4 GOP Campaign Chiefs Make Their Final Election Predictions. They’re as Divided as the Country.November 3, 2020
Election Day is here—and with it, the chance to look very smart (or very stupid) by sharing predictions about who wins the presidency.
For the past couple of election cycles, I’ve enjoyed privately comparing my own prognostications with those of my best sources. This year we’re making those election forecasts public. And we’re doing so with a special group—four members of the small fraternity of people who have tried to defeat Donald Trump in the past.
In June 2019, I convened a roundtable discussion—in an actual smoke-filled room in Washington—with four of the Republican Party’s 2016 campaign managers: Danny Diaz (Jeb Bush), Beth Hansen (John Kasich), Jeff Roe (Ted Cruz) and Terry Sullivan (Marco Rubio). The idea was to draw from their experiences competing against Trump, and against each other, to handicap the Democratic primary and discuss which candidate might have the best odds against Trump in November 2020.
That conversation was so interesting that we decided to get the gang back together a few months later, at the Texas Tribune Festival, for a discussion of Biden’s flagging candidacy and how he might stop the bleeding. Then, in April of 2020, we adapted to the pandemic by holding our inaugural “Smoke Filled Zoom,” recapping the abrupt conclusion of the Democratic primary and weighing the political implications of Covid-19. Finally, just before Labor Day, we reassembled over the web to break down the party conventions, the Biden-Trump matchup and the potential October surprises that awaited.
Given this group’s documented, 18-month-long discussion of the race, it was only appropriate to bring everyone together one last time and compare predictions. In this fifth and final installment of our campaign manager roundtable, these four elder statesmen of the GOP debate which party will control the Senate next year, which states Trump can hang onto and who will win the Electoral College. We also addressed the question on the minds of so many Americans: If Trump loses, but refuses to concede, what happens next?
The conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
The conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
TIM ALBERTA: Folks, welcome to the grand finale. This has been a stable campaign, despite all the volatility in the country. It’s amazing to think back to our first meeting. All of you guys believed that Joe Biden was a durable frontrunner. All of you guys believed that Kamala Harris was the likeliest VP pick. And here we are. For all of the craziness in this world with Covid-19 and the economic collapse and the social unrest, the race has been remarkably static. So—
TERRY SULLIVAN: I would like to interrupt and say that I was the only one to say that Joe Biden would win since even before he was the nominee. I don’t know if anybody wants to change their vote tonight, but I’m just saying.
ALBERTA: OK. We’ll get there.
JEFF ROE: That was an early victory lap.
ALBERTA: Really. This guy. So, here’s what I want to ask you guys, and just go around, you know, take 30 seconds, but flesh this out for me. Do any of you think that either of these candidates has done anything significant to either help themselves or hurt themselves in the final weeks of this race? Is there any late development that you think is significant on either side, for better or for worse?
DANNY DIAZ: I think the completion of the Supreme Court nomination prior to Election Day has reinforced kind of the bona fides with the base, with value voters, which benefits the president, benefits Republican Senate candidates. Outside of that, and Joe Biden hanging out in his basement, I haven’t seen anything novel transpire.
BETH HANSEN: I would suggest that first debate appreciably affected Trump, and not in a good way. It did not help him.
ROE: Yeah, I think both debates. I mean, for all the talk about debates not mattering, they both mattered. And I think the first debate was very difficult for the president. You know, for what was a stable race, he lost 3 to 5 points almost across the board really quickly, especially when you couple the debate with him catching the virus. And then the second debate has provided, I think, some momentum in the final days for the president. So I think both debates had a significant impact.
ALBERTA: I premised that by saying how this race has been really static and really unsurprising. But what’s the biggest surprise of this cycle? You can’t say Covid-19, because that’s too easy of an answer. What’s the biggest surprise to you, sitting here today, compared to where we were 18 months ago talking about this race? Terry, I’ll start with you this time.
SULLIVAN: The fact that the media and the voters have allowed Joe Biden to hide this one out. Look, I’m one of the harshest critics of Trump, and it’s been a good strategy, an effective strategy for Joe Biden, but the guy has legitimately hidden and run out the clock. And that surprised me that there hasn’t been more pressure put on him by the media for not doing more. You don’t have to go door to door. You don’t have to shake people’s hands. But leaving your house on a normal day would be a good thing.
ROE: I said during one of the previous Zooms, the question of whether you think the economy is more important—or if you think the virus is the more important issue—that was going to determine the election. And, you know, for the most dramatic impact on the economy, we have the lowest number of people citing it as their number one concern in a couple generations. I think that’s been pretty surprising. So, for all the strife politically around jobs and the economy, it is not tracking the number that you would normally believe that it would. It doesn’t match previous election cycles in the least. And obviously the economy has been the president’s biggest advantage.
HANSEN: What’s surprising to me is the record pace of turnout. I don’t sense that kind of enthusiasm that I saw in 2008, at least here in Ohio, when Obama was running for the first time. It was palpable back then. Now, part of that is that you don’t see rallies, people aren’t gathering together. But there was a real sense that there was something special happening. I think we’re going to exceed that turnout not just numerically, but by percentage, aided in part by the ability to vote early and absentee vote. I think we’re going to have record turnout. We’re going to see a percentage that we haven’t seen since 1968. And you just don’t see it on the ground.
ALBERTA: Danny, those are three really good answers. What’s the biggest surprise for you?
DIAZ: What’s kind of surprising is the growing concern that certain demographics could have a repeat of their underwhelming performance, with Joe Biden kind of following in the footsteps of Hillary Clinton in 2016. You look at South Florida with Latinos, you see it beginning to manifest itself in Cleveland with African Americans. I think this perennial taking for granted of portions of their coalition, not really investing on the ground. I think on Election Night there’s a real chance that people could be gnashing their teeth with regard to the constituencies that were always very favorable to the Democratic presidential nominee.
ALBERTA: Each of you has worked lots of campaigns in lots of different places, but you’ve all got areas of expertise. I want to go around the horn and have you each drill in on a state that you know really well, a state you’ve paid special attention to this cycle.
I want you to give me three things: what you’re seeing there on the ground, the places that you’re watching on Tuesday night that will give a good indicator of where things are headed, and your prediction of who wins.
Beth, you’re in Ohio. What’s your read on the Buckeye State?
HANSEN: Well, in 2016, Trump won the state by 8 points, by about 450,000 votes. We are going to have higher turnout this time. We’ll probably be up to close to 73 percent of voting age population, probably add 300,000 votes to just shy of 6 million overall.
What is surprising to me is that some of that additional vote, you would think that it would be for Biden-Harris, but there is an intensity, a tenacity, on the part of Trump supporters. When I look down in Southeast Ohio—and I’m down there once every couple of weeks—where you once saw a bumper sticker on a truck, you now see five bumper stickers and two flags. Some of that new vote is going to be Trump voters. But at this rate, Ohio is going to tighten significantly from the 8 points, driven largely by the exodus of suburban women. He is just getting crushed. There are some legislative races where polling shows him 20 points below the generic Republican with suburban women. And seniors, they don’t like the chaos. There was a particular dip following the first debate, following the revelation that the president had Covid.
My sense is that Trump wins the state; that it’s not going to be enough for Biden-Harris to make it up. But it’s not going to be 8 points; it’s going to be less than 2. Maybe 49-47.
ALBERTA: We’ve got our first-ever call of the Smoke-Filled Zoom. What I’m going to do is, before I come to each of you for your state-by-state breakdowns, I’m going to go around the horn and ask for your picks in the state that we just covered. So, in Ohio, who wins: Trump or Biden?
ALBERTA: All right. We’ve got three Trumps and one Biden in Ohio. Jeff, let’s go to you next. Tell us what’s up in Texas.
ROE: Trump won here by 9. He got 53 percent of the vote. You take the governor’s race and Cruz’s race in 2018, where we started to see manifest both the Trump coalition and the suburban slip, and Cruz and Trump performed very similarly. In Texas, about 25 percent of the vote is rural, about 25 percent is urban—you know, the urban core—and about 50 percent is in the suburbs. Trump is really not far off of his 2016 performance. The difference is, most people don’t know the names of the third-party candidates like last time. So, because of that, instead of it being 53 to 43.5 like last time, now it’s going to be like 53 to 47. The third-party candidates are getting 2 or 3 percent instead of 8 or 9 percent.
I think we’re not going to know who won the presidency on Election Night. We won’t know who won the Senate either. But we’ll know Texas because of the way the votes are coming in. They have to be in by a certain day, and a lot of people are voting early in-person instead of absentee or by mail. So, we’ll know in Texas. And there’s a couple counties that you look at on Election Night. You look at Harris County, which is Houston; Trump got 41 percent and Cruz got 41 percent. You also look at Tarrant County, which is Fort Worth; Trump got 52, Cruz got 50. If Trump is under 40 percent in Harris County, it’s going to be a tough night. And if he’s much under 50 in Tarrant County, it’s going to be a tough night. It’s moved. Those places used to be a barrier for Republicans, but the suburban slip has marginalized those areas for political benefit for Republicans. So, if you see him losing Tarrant County on election night, which we’ll know fairly early in the night because the early votes will come in pretty early, and if he’s under 40 percent in Harris County, it’s going to be tough.
Now, what we’ll have to wait to see—and this goes to Danny’s point—is Biden’s underperformance with the old Obama coalition. Cruz made up votes in the Rio Grande Valley; we ran 5 points ahead of Trump there. Now, it helps that Cruz has a Spanish surname and he’s Cuban. But I also think that Trump’s doing better there, too. I bet Trump will match Cruz’s number in that super-Hispanic area in the Rio Grande Valley.
There’s a lot going on. The early vote is enormous. We exceeded our 2016 totals already. I don’t think that’s necessarily bad. I think if everybody in Texas votes, then Trump wins more comfortably as turnout goes up because that means the rural areas are turning out. You take that rural part of the state—think of Lubbock County—Trump got 66 percent last time, Cruz got 73 percent. In the rural areas of Texas, that 25 percent of the state, Trump got about 77 percent last time. I think he’s maybe north of 80 or 82 now. There are hot numbers out there that will take a while to come in. West Texas takes a while to filter into the Secretary of State. But I think Trump wins. I don’t think he wins it by nine because I think he gets 53 again. Maybe 54. Maybe 52. But he’s going to win it again.
ALBERTA: OK. How about the rest of you? Trump or Biden in Texas?
ALBERTA: Terry, you’re a real-life “Florida Man.” What’s up in Florida?
SULLIVAN: This has been touched on by the other folks a little bit already. But Trump is overperforming with Hispanics from where he was four years ago, which is a little bit surprising. His numbers seem to be pretty decent there, partly by bolstering the Cuban community and the South Florida Hispanics. It’s also surprising that he’s doing better among the Puerto Ricans in Orlando and the I-4 Corridor than you would normally think. His problem is he’s really taken a hit with seniors. That’s the third rail in Florida.
Look at Sumter County. It’s on the I-4 Corridor. It also happens to be where The Villages [retirement community] is. And you know, they always have insanely high turnout and they have a high percentage of early voting. But I think last I saw, they were at like 73 percent early vote, meaning 73 percent of the registered voters in Sumter County have already voted. Trump needs to win that by a two-to-one margin. If he doesn’t win that by a two-to-one margin—and that’ll get reported immediately because it’s the early vote—it’s near impossible for him to win the state. He needs to win those seniors. And to Beth’s point earlier, he’s rattled them on the coronavirus. They care about that issue more than anything else. They were clearly not fans, from what I’ve seen in the data, of his response when he got Covid. That really hurt him. All that to say, I think it comes down to his underperforming with the seniors, because there are more seniors than there are Hispanics. And even though he’s slightly overperforming with Hispanics, that’s a real problem for him in Florida.
I’ve gone back and forth, because if there’s a candidate that is genetically engineered to be a Florida candidate, it’s Donald Trump. I mean, he’s like everybody in Boca you’ve ever met. You know, after he loses the presidency, he’ll fit right in there with his fake tan, just like every other Yankee that goes down there to retire. But, that being said, I think Trump loses Florida.
ALBERTA: OK. What do you guys think about Florida? Biden or Trump?
ALBERTA: OK. Three out of four have Trump in Florida. And then Danny, you are going to break down a state that we wouldn’t have been talking about this time four years ago. The president won Georgia by five points, but there’s a lot of movement there. Tell us why.
DIAZ: A Democrat last carried it in 1992. Hillary got the most raw votes of any Democratic nominee in history. We’ll get to that. But there are two U.S. Senate races on the ballot, and I think the Senate majority runs through Georgia. Two competitive House races, the 6th and the 7th. Half the votes come out of Atlanta. Atlanta is more non-white. It’s more college-educated. And it’s younger, hence it’s more Democratic. Just like these folks laid out in their states, the outer metro areas—Macon, Savannah, Augusta—they’re better for Trump. It’s pretty straightforward.
The Real Clear Politics number here is dead even. I mean, it’s a total jump ball when you look at the amalgamation of data. Trump carried it by about 5 points. There were 4 million votes cast in 2016. There have already been, as of last Thursday, 3.4 million votes cast. That’s about 87 percent of the 2016 turnout. Folks are talking that it could hit 6 million. To put that in perspective, 11 million people live in the state.
There’s an old rule in Georgia, which is for Democrats to win, African Americans have got to constitute at least 30 percent of the electorate. As of four days before the election, the ballot requests were 31 percent African American. The ballot returns are a little less, 30.5 percent African American. And the early vote was 26 percent African American. So, to the point I was making earlier, Biden isn’t lighting it on fire with some key demographics. It’s almost a repeat performance of Hillary. So, it’s going to be close. It’s a Republican state at every level: State House, State Senate, governor. It will perform like a Republican state and Trump will win by a slim margin. Watch Baker County. Obama carried it by half a point; Trump carried it by almost 9. Twiggs County, Obama carried it by 8.5 points; Trump carried it by a point and a half. I’ll look at a few of those counties and see how they’re performing. If he continues to crush it in the exurbs and in rural parts of the state, I think he’s going to offset Atlanta, and I think if Biden doesn’t turn up the heat with some of these key demographics, he’s going to have a problem.
ALBERTA: What do you the rest of you think? Who wins Georgia?
ALBERTA: Terry, you going to make it unanimous?
SULLIVAN: No. As your resident Southerner, let me tell you, the fact that, first of all, the Black voting age population in Georgia is just over 31 percent, and the fact that they’re turning out at the same levels as—they generally turn out a lesser level than white voters traditionally in the South. This is record-high Black turnout in Georgia. They’re not turning out for Kanye. They’re not turning out for the president who’s done more for them since Abraham Lincoln. This is a problem for him. Trump has always been weak in Georgia. I think he loses it. I think it’s more likely he loses Georgia than Florida. I think that not only is Trump going to lose it, I think that it’s going to become a problem for Republicans moving forward.
