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Sept. 25, 2020

On Wednesday, President Trump refused to say whether he would commit to a peaceful transition of power if he lost the election, telling reporters: “We’re going to have to see what happens.” Earlier this month, we looked at a number of scenarios for what that might look like if this did, in fact, happen. At this point, though, no matter if you look at national or state polls — but you should really look at state polls — Joe Biden has a healthy advantage over Trump, leading him nationally by about 8 percentage points when you look at state polls.

  • One scenario for what happens if Trump won’t leave? The Supreme Court intervenes. It might help explain why Republicans are now scrambling to confirm a replacement for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg before the election. It’s rare for a president to be able to shift the balance of the court with a single nomination, but that’s exactly what Trump’s pick of Amy Coney Barrett is poised to do. It could be unpopular, though: Public opinion shows that many Americans think the winner of the 2020 election should appoint Ginsburg’s replacement.
  • Another possible scenario? It’s increasingly likely we won’t know who won the election on Nov. 3. That’s because four important swing states (there’s a more than 50 percent chance that one of them will decide the Electoral College, according to our forecast) have already extended the deadline by which mail ballots must be received. It’s possible that these extensions will be overturned, but at this point, it could be days after the fact before we know who won.

To put all these numbers in context, check out our coverage and subscribe to the FiveThirtyEight Politics podcast!

 

We simulate the election 40,000 times to see who wins most often. The sample of 100 outcomes below gives you a good idea of the range of scenarios our model thinks is possible.

Trump win
Biden win

No Electoral College majority, House decides election
Don’t count the underdog out! Upset wins are surprising but not impossible.

Every outcome in our simulations

All possible Electoral College outcomes for each candidate, with higher bars showing outcomes that appeared more often in our 40,000 simulations

More bars to the right of the 270 line means more simulations where that candidate wins. Some of the bars represent really weird outcomes, but you never know!

The winding path to victory

States that are forecasted to vote for one candidate by a big margin are at the ends of the path, while tighter races are in the middle. Bigger segments mean more Electoral College votes. Trace the path from either end to see which state could put one candidate over the top.

Maine and Nebraska’s congressional districts are shown separately because those states split their Electoral College votes, allotting some to the statewide winner and some to the winner of each district.
We call this the 🐍 snake 🐍 chart! This makes it easy to see why some states are hotly contested and others mostly get ignored.

How the forecast has changed

The forecast updates at least once a day and whenever we get a new poll. Click the buttons to see the ways each candidate’s outlook has changed over time.

As the election gets closer — and as we get swamped with new polls 😬 — the forecast will get less uncertain.

Weird and not-so-weird possibilities

The chances that these situations will crop up

Who’s ahead in national polls?

Our model relies mainly on state polls, which it combines with demographic, economic and other data to forecast what will happen on Election Day. If you want to see a snapshot of what voters are thinking right now — with no fancy modeling — check out the national polls.

Want more stuff like this? See how the race is shaping up in individual states, or watch our Election Updates on YouTube.
Congrats, you made it to the bottom! If you’re looking for the nitty-gritty of how our forecast works, check out the methodology.

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