The GOP holds a lead, and typically a commanding one, in every other county except for Washoe, where Democrats are up by less than 2,000 votes.”

Before the early voting totals started rolling in, most election experts predicted a much wider margin for Democrats to give them a healthy head start on Election Day – when a higher percentage of Republican voters prefer in-person voting to absentee or mail-in options. This correlates with polls showing Trump supporters less fearful or concerned over the covid-19 virus.

Nick Trainer, the Trump campaign’s director of battleground strategy, thinks Nevada’s early voting numbers spell success for the incumbent.

“Democrats jumped out to a 27.3% lead during [absentee ballot voting] only. Today, after significant early voting period, it’s down to D plus-5%. Election Day 2016, it was D plus-7.9%. President Trump has an Election Day margin in Nevada of 50,000 votes.”

Jon Ralston, a Nevada journalist – admittedly with a Democratic bias – sees things playing out differently. From the data he’s studied, Ralston sees Trump’s margin of error shrinking to almost nothing.

“Biden could have a 47,000-vote lead if indies are tied statewide — a little more if he is winning indies and a little less if he is losing indies. Let’s assume for the sake of this Trump-favorable model that the President is winning indies by 5 percent (few credible polls show this) and take 12,000 off the ballot lead and say Biden has a 35,000-vote lead right now. (I think that’s generous to Trump, but bear with me.)”

“(By the way, the Trump campaign has been saying he has a 50,000-voter edge with the Election Day model they have, which, if true, means he will probably win a close race. Of course, if Biden is winning indies by just 5 points, the former vice president has a 53,500-voter lead in Nevada right now.)”

“Suffice it to say, if Trump wins Election Day by 50,000 votes, he just may win. (I have no idea where/how Team Trump has manufactured that number or if it makes any sense.)”

So, the question is whether Donald Trump can pull in 50k votes more than Joe Biden on Election Day.

Not an easy task, by any means, but not impossible – nor is it a terrible sleeper bet at +250 odds.

Nevada is a weird state, with a significant non-college-educated working population. A population that has been absolutely blasted by the pandemic – especially in Las Vegas, where Democrats are supposed to dominate.

Jon Ralston’s projections assume independents will be split relatively evenly between Biden and Trump.

“Of those 600,000 remaining voters, more than two-thirds are in Clark County. And of those, 150,000 are Democrats and 100,000 are Republicans. Unless you assume an insane rate of crossovers from D to R, and an insane turnout advantage, the Democrats will get enough voters out. About 170,000 indies remain in Clark, too, and it would be unusual for them to come anywhere close to matching the major party turnout and also would be an aberration if they went for Trump in great numbers. If all of that happens, of course, Trump could win. But it’s quite a series of “ifs” that would have to come to fruition.”

I can easily see Donald Trump’s Republican turnout significantly outpacing the Democrats, with a decent advantage among independents. In Clark County, which features Las Vegas, there are 170,000 registered independents.

Democratic Governor Sisolak’s handling of the pandemic is hugely unpopular.

By following California’s lead on many orders, he’s decimated the Las Vegas economy, which relies on tourism, conventions, gaming, dining, and shopping – all of which were closed with strict, extended lockdown measures.

Furthermore, during the Democratic primaries, Nevada was very much a Bernie Sanders state. He won it in a dominating landslide.

Hispanic voters were a massive driver behind Bernie’s success.

The Biden campaign has never shown them the same level of attention. They’ve almost entirely ignored Latinos in Nevada, Arizona, and Texas.

Between the slightly underwhelming Democratic early voting margins, the lack of outreach from Biden’s team to Hispanic communities, and backlash over Steve Sisolak’s unpopular lockdown orders – which represent the DNC consensus locally – I see +250 odds as an excellent price on a measured longshot bet.

Pennsylvania

It’s impossible to see the enormous crowds attending Donald Trump’s rallies – one after another – in Pennsylvania and not wonder if the polling has been absurdly biased for Biden. Even Lt. Gov. John Fetterman is nervous.

“Donald Trump is doing things that have never been done in Pennsylvania politics in terms of the raw barnstorming across small county Pennsylvania,” Fetterman told CNN on Sunday.

“It’s hard to predict with certainty how that’s going to activate not only his base of voters from 2016, but also those that sat it out, too.”