ALBERTA: Wow. OK. I’ll jump in here quickly with my read on Michigan. Pretty simple. I think of all the places the president won in 2016, he’s in the worst shape in Michigan for a couple of very basic reasons.
Number one, Michigan never had early voting in a presidential race before. Back in 2016, when I was back here in the weeks before the election, Democrats were all worried that they weren’t banking any votes in Michigan. Four years later, you’re seeing just crazy, historic mail requests and mail turn-ins in Michigan.
And that gets to the second obvious point, Black voters, especially Black voters in Wayne County and in Genesee County, Detroit and Flint, respectively, you’re seeing not just tons of absentee requests, but you are seeing return rates pushing 80 and 85 percent in some of these areas, which is just mind-boggling. I haven’t talked to a single Republican here in the last few weeks who thinks that Trump can overcome that.
The third part is what you guys have been talking about, the suburban women. I’ve told everybody for the last few months, if you want to be really lazy, just watch Oakland County on Election Night. The president lost Oakland County by 8 points in 2016. If he can keep Oakland County under 11 or 12 points, maybe he has a prayer. But there’s no expectation that he will. The expectation is that Oakland County bleeds up towards 14, 15, maybe up towards 20 points even, simply because of that hemorrhage of not just college-educated white women, but a lot of college-educated white men too. The district-level polling in that area is really, really dangerous for Republicans right now.
So, I would tell you pretty confidently that I think Trump loses the state of Michigan. But what do you guys think?
HANSEN: Yeah. Michigan’s my home state; I’m from Oakland County. You are absolutely right. This is Biden, no question.
DIAZ: I think it’s a tall order. Biden carries Michigan.
ROE: Biden carries Michigan.
SULLIVAN: Hands down, Biden.
ALBERTA: We’ve crossed out about half the battleground map, guys, and I’m planning to come back to the other half later. But before I move to the next segment, I want to ask you this first. The five states that we just ran through are Ohio, Texas, Florida, Georgia and Michigan. Those are all states Trump won in 2016. That’s indicative of a battleground map where he’s playing a lot of defense here. The only two states where there are opportunities for the president to have a pick-up are Minnesota and Nevada. Do you guys think that he wins either of those states?
HANSEN: Of the two you mentioned, he’s got a better chance in Minnesota. He’s not going to win Nevada. And I still think Biden wins Minnesota.
ALBERTA: What about you Danny? Minnesota and Nevada. Can Trump win either?
ROE: I think Trump has a shot in Nevada. Watch the early vote in Washoe County. The formula used to be, run up the margins in the rural areas, then carry Washoe and hang on in Clark County. The Clark numbers are not as profound as they’ve been in the past. The registration numbers are down. Pretty much, you can’t win the state if the Democrat registration advantage is over 100,000. You can win it if it’s under 70,000. You know, it’s like at 72, 73,000. And so, there’s opportunity there. I watched the early votes come in; Washoe shows about a 5,000-vote lead for Democrats. I don’t think it’s out of reach.
I think Minnesota is a state where, in eight years on this Zoom, we’ll be saying, “Minnesota is in the bag for Republicans.” I think it’s just moving probably slower than we want it to be. Just like Texas and Georgia are moving slower than Democrats want.
ALBERTA: With all those caveats, make your pick. Minnesota and Nevada.
ROE: I don’t think Trump wins either.
ALBERTA: All right. Terry, Minnesota or Nevada, can he win either?
SULLIVAN: No. But you never know with Minnesota. They did bring us Jesse Ventura, so anything’s possible.
ALBERTA: Let’s talk about the Senate. What’s striking to me is that 2014 was the year when the Republican establishment seized back control of the party after the insurgencies in 2010 and 2012. Mitch McConnell and the Chamber of Commerce were able to muscle through a lot of their preferred candidates in a lot of these states: Cory Gardner in Colorado, Thom Tillis in North Carolina, Joni Ernst in Iowa. A few others as well. And now a lot of those Republicans, six years later, are fighting for their lives.
So, what I want to know is, do these Senate candidates have to outperform Trump to keep their jobs? And what are the races that you’re really focused on, that you think are kind of the most compelling in that respect?
ROE: I don’t know if anybody’s going to outperform Trump, aside from Susan Collins.
DIAZ: John James.
ALBERTA: Yeah, maybe John James in Michigan.
ROE: John James will. Gardner probably will. But Trump leads the ballot almost everywhere. And we’re all trying to figure out how we keep his votes in our column. He leads the ballot literally everywhere. We’ve always said all politics is local. But now, it’s not. All politics is national now. Obviously, Collins is an 18-year incumbent, has an independent streak and all that sort of thing. She will run ahead of the ticket by a substantial margin. And Gardner’s a great candidate; he’ll do a little better than Trump. But most Republicans, they’re not getting his number. John Cornyn [in Texas], for instance, he’s up 7 or 8, but he’s still at Trump’s number. It’s just the Democrats are not where Biden is. And so, even if the Republican candidates win by more, they’re still just going to get Trump’s number.
