Election Night Watch Guide

By Jake Robinson


The above map is what I believe to be the most likely breakdown going into the election. The clearest path to an Election Night Biden victory is getting Arizona and Wisconsin called for him (the latter unlikely to be called until early Wednesday morning), and ONE of the following: NC, GA, OH, MI. If AZ is called for Trump on Election Night, hit the panic button.

KEY POLL CLOSING TIMES (ALL TIMES EST): Florida: 7pm/8pm (panhandle in CST) Georgia: 7pm North Carolina: 7:30pm Pennsylvania: 8pm Michigan: 8pm/9pm (for the sliver in CST) Texas: 8pm/9pm (for far W. Texas) Ohio: 8:30pm Wisconsin: 9pm Arizona: 9pm Iowa: 10pm Sunday, Nov. 1, 2020


The following guide is in no way intended to be entirely comprehensive, and there are no doubt many oversights. I have been an avid consumer of every credible poll (and its tabulation) over the last month, and I have as well been obsessively breaking down the ’12 and ’16 election numbers to try to best understand where Clinton fell short, and where Biden needs to—and ought to—do better.

I typed this document out with the intention of creating, as clearly as possible, an Election Night watch guide for key counties in key states across the U.S. that will in all likelihood decide the 2020 election for Trump or Biden. In some of these counties, the Dems will easily win, but the margin of victory is what will really matter. Some, are the classic Obama-Trump counties that Biden should really flip back to Blue. Some still, will likely still vote for Trump, but if Biden can at least outperform Clinton’s 2016 margin, it could make all the difference at the state level. I have endeavored to make notes about which county is which, where relevant.

The full picture in Michigan/Pennsylvania on Election Night will be far from known, while it will be more complete in Arizona, North Carolina, Georgia, Wisconsin, Ohio, and yes, Texas. I could see Biden winning N. Carolina without Georgia, but if Biden wins Georgia, he probably won N. Carolina as well. (Note that N. Carolina will accept mail-in ballots that arrive days after Nov. 3rd. For this reason, I believe N. Carolina will either be called for Biden on Election night, or it will be too close to call, depending on the margins.

I remain an adamant believer that a Biden mandate and a repudiation of Trumpism requires at least 307 electoral votes. Having said that, it is imperative that Biden reaches 270 electoral votes without Florida or Pennsylvania, because this gives us an answer prior to the expected extensive legal challenges to be filed in both states. Importantly, Republicans may be less motivated to spend millions to fight to toss out ballots in either state if the presidency has already been lost.

Hopefully, this will soon all be over. Have a bottle of whiskey or gin on hand as results come in, and if all goes well, a bottle of bubbly may be merited by the end of the night.


Florida: It is nearly impossible for Trump to win without both Florida and Pennsylvania. Note that Florida pre-counts their mail-in ballots, and while their elections are often finger bitingly close, they do tend to count their ballots fairly quickly. The first hour will be key to see how many votes Biden racks up. Florida often has the most cruel “Blue Mirage” as most of the state closes an hour before the overwhelmingly Republican panhandle. Look to Duval County margins along with Pasco, and Sumter to see if Biden has had any luck cutting into Trump’s advantages with older and traditionally Republican-leaning voters, and yes the actual Democratic vote count in Miami-Dade and Broward Counties. Barring a late-term rush of Democratic turnout, I expect Trump to win Florida, and would not be surprised to see it called for him Election Night.

2016: Trump - 4,617,886 (48.6%) // Clinton - 4,504,975 (47.4%) (Margin 112,911 votes) 2012: Romney - 4,162,081 (49.1%) // Obama 4,235,270 (50%) (Margin 73,189)

Key Counties Duval County (Contains Jacksonville, the largest and only Repub city in Florida): 2016: Trump - 211,672 (48.5%) // Clinton - 205,704 (47.1%) 2012: Romney - 211,553 (51.4%) // Obama - 196,657 (47.8%) Pasco County: 2016: Trump - 142,101 (58.4%) // Clinton - 90,142 (37.1%) 2012: Romney - 112,335 (52.7%) // Obama - 98,148 (46%) Hillsborough County: 2016: Trump - 266,870 (44.2%) // Clinton - 307,896 (51%) 2012: Romney - 249,904 (46.2) // Obama - 286,158 (52.8%) Broward County (If Miami-Dade falls short, Broward will need to pick up the slack for Biden): 2016: Trump - 260, 951 (31.2%) // Clinton - 553,320 (66.1%) 2012: Romney - 243,732 (32.3%) // Obama - 507,430 (67.2%) Miami-Dade County: 2016: Trump - 333,999 (33.8%) // Clinton - 624,146 (63.2%) 2012: Romney - 332,602 (37.9%) // Obama - 540,776 (61.6%) Sumter County (where The Villages is): 2016: Trump - 52,730 (68.3%) // Clinton - 22,638 (29.3%) 2012: Romney - 40,644 (67.2%) // Obama - 19,519 (32.3%) Pinellas County: 2016: Trump - 239,201 (48.1%) // Clinton - 233,701 (47%) 2012: Romney - 213,192 (46.6%) // Obama - 238,966 (52.2%)

Pennsylvania: Trump’s other must-win state. While Biden has many paths sans Pennsylvania, for a mandate, a Dem victory here is important. Mail-in ballots will fuck everything up, and expect nothing to be called until the end of the week. Even so, look at what the in-person vote tallies come to on Election Night. If Biden is even somewhat competitive in the latter three counties below, pre-mail in votes being counted, it is a very good sign. Erie County in the Northwestern corner of the state, is perhaps the ultimate Obama-Trump county. As of 10/31, 47,032 mail ballots have been returned in Erie, just shy of 39% of the total votes cast in the county in 2016. Some countieswon’t even open their mail in ballots until Wednesday, despite a request from the PA Sec State that counties begin to open their mail in ballots 7am Tuesday.

2016: Trump - 2,970,733 (48.2%) // Clinton - 2,926,441 (47.5%) (Margin 44,292 votes) 2012: Romney - 2,619,583 (46.8%) // Obama 2,907,448 (50%) (Margin 287,865 votes)

Key Counties Philadelphia County: 2016: Trump - 108,748 (15.3%) // Clinton - 584,025 (82.3%) 2012: Romney - 91,840 (14.1%) // Obama - 557,024 (85.2%) Allegheny County (Pittsburgh): 2016: Trump - 259,480 (39.5%) // Clinton - 367,617 (55.9%) 2012: Romney - 259,304 (42.2%) // Obama - 348,141 (56.6%) Erie County: (One of the most important counties to look at in America for the election)2016: Trump - 60,069 (48%) // Clinton - 58,112 (46.4%) 2012: Romney - 46,102 (40.9%) // Obama - 65,136 (57.8%) Westmoreland County: (Trump is trying to outperform his 2016 margin here)2016: Trump - 116,522 (63.5%) // Clinton - 59,669 (32.5%) 2012: Romney - 103,429 (61.3%) // Obama - 63,380 (37.6%) Chester County: (Emblematic of Suburban Women shift to Dems—Biden must outperform)2018 (Senate Midterms): Barletta (R) - 92,380 (39%) // Casey (D) - 140,138 (59.2%) 2016: Trump - 116,114 (42.5%) // Clinton - 141,682 (51.9%) 2012: Romney - 123,232 (49.7%) // Obama - 122,232 (49.2%)

Arizona: Next on this list is Arizona. It has a good chance of being called Election Night due to heavy mail-in ballots. Those received prior to the weekend will be pre-counted, and should be released around 10pm EST (an hour after the polls close). From my best analysis, if Arizona is called for Trump, or even simply not called for Biden—hit the democracy panic button. Shit’s going to be a LONG haul! Only two counties to really pay attention to: around Tucson & Phoenix. Pima County around Tucson is the traditional Democrat stronghold in Arizona. Maricopa County around Phoenix, and containing 60% of the state’s population, is one of the country’s fastest growing. It went blue in 2018, after being solidly red in ’12 and closer in ’16. Biden will need to win here handily to carry the state.

2018 Midterm Senate Race: McSally (R) - 1,135,200 (47.6%) // Sinema (D) - 1,191,100 (50%) 2016: Trump - 1,232,401 (48.1%) // Clinton - 1,161,167 (44.6%) (Margin 71,234 votes) 2012: Romney - 1,143,051 (54.2%) // Obama - 930,669 (44.1%)

Key Counties Maricopa County: 2018: McSally - 672,505 (46.8%) // Sinema - 732,761 (51%) 2016: Trump - 747,361 (47.7%) // Clinton - 702,907 (44.8%) 2012: Romney - 680,089 (55.1%) // Obama - 532,284 (43.2%) Pima County: 2018: McSally - 160,550 (41.1%) // Sinema - 221,242 (56.7%) 2016: Trump - 167,428 (39.7%) // Clinton - 224,661 (53.3%) 2012: Romney - 165,237 (46.3%) // Obama - 186,456 (52.2%) As of 10/30, Republicans had an advantage in requested ballots, while Dems had an advantage with returned ballots. In the 9-10pm hour on Election Night after the polls close, look at the Maricopa County margin. If shit is still tight (within 5 or so points) between the Repub and Dems before the mail-in ballot numbers are released, it’s going to be a blowout.

