Updated: November 4, 2020 9:35:01 am
With the final presidential debate behind them, and less than two weeks remaining until November 3, US President Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden are making their final arguments to American voters.
So far, although Biden has been dominating national opinion polls, the outcome of the top race is expected to be decided by key battleground states, whose voters could decide whether the Republicans or Democrats would govern the country for the next four years.
Both Trump and Biden are focusing the rest of their campaigns on these ‘swing states’ — Arizona, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Of these, the biggest swing state, and one of particular importance for Trump, is Florida. Without the Republicans winning it, pollsters are predicting an almost certain White House victory for the Democrats. But why is Florida so important for Trump?
Florida in the electoral college
To win the US presidential election, a candidate needs to win an outright majority in the electoral college — a group of electors from across the country who choose the country’s next president and vice-president.
The electoral college has a total of 538 voters, who are apportioned according to the number of seats each state has in the US Congress. Crossing the halfway mark — 270 — equals to winning the presidency.
California, the most populous state, has the highest number of electoral votes — 55. Texas is the second most influential state, with 38 electors. Florida and New York are tied at the third spot with 29 electors each. 📣 Follow Express Explained on Telegram
America’s largest wild card state
Over the past few decades, a large number of US states have consistently voted for the same political party in every presidential election. Among the top four states in the electoral college, California and New York are reliably known to vote for the Democratic Party, while Texas prefers the Republican Party.
Unlike its large-sized counterparts, Florida is a swing state, and has not displayed a strong fidelity for any one political party in several election cycles. In fact, it has been called America’s “bellwether state” for accurately predicting the national mood. Indeed, since 1928, the Sunshine State has only twice voted against the winner of the presidential race.
In the 2000 election, Florida’s kingmaker status was particularly on display, when the US Supreme Court had to step in to resolve a dispute over the state’s vote count, and effectively decide who the next president would be. The court voted in favour of the Republican nominee George W Bush, who was considered to have beaten Democrat Al Gore by 537 votes.
Also in Explained | A guide to tracking the results of the US Election 2020
Why is Florida critical for Donald Trump in the US Election 2020?
In 2016, Trump lost the popular vote by 2.1 percentage points (almost 30 lakh votes), but won the presidency by securing 304 electoral college votes. Among the states he won, Florida was considered the most important, since it safely placed him above the 270 mark.
This year, the president is facing a tougher challenge from Democratic nominee Joe Biden than he did four years ago from Hillary Clinton, opinion polls show.
So, Florida this season is even more crucial for Trump to win, as its 29 votes can place him above the finish line in case Biden flips some of the smaller states that voted Republican in 2016.
In the 2016 election, Trump was able to edge out Clinton in Florida with a razor-thin majority of 1.2 percentage points. This year, election experts have almost ruled out Trump’s reelection unless he repeats his Florida success.
US Election 2020: What can we expect this year?
As of October 25, Real Clear Politics has shown a thin average lead of 1.5 percentage points for Biden in Florida. However, few experts are firmly predicting the state for the Democrat leader, given its volatile record.
In the 2018 midterm elections, although Democrats gained momentum nationally, Florida albeit with slender margins voted for the Republican Party in races for state governor and the US Senate. It did, however, bring down the Republican majority of the state’s 27-strong House of Representatives delegation from 16-11 to 14-13.
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