ALBERTA: Danny, my hunch is that you might disagree. Do you think that you’ll see more Senate candidates running ahead of the president than Jeff believes?
DIAZ: Yeah, I think we’ll see a few. I think Susan Collins for sure. I think John James for sure. I think you could see Steve Daines [in Montana] run ahead of the president. North Carolina, if Thom Tillis wins, it’s a little diluted because of Cal Cunningham’s personal problems. But I think if Thom Tillis wins, that’s a huge sign pretty early for the Grand Old Party. And then Iowa, man. If the president carries Iowa and Joni wins, like, we are really close to holding the Senate, because I’m bullish on Maine. I think she’s a unique political personality. And I believe Republican states perform like Republican states on Election Day. I think that takes Alaska, Kansas, Kentucky, Texas, Montana, all off the table.
ALBERTA: Terry, jump in there. What’s your sense of the Senate map?
SULLIVAN: I agree with a lot of what Danny said. I do think though this is the perfect example of the corrosive effect that Donald Trump has had on the Republican Party. If you look at the swing states from four years ago: Florida, Ohio, Wisconsin, those Senate candidates outperformed him by 2, 3 points, and in many cases, drug him across the finish line. He was outperformed by these other Republicans, which is normal because these folks in these states have a relationship with these candidates. So, their endorsement of him meant something. But he has so damaged the party and the party brand, to Jeff’s point, all politics is national now. None of these candidates, in the swing states anyways, are outperforming Trump. And they’re underperforming him. He’s really done damage to them.
Interestingly, you’re not seeing them campaign together. Trump doesn’t want to campaign with them. They don’t want to campaign with Trump. He drags [Arizona Senator] Martha McSally on stage, gives her 60 seconds, and then gives some whack-nut guy 15 minutes. It’s really interesting the dynamic that has taken place here. Susan Collins is a unique creature, but I think if Trump loses the state by more than 5 points, I think it will be too much for her. But I think she can outperform him by about 5 points, which is amazing in this environment. I think some other Republicans outperform him, but not in states that really matter, with the exception potentially of Tillis, but that’s because of the internal dynamics of that race and Cunningham. I think there’s a scenario where Tillis wins and Trump loses North Carolina.
HANSEN: Yeah. And those four states—Maine, North Carolina, Arizona, Iowa—it will be pretty close. So, for instance, in Colorado, I don’t think Gardner comes back. Biden’s going to win the state and I think [Colorado Democrat] John Hickenlooper is going to win. I think Trump is going to pull at least one electoral vote out of Maine, and I think Susan Collins comes back. But I don’t think Martha McSally’s coming back; I think [Democrat] Mark Kelly wins Arizona. I wonder about Joni Ernst and her ability to come back.
ALBERTA: Arizona is a really interesting Senate race. We can get into some of the ticket splitting scenarios in a minute, but do any of you think McSally wins her Senate race?
ROE: I think she will. Of the people that haven’t voted—which is a small number by the way; it’s probably 17 percent of the people are going to vote on election day—she’s got to win 68 percent of them. I think there’s a real shot to win Arizona. And to Terry’s point, Republican states behave, at the end of the day, Republican. Trump is getting—when you talk about an undecided voter, if you’re an undecided POTUS voter, I just think that’s a Trump vote. Because if you haven’t made your mind up by now, you know where you are on Trump. I’m not trying to Baghdad Bob this thing. We could get blown out on Election Day. We could absolutely lose the whole damn thing. It’s somewhere between a narrow Trump victory and a Biden landslide.
ALBERTA: Let’s close the loop on the Senate with this: Do any of you believe that Republicans can hold the Senate if Trump loses the White House?
DIAZ: Narrowly. And it’s decided in Georgia on January 5. [Note: The U.S. Senate races in Georgia would go to a January 5 run-off if no candidate receives 50 percent of the vote on November 3.]
SULLIVAN: I think they definitely can and I completely agree, it will come down to January 5 in Georgia.
HANSEN: Don’t agree with that. Unlikely, but it could happen.
DIAZ: In the event that Joe Biden wins the presidency and it’s a run-off in Georgia, the push goes to the GOP.
ROE: Yup. I think conversely the same is true. I think if Trump wins the presidency, I think we probably lose those two seats.
ALBERTA: The House map is kind of boring. Nobody thinks the House majority is in jeopardy, do they? Does anybody believe that Republicans are going to retake the House?
EVERYONE: [Shake their heads no.]
ALBERTA: OK. Then I want you to give me a House district that is relevant, not to control of the House, but relevant to the battleground map, or to Trump’s performance with a certain group. What’s a district that you’re keeping an eye on?
DIAZ: This is an easy one. Nebraska-2, Maine-2. Trump won’t get all five electoral votes out of Nebraska this time, I think. But the margin in Nebraska-2 will be curious. Maine-2, he won it by a substantial amount, if he does well there, that is emblematic that we’re holding the line on some of these districts that are maybe not suburban, but more exurban, those areas that are on the line this cycle, where we need to limit the losses in the House and fight another day in 2022.