North Carolina: Likely to be close. Decent chance it could be declared on Election Night. Represents a good piece of Biden’s Election Night 270 puzzle. All vote totals for ballots received prior to Nov. 2nd should be released immediately when polls close at 7:30pm EST. These will be VERY Democratic. Things will tighten up as Election Day in-person votes come through, before, if the margin is very tight, potentially breaking through again for Biden after later mail-in ballots are counted Nov. 4-12. (As of 11/1, NC was at 95% 2016 turnout statewide. BIG NEWS HERE: as of this writing, 28.3% of ballots cast in NC were from voters who DID NOT VOTE in 2016.) 2016: Trump - 2,362,631 (49.8%) // Clinton - 2,189,316 (46.2%) (Margin 173,315) 2012: Romney - 2,275,853 (50.6%) // Obama - 2,178,388 (48.4%) (Margin 97,465) Key Counties Union County (Classic suburban county—Biden over-performance here needed): 2016: Trump - 66,707 (63.1%) // Clinton - 34,337 (32.5%) Wake County (The largest county in the state, and very fast growing—Biden needs to rack up lots of votes here. It has surpassed its total 2016 vote count already. Look where Biden stands once early vote numbers released): 2016: Trump - 196,082 (37.2%) // Clinton - 302,736 (57.4%) Robeson County (another classic Obama/Trump county): 2016: Trump - 20,762 (50.8%) // Clinton - 19,016 (46.5%) 2012: Romney - 17,093 (41.3%) // Obama - 23,957 (57.9%) Mecklenburg County (Home of Charlotte, largest city in the state. Clinton slightly outperformed Obama here, and the county’s early vote has already surpassed its total 2016 vote. So this is another good place to look at around 7:40pm, after the state releases its early vote totals. How many votes is Biden at, when compared to Clinton’s Election Night 2016 total?): 2016: Trump - 155,518 (32.9%) // Clinton - 294,562 (62.3%)

Wisconsin: Will be a long night, but barring an insane Trump showing, I expect Wisconsin to be readily called for Biden on Election Night (even if it is early morning on Wednesday). The earlier things are called for Biden in Wisconsin, the better the sign for the Dem Blue Wall; i.e., the earlier WI is called, the better we should feel about MI, MN,PA. Fox News has perhaps the best decision desk in America, and I expect them to be the first to call WI. Interestingly enough, Trump and Romney got roughly the same votes in Wisconsin, which to me implies the onus on getting the Dem base in the cities to TURN THE FUCK OUT. The Biden numbers from the cities are key. 2018 Gov election: Walker (R) - 1,295,080 (48.5%) // Evers (D) - 1,324,307 (49.6%) 2016: Trump - 1,405,284 (47.2%) // Clinton - 1,382,536 (46.5%) (Margin 22,748 !!!!!) 2012: Romney - 1,408,746 (46.1%) // Obama - 1,613,950 (52.8%) (Margin 205,204) Brown County (Swing county that Biden will need to outperform in):2016: Trump - 67,210 (52.1%) // Clinton - 53,382 (41.4%) 2012: Romney - 64,738 (50.4%) // Obama - 62,433 (48.6%) Waukesha County (Milwaukee suburb. Trump underperformed in ’16. How will Biden do?): 2016: Trump - 142,543 (60%) // Clinton - 79,224 (33.3%) 2012: Romney - 161,567 (67%) // Obama - 77,617 (32.2%) Dane County (This is a classic place for Biden to RACK UP votes): 2016: Trump - 71,275 (23%) // Clinton - 217,697 (70.4%) 2012: Romney - 83,459 (27.6%) // Obama - 215,389 (71.1%) Grant County (Obama-Trump county... Small totals here, but could make a dif at the top):2016: Trump - 12,350 (50.7%) // Clinton - 10,051 (41.2%) 2012: Romney - 10,255 (42.4%) // Obama - 13,574 (56.2%) Milwaukee County (The MOST important in the state. Clinton lost here because Blacks did not turn out. The votes cast for Obama in 2012, but not for Clinton in’16 alone makes up the margin in the state. Biden needs them. For a decisive win, the vote tally in Milwaukee is EVERYTHING): 2016: Trump - 126,069 (28.6%) // Clinton - 288,822 (65.5%) 2012: Romney - 158,430 (32.3%) // Obama - 328,090 (66.8%)