Which Party’s Nominee Wins Pennsylvania?

  • Matchup Odds
  • Democratic Candidate -160
  • Republican Candidate +120

On Election Day Eve, Biden’s RCP polling average shrunk to +2.6. That’s the same margin by which he outperformed the polls in 2016 – so, we could be headed into a knockdown drag-out fight in Pennsylvania.

The Trump campaign is feeling confident after the immense effort dedicated to the Keystone State.

Nick Trainer & the Trump Campaign’s Perspective:

“So, Pennsylvania, the Democrats are going to have somewhere in the neighborhood of a three-quarter million head start heading into tomorrow, probably more than that. What we know right now that there are 2.6 million Trump voters likely to show up tomorrow, and there are 1.5 million remaining Biden voters to show up tomorrow. So, Pennsylvania, in particular, is going to look on election night on an Election Day vote standpoint like the President wins in an absolute landslide. However, we know the margins he needs to win by in Pennsylvania, and that math is available to us from a turnout perspective.”

“Democrats have banked a ton of high propensity voters, voters that were going to vote anyway have cast their ballot by mail. We have millions of voters left in Pennsylvania for the President. President Trump’s Election Day margin needs to be big, and it will. We currently project he’ll win the Election Day vote in Pennsylvania by over 1 million votes.”

Nate Silver also sees a scenario in which Donald Trump outperforms polling in Pennsylvania. He points out that Joe Biden’s position would be much safer if “either the polling in Pennsylvania were like that in Wisconsin and Michigan, where he has a larger lead … or if another state such as Florida were also polling more like Pennsylvania to give Biden a clear Plan B. But neither of those things are true.”

The famed statistician then makes an interesting point about polling discrepancies: “Moreover, because polling errors are somewhat correlated from state to state, if Biden loses Pennsylvania, he would no longer be a favorite in states such as Florida and Georgia — where he’s narrowly ahead now — because it would be a sign that Trump had outperformed his polls again.”

That Florida and Pennsylvania are correlated is interesting. Trump’s early showing looks particularly promising in the Sunshine State. There’s a horde of white non-college-educated voters ready to cast ballots for the President on Election Day. However, in Miami-Dade county – which Biden is counting on to win Florida – Black and Latino early voting came in well under projections.

If their fates are tied – all the more reason to like Trump’s chances in PA.

On the other hand, Pennsylvania Democrats have manipulated the state’s election laws in ways election models may not consider when forecasting outcomes. The GOP challenged recent changes made by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, submitting an emergency application to the US Supreme Court which read, in part:

“Nevertheless, the decision of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania forces officials to count ballots received up to three days after Election Day even if they lack a legible postmark or any postmark at all. This is an open invitation to voters to cast their ballots after Election Day, thereby injecting chaos and the potential for gamesmanship into what was an orderly and secure schedule of clear, bright-line deadlines.”

Meanwhile, the state’s Attorney General, Josh Shapiro, publicly predicted on Saturday that Trump would lose PA, “if all the voters are added up.” The tweet came one week after accusing the President of “actively trying to undermine this election.”

As it pertains to election tactics, a general rule that applies to both sides is: “accuse your opponent of what you yourself are doing.”

I don’t know if the Pennsylvania Attorney General has something up his sleeves tomorrow or during the extended ballot-counting process. I just know this pivotal battleground state has dramatically relaxed their standards for accepting mail-in ballots. And high-ranking local pols with a say in how the election plays out are making very bold comments.

Between the ridiculous attendance numbers Donald Trump’s rallies racked up in the state, the ongoing civil unrest breaking out in Philadelphia over another police shooting, Joe Biden’s comments about transitioning away from oil – and the Democrat’s association with progressives who’d like to ban fracking – and the rapidly tightening poll numbers, I think taking the President +120 is a decent bet.

State officials will battle to keep extending their ballot deadlines, but that doesn’t mean they’ll win. They have thus far, but the legal fights are nowhere near finished. If, and when, some of these questions reach the Supreme Court, we’ll see if Amy Coney Barrett shows Trump her appreciation for the lifetime appointment.

Both sides will be launching lots of shenanigans between now and the official announcement of the next President of the United States. The underdog incumbent could very well emerge the victor in the Keystone State.