ALBERTA: Beth, give us a district.
HANSEN: What I’m looking at is Minnesota-7. It’s the western, rural part of Minnesota. It’s Collin Peterson, who’s the current House Ag chair. He’s been in that seat since like 1990. That district has gone 60 percent for the president and Collin Peterson has kept that seat. I don’t think he keeps it this time around. They’ve got a good candidate, first woman, a [state] Senate president, former Lieutenant Governor Michelle Fischbach. I think she ends up taking that seat.
ALBERTA: Fun fact: Collin Peterson outran Hillary Clinton by 35 points.
HANSEN: Yeah, it was amazing. He’s just not going to do it again.
ALBERTA: Terry, give us a district you’re watching.
SULLIVAN: South Carolina-1, Mark Sanford’s old district, is held by a Democrat for the first time in a long time, Joe Cunningham. He’s up for re-election the first time. It was a little bit of a fluke that he won it last time. I think that race is very telling and here’s why. It’s what we’re seeing in Georgia, what we’re seeing in North Carolina, what we saw in Virginia a few years back. It’s the turning of the South into less of a solid red place. The Northern retirees coming down, people coming down for jobs, the housing sales are through the roof in Charleston right now because nobody wants to live in New York City. If a Democrat can hold onto that seat a second time, that’s really going to send a signal that the Southern states aren’t just as solid red as they once were.
ALBERTA: That’s a good call. Jeff, what about you?
ROE: I’ll be looking for something that portends a trend. And it’s funny because most of these House seats we’re fighting over are in non-battleground states. And so, they kind of have a better chance at holding their own or exceeding the POTUS number, unlike a Senate race, which gets nationalized too quickly because of the money. But the Democrats raised so much money that’s really even hard. That’s why they’re going to keep the House. I think New Jersey-2 is an interesting race with the party switcher [Republican Jeff Van Drew]. I think Missouri-2 and Oklahoma-5 are both really interesting. They’re suburban seats. One held by [Republican] Ann Wagner, one held by Kendra Horn, a Democrat. Both are tight seats and suburban seats. I think it will tell us a lot. I’m trying to pick something in an Eastern time zone so we can look at it early and figure out what kind of night is coming. But I think those two seats are pretty indicative. Two suburban seats, one held by a Democrat, one held by a Republican, both with Republican tilts. You know, Trump won both by more than 10 points. But again, he was at 53 and 54 and Clinton was at 43, 44. How much juice has he lost in the suburbs. I think we’ll know probably by 11 o’clock at night.
ALBERTA: Let’s finish our state-by-state predictions. I’m going to read off a state, and you guys are going to tell me Trump or Biden. Arizona?
ALBERTA: All right. What about Iowa?
EVERYONE: [Laughter, overlapping shouts.]
SULLIVAN: Should I just give you my number now?
ALBERTA: No, we’re getting there. It’s more fun this way.
DIAZ: You’re at like 340 [electoral votes].
ALBERTA: He might be past 340. OK, what about North Carolina?
HANSEN: Oh, boy. This one’s going to be close, but it’s going to be Trump.
ROE: I think it’s Trump.
HANSEN: Again, one of my top three closest ones. I think PA goes Biden.
ALBERTA: Wow. OK. Beth’s the only one that’s going to be right on the knife’s edge in the Electoral College. Danny, Pennsylvania?
DIAZ: I’ll say this. Assuming that Trump carries Texas, Ohio and Florida, which he has to have, [Pennsylvania] could be the tie break for both sides. I think the point that Jeff made is what I agree with. If Trump isn’t clearing kind of the decks on North Carolina and on Florida, it’s kind of all a moot discussion. And we’ll know that relatively early. But if he does clear the decks, Pennsylvania, I think it’s close but a push goes to the incumbent.
ROE: I think that Arizona and Pennsylvania are the two big questions. And Trump being outspent two-to-one in those states is like malpractice. If there’s a political jail, people should go to prison after this election for letting that happen. And so, I think we’re kind of outgunned a little bit. But I would say in the two states, can you get the conservative independents in [Pennsylvania], can you get the McCain Republicans in [Arizona]? So, because I said that [Arizona], he could win, I think I’ve been bullish on Pennsylvania like the entire way. That state, it’s Alabama between Philly and Pittsburgh, and those areas are juiced up. Those House races are closer than they should be. So, I think Trump wins. But I think Danny’s soliloquy is right on. If we’re in the game, then he’s winning [Pennsylvania]. If this is going the other way, then of course we’re going to lose in other places. But if we’re in the game in North Carolina, you can’t say you’re going to win North Carolina and not say you’re Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania is a studier state and it’s going to be a better state long-term.
ALBERTA: Terry, what about Pennsylvania?
SULLIVAN: Biden. No soliloquy. When you’re accurate, you don’t need to spread a lot of bullshit.
ALBERTA: And finally, Wisconsin?
ALBERTA: I want everybody to tell me who wins the Senate. Come January when the new Congress is sworn in, who has the majority?
