Trump’s Four-Tiered Pathway Back into White House with Electoral College Victory Widens

CLEVELAND, OH - JULY 21: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump gives two thumbs up to the crowd during the evening session on the fourth day of the Republican National Convention on July 21, 2016 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump received the number …
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President Donald Trump’s pathway back into the White House is widening, as allies of the president see after a long and brutal summer of the president climbing back into contention in enough battleground states to seal the deal and win a second term. This comprehensive look at the battlefield as it stands now comes as the two candidates are set to face off in Cleveland, Ohio, for their first of three debates this general election season ahead of the November 3 general election.

To win the White House back, Trump would need to secure at least 270 electoral votes by cobbling together a coalition of states—much like he did in 2016—to get him across the finish line.

Trump allies break down the electoral college into four tiers. Tier one, or the red states, includes the following states: Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Alaska, Wyoming, Utah, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, South Carolina, Indiana, West Virginia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Georgia, Texas, and Arizona.

Winning all those tier one states would secure the president 191 electoral votes. In all but three of them, his victory is all but assured. In Texas, Arizona, and Georgia, however, the Democrats are competing and attempting to flip them, but signs in each of those three states of a Trump resurgence have emerged as of late. Most recent polling in Georgia suggests the president has recovered there and is not at risk of losing to Democrat candidate former Vice President Joe Biden, as is the case in Texas. Arizona is a bit tighter, but the most recent ABC News-Washington Post poll had Trump up by 1 percent inside the poll’s margin of error.

Tier two, Trump allies believe, is a pair of states worth another 24 electoral votes combined: Iowa and Ohio. Recent polling in both places, save a couple outliers, has Trump up over Biden in each. Putting tiers one and two together would give Trump 215 electoral votes.

The third tier is another pair of states the president won in 2016, worth a combined 44 more electoral votes: North Carolina and Florida. The president has in the most recent ABC-WaPo poll in Florida taken a 4 percent lead over Biden in the Sunshine State, and in North Carolina has been consistently leading in most polls. Combining tiers one through three would get Trump much closer to 270 and a second term as it would put him at 259 electoral votes in total.

From there, tier four offers Trump any number of pathways across the finish line and back into the White House. A win in Pennsylvania, which has 20 electoral votes, would get him there. So would a win in Michigan, which has 16 electoral votes. Trump could also cobble together a combination of Wisconsin, which has ten electoral votes, plus Maine’s Second Congressional District, which has one electoral vote. He could do the same with Minnesota, which also has ten electoral votes, plus Wisconsin or Maine’s Second District to get over 270. Other states in the fourth tier include Nevada with six electoral votes, New Hampshire with four electoral votes, New Mexico with five electoral votes, Colorado with nine electoral votes, and Virginia with 13 electoral votes.


The Trump team—both official campaign staff and outside allies—believe in this pathway to victory and think the president is in much better shape than the establishment media would give him credit for as of now.

“In all the battlegrounds President Trump needs to win, he’s either leading or within the margin of error,” senior adviser to the Trump campaign Jason Miller said in an early September radio appearance on Breitbart News Saturday on SiriusXM 125 the Patriot Channel. “So I think that’s an important distinction. Don’t worry about the fake polls you see out there, the sample 25 percent Republicans that make you think there aren’t any Republicans left in the country anymore. President Trump is in a great position.”


Miller added that the core states Trump won in 2016 are swinging back his way, and holding that core together—tiers one through three as laid out above—is key to the Trump campaign expanding the map beyond what the president won in 2016 in November’s election.

“For all the talk of Joe Biden being on offense and trying to win states that President Trump won last go around, as long as we’re able to hang on to Arizona, Florida, North Carolina—three states that are always tough but we feel very good about where we are at and we believe we are leading in all three of those—as long as we are able to hold onto those states that means Joe Biden has to shut out President Trump in all four of those northern states: Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin which President Trump won all three last time and then Minnesota,” Miller said in the Sept. 5 radio appearance. “So here’s the key: Literally, Joe Biden has to go four-for-four in those states. If President Trump wins just one of them and he hangs onto the other states, then he’s in. So we have four different serious pathways to victory and this is what has Joe Biden freaking out and in particular he’s moving up his TV buys by a week in Minnesota and he’s visiting Minnesota next week. The key thing about Minnesota is a Republican hasn’t won there since 1972. Think about that, a Republican hasn’t won there 1972 and President Trump came within a point and a half back in 2016. Now we’re all in. We’re spending money, we’re up on TV ads there, we have staff on the ground. We’re going to win it.”

Miller is hardly the only Trump ally bullish on the president’s electoral college chances.

“This guy is built to win presidential elections,” Sam Nunberg, a former Trump campaign adviser from the 2016 campaign, said in a Breitbart News Saturday appearance this weekend. “Why? Two major states: Ohio and Florida. If you win Ohio and Florida as a presidential candidate, it’s practically impossible for you to lose the presidency. If you win Florida, that means in the sunbelt you’re going to win Arizona and North Carolina. Here’s what it means. Here are some statistics I have for you. Since 1860, the winner of Florida has won the presidential election 27 out of 39 times. The winner of Ohio has won the election 35 out of 39 times. Look at where we are right now in Iowa. Iowa is very indicative of Ohio. And look where we are across Florida basically. Florida itself you can see within the polling in the different regions in Florida. In Iowa, Iowa is essentially a larger Ohio but in Ohio you have Cleveland and you have Cincinnati. Look at it like that. The Biden campaign is not competing there [in Iowa] anymore. It’s over. Even public Democrat-leaning pