Presidential Race Ratings Update: Michigan, Nebraska’s Second Congressional District, and Virginia


Another week, another series of ratings changes. We’re three weeks away from Election Day and looking every day at the wave of new polls and information coming in. After playing it safe for the last few weeks, we’ve come to realize that there are a couple states and one congressional district that are clearly favoring one candidate over another as the race continues to favor Biden, so we’re adjusting our ratings for them accordingly. 

Michigan

Over the course of the last month, Biden has routinely received high-single digit or double digit polling leads in the Great Lakes State. Of the “Blue Wall” states that flipped to Trump, Michigan was the narrowest and most surprising, going for him by just under 11,000 votes. Last cycle, in the home stretch towards Election Day, Clinton led in the RealClearPolitics voting average of the state by 3.6%, and Michigan was largely considered a “Lean Clinton” race. This year, Biden leads by 7%, is in much better shape with white voters than Clinton was, and Democrats are looking to strengthen their position in a state where the “blue wave” was felt strongly in the 2018 midterms. Biden doesn’t just have an advantage in this race, he simply looks likely to outright win Michigan.

Nebraska’s Second Congressional District

I’m so glad we get to do a ratings change here because it lets us explain a quirk of the Electoral College. Maine and Nebraska both allocate electoral votes based on congressional district (so, whichever candidate wins the vote in that district, wins one elector) and then its two at-large electoral votes to the winner of the state overall. This is generally considered a bad system, perhaps even worse than the winner-take-all system most states use, as it would make gerrymandering far more dangerous and contentious than it already is, and would have delivered an electoral inversion (wherein the popular vote winner loses the presidency) not once in 2000, not twice in 2016, but three times this century, giving Mitt Romney the presidency in 2012. 

Getting back to the point, we hedged on whether Nebraska’s Second Congressional District was less competitive than a pure toss-up. Obama won the district in 2008, and then he and Clinton both lost it in the succeeding elections, but Biden has led in every poll of the district so far. The district is characteristic of the shift that has happened over the last few years under the Trump presidency. It is a mix of urban and suburban, covering the city of Omaha, and with a competitive congressional election there to boot, Biden is at least the favorite in the “Big O.”

Virginia

We talked about how Virginia is not as exciting as it used to be in our Senate preview for the state, and it’s true. Though it used to be a Republican stronghold, over the past twenty years it went from being a toss-up, to a lean Democratic state, to a likely Democratic state, and now has seemed to have completed the transformation into a safe Democratic state. Biden has never been behind Trump in a poll of the state, and the campaigns and state itself have acknowledged its time to shine as a battleground has passed. It’s a state whose center of economic and political power increasingly revolves around the very-liberal DC beltway and we believe 2020 is the first year that we can truly say Virginia is safe for the Democratic candidate. When you look back on political history in this century, it’s fair to say that no state has moved so dramatically from solidly Republican to solidly Democratic than Virginia, and that is in large part the fault of Donald Trump.