SULLIVAN: Democrats. You know what? I think it could 50-50, and so there’s no majority, but that Biden and Kamala will be the tie breaker.
DIAZ: That’s a Dem majority, brother, just by definition.
EVERYONE: [Making fun of Sullivan.]
ALBERTA: You all expect Democrats to hold the House. I want you to give me a number. Right now, Democrats have 232 in their majority. I want you to give me a number for the Democratic majority next year.
HANSEN: Net 10. So, 242.
DIAZ: I feel like this is a little bit of, like, guess the check when we go out to eat. I was going with 242 as well as. But now I feel like I need to change my number.
HANSEN: The Price is Right, Danny.
SULLIVAN: One dollar!
DIAZ: I’ll say 241.
ROE: There’s five open seats and four of them are Republican, so the Republicans are really functionally at 201. I think they pick up three or four seats.
ALBERTA: You think Republicans pick up three or four?
ROE: I do.
SULLIVAN: I think it breaks to the Democrats, but I feel like it’s something that it’s so hard to be an expert on. There’s like 10 people in the country who are. And, like, I’m not Dave Wasserman, you know? But based on all my other predictions tonight, I’ve got to go with 255.
ALBERTA: Jeff, when we were on here the last time, you talked about expecting historic turnout this fall. Turnout was roughly 137 million in 2016. We should not take for granted that participation goes up in every new election; it actually went down in Bill Clinton’s re-election and in Obama’s re-election. But I think all the data points we have suggest that we’re looking at a big increase in turnout. So, give me your prediction: How many millions of votes are cast for president in 2020?
DIAZ: Look, there are states like Texas that are already at 100 percent of their 2016 turnout. I think we’re pushing past 150 million.
ROE: I think you’ll probably have about a 15 percent increase. I’ll just say 157 million somewhere in there.
DIAZ: Which is 65 percent of eligible voters showing up. I mean, that’s a big deal.
ALBERTA: Yes, it would be. Terry, give me your number.
SULLIVAN: I agree with Danny that we break 150. There’s just so many unknowns and so many new things with all this early voting. But I think we definitely break 150. I’m skeptical that it gets up to that 157 million mark, but it wouldn’t shock me. So, 151 million.
ALBERTA: The last time we all talked, everyone agreed that Trump was going to lose the popular vote. Unless you feel differently about that now, I want you to tell me, by how much does Biden win the popular vote? Clinton won it by nearly 3 million last time.
HANSEN: I think it’s going to be 52-45, Biden. He wins by 8 million.
ROE: I think Biden wins probably by 6 or 7 million. And if you take out the top four counties, then it’s a wash.
DIAZ: I want to say multiply Clinton’s margin by two and I’ll take that.
ALBERTA: OK. Biden wins by about 6 million?
SULLIVAN: I think 9 million easy.
SULLIVAN: I mean, look, guys, if you just look at the fucking poll numbers, if the poll numbers are right in every single state—
ALBERTA: It could easily be 9 million.
SULLIVAN: Yeah. I mean, everyone looks at me like I’ve got three heads.
ROE: Except they’re balkanizing their vote. They’re turning out their most reliable voters [early]. On Election Day, they’re going to be bereft of these human beings. It’s going to be a Tea Party event at the polls on Election Day because ain’t no Democrats voting on Election Day.
ALBERTA: All right. The moment we’ve all been waiting for. Drum roll, please. Give me your winner in the Electoral College and the number of EVs that they win.
HANSEN: The Electoral College is going to Biden. 307 electoral votes. Florida puts him at 278 on my map. North Carolina puts him at 307.
ALBERTA: But Beth, you gave Florida to Trump earlier.
HANSEN: No, wait—I do have Florida for Trump. If Biden wins Florida, he gets to 307. Without it, he’s at 278.
ALBERTA: Got it. So, you think it’s 278, because Biden wins Pennsylvania, but you think Florida is the next-closest state, which could get him to 307.
HANSEN: Yeah. And then North Carolina, which would put him at 322. Those are the next two states I think [Biden] is most likely to pick up.
ALBERTA: OK. Danny, give me your Electoral College winner and number of votes.
DIAZ: The old man gets 278, maybe 279.
SULLIVAN: They’re both old as hell. Which old man?
DIAZ: The old man who’s the current occupant of the White House, with 278 or 279.
ROE: 278, Trump.
ROE: We lose Omaha’s vote and we probably lose Maine-2, unfortunately.
ALBERTA: Got it.
DIAZ: The more I listen to Terry, the more I think we get Omaha. That’s where I get 279.
ALBERTA: Terry, bring us home on this one. Electoral College number?
SULLIVAN: You know what? These are some really smart folks, so it does make me question myself a little bit that my numbers and everything are so far off theirs. And look, I don’t work with candidates anymore, and there are two sides to that. I have the ability to say whatever I want to, but the flipside of that is, is these guys have real data from real smart pollsters in a lot of these places and are a lot more engaged than I am. So, in many ways, they’ve got a huge advantage that way. But, all that to say, 374, Biden.