Michigan A must-win for Biden, but not likely to be known until the end of the week. The combination of Black turnout in Detroit/Flint, and the Obama-Trump voters coming back are both key for Biden. 2016: Trump - 2,279,543 (47.3%) // Clinton - 2,268,839 (47%) (Margin 10,704 !!!) 2012: Romney - 2,112,673 (44.8%) // Obama - 2,561,911 (54.3%) (Margin 449,238) Macomb County (Classic Obama-Trump. Winner of Macomb normally wins the state): 2016: Trump - 224,665 (53.6%) // Clinton - 176,317 (42%) 2012: Romney - 191,896 (47.6%) // Obama - 207,992 (51.6%) Oakland County (Just N. of Detroit. Trending blue... Biden needs to do better than Clinton): 2016: Trump - 289,203 (43.2%) // Clinton - 343,070 (51.3%) 2012: Romney - 296,531 (45.6%) // Obama - 349,055 (53.7%) Wayne County (Home of Detroit. As was the case in Milwaukee, the lack of Black turnout for Clinton here is what ultimately sealed her defeat in the state. The difference of votes here alone account for her loss many times over.): 2016: Trump - 228,993 (29.3%) // Clinton - 519,444 (66.4%) 2012: Romney - 213,586 (26.2%) // Obama - 595,253 (73.1%) *** Obama got 75,809 more votes than Clinton in Wayne. Again, the margin statewide was 10,704. Wayne County is key; everything else is merely the cherry on top.

Georgia: I have been getting increasingly confident about Georgia lately. It needs the 1-2 punch of record Black turnout, and white suburban women shifting to Dems. It’s looking like things are moving in the right direction. Mail-in ballot processing could begin early (10/19) this year, so we should know roughly where things stand fairly quickly, with later mail-in ballots filling in the margins a day or two later. Don’t know too much about Georgia, so will just post state-wide margins below, and then include Fulton County (Atlanta) and Atlanta suburban counties. These counties have all already surpassed their 2016 turnout, and need a strong Biden showing. 2018 Gov Race: Kemp - 1,978,408 (50.2%) // Abrams - 1,923,685 (48.8%) (Margin, 54,723) 2016: Trump - 2,089,104 (50.4%) // Clinton - 1,877,963 (45.3%) 2012: Romney - 2,070,221 (53.4%) // Obama - 1,761,761 (45.4%) Key Counties Fulton County: 2018: Kemp - 112,991 (26.7%) // Abrams - 306,589 (72.3%) 2016: Trump - 117,783 (26.8%) // Clinton - 297,051 (67.7%) Sunday, Nov. 1, 2020

DeKalb County: 2018: Kemp - 48,923 (15.6%) // Abrams - 261,042 (83.5%) 2016: Trump - 51,468 (16.2%) // Clinton - 251,370 (79.1%) Cobb County: 2018: Kemp - 138,852 (44.5%) // Abrams - 168,767 (54.1%) 2016: Trump - 152,912 (45.8%) // Clinton - 160,121 (47.9%) Gwinnett County: 2018: Kemp - 132,998 (42.2%) // Abrams - 178,097 (56.6%) 2016: Trump - 146,989 (44.4%) // Clinton - 166,153 (50.2%)

Texas Finally, and mostly just for fun—Texas. Long a Democratic crack-pipe dream, it now looks like it could be a true tossup. Turnout, especially among younger voters, is through the ROOF. There are many other paths to Texas than what I lay out here for Biden, but I will include a few counties just for observation’s sake: Harris County (Houston) is likely to SHATTER turnout records. This will give needed votes to Dems, assuming of course Repubs do not succeed in disenfranchising every person of color in Houston. That, along with Tarrant County (Fort Worth) and Collin County (Plano), which are key to see how he performs with the suburban women vote. 2018 Senate: Cruz - 4,260,553 (50.9%) // O’Rourke - 4,045,632 (48.3%) (Margin 214,921) 2016: Trump - 4,685,047 (52.2%) // Clinton - 3,877,868 (43.2%) (Margin 807,179) Harris County: 2018: Cruz - 498,902 (41.3%) // O’Rourke - 700,200 (58%) 2016: Trump - 545,955 (41.6%) // Clinton - 707,914 (54%) Dallas County: 2018: Cruz - 241,126 (33.1%) // O’Rourke - 481,395 (66.1%) 2016: Trump - 262,945 (34.6%) // Clinton - 461,080 (60.8%) Tarrant County: 2018: Cruz - 309,497 (49.2%) // O’Rourke - 313,497 (49.9%) 2016: Trump - 345,921 (51.7%) // Clinton - 288,392 (43.1%) Collin County: 2018: Cruz - 187,425 (52.7%) // O’Rourke - 165,614 (46.5%) 2016: Trump - 201,014 (55.6%) // Clinton - 140,624 (38.9%) Travis County: 2018: Cruz - 119,278 (24.6%) // O’Rourke - 359,772 (74.3%) 2016: Trump - 127,209 (27.1%) // Clinton - 308,260 (65.8%)

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