ALBERTA: Listen, I don’t think any of us can laugh at any of these predictions because there’s such an unknown spectrum here. I think turnout could push 170 million.
ALBERTA: I could be wrong on that. But, Jeff, you called it a meatball election that everyone wants a bite of. I’ve been on the road nonstop the last few months. In 2016, it felt like every fourth person I talked to said they weren’t voting. I haven’t met almost anyone who’s not voting this time.
SULLIVAN: Enough from us, then. Let’s hear what’s your prediction. What’s your Electoral College number?
ALBERTA: I think the most likely outcome is Biden wins with 309 electoral votes. Trump wins North Carolina and Florida, but Biden takes the rest of the battlegrounds. That’s my hunch. I think Trump has been at his strongest in North Carolina and Florida. But I would break with you guys, Danny and Jeff, on Pennsylvania, which is the difference between what our maps look like. That and Arizona.
ALBERTA: The last question I have is about this this circumstance of a bitter, post-election period. Let’s posit that Trump has clearly lost, but he refuses to concede. What do you guys expect Republicans to do? What do you want Republicans to do?
SULLIVAN: I’ll just give a quick answer. The best last episode of a reality TV show since the first season of Survivor. That’s what I expect to see.
DIAZ: I’ll say this. Physics matters to some degree. And when the president has gotten in front of a joint session of Congress and delivered a State of the Union, it’s been pretty traditional for the most part. When he’s made Supreme Court nominations, he’s pretty much stuck to the textbook. I just believe that ultimately all of this comes down to a pretty simple deal, and it’s the handing of baton from one individual to the next in a peaceful, respectful and orderly manner. Win or lose, there’ll be a lot of hot air. There’ll be a lot of bluff. There’s a winner and there’s a loser. At noon, on January 20, someone’s going to have their hand on the Bible and they’re going to get in the car. When they get in that car and they ride back to the White House, they’re the president. And they’re going to walk into the Oval Office and his predecessor is going to be on what is no longer Marine One headed to a plane that is no longer Air Force One. And that plane is going to take them to wherever they go. And that’s irrespective of the year—2020, 2024, 2028. That’s the process, and that’s what it demands.
HANSEN: I would say, Tim, it’s less what do I expect of Republicans and what do I expect from Democrats, or what do I want from Democrats. And what I want is patience. There’s a long way between November 3 and January 20. I think somewhat to Danny’s point, you let the process play out. Don’t get dragged into escalating the anger and, you know, “You lost!” You need to let it play out. At the end of the day, somebody is going to be president on January 20. Somebody’s going to put their hand on the Bible. It will not last that long. It will burn itself out. So don’t overreact to bluster on November 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th. Let it play out. Be patient.
ALBERTA: Jeff, you’ve been the most worried about post-election turmoil, and you’ve got me worried about it. What do you want to see from your party if there’s that scenario where Trump’s clearly lost but he’s refusing to concede?
ROE: First of all, I think we need to fight like hell. And I think we’re going to have a few states that will determine this election. I don’t think we’re going to find out who won for a long time, and we need to fight like hell every second of the day. In Arizona and Pennsylvania, we need to count every damn vote. Those guys steal these votes and harvest these votes like shit that my grandmother used to tell me, that I did not believe, but it happens. And I think we need to fight like hell. There is a time when the fighting is over and you pass the baton. I don’t think it’s going to be in the first week. I don’t think it’s going to be in the first two weeks. I think it’s going to be litigated a while. And I think it should be. I mean, what they’re doing on early voting challenges the way we vote and the way we participate in democracy. I think it’s bullshit, and I think we need to fight every step of the way.
I don’t think Biden will give it up, either. And I don’t think he should. This is a very important election. I think everything’s going to be very close. And if it’s very close, I think we should fight like hell for every inch. And it’s the Senate. And if Biden wins, we’ve got to have the Senate, which means January 5th is going to be 400 million spent in one state in two months. I mean, we had to fight like hell for every inch. And I don’t think—the reason why I told you in the last Zoom that I think it’s going to be chaos is because, you know, it has to be chaos. Campaigns and elections are somewhat chaotic. I think we’ve got to fight like hell because they will steal it from us if we don’t fight.
ALBERTA: The operative part of what you said there, Jeff, is “if it’s close.” What I’m asking here is about a clear Biden victory, not a situation where you’ve got one-point races in four states on November 7th, and Biden tries to declare victory. That’s not what I’m asking about. I’m talking about if it is clear, if there’s nothing to litigate, you’ve got five-point margins in a bunch of these states and Biden’s way over the finish line.
The president has repeatedly claimed that he can’t lose fair and square—that either he’s going to win or he’s going to be cheated out of a win. And there are some Republicans on Capitol Hill who believe that he’s not going to concede no matter what. So that’s what I’m asking you—what does the party do then?
ROE: I’m pretty clear in my support for the president. I’m not a sycophant, but I’m a big fan. I think he ought to say that [he’ll step down if he loses]. But he understands. If it’s a blowout and he’s getting wiped out, he’s of course going to participate in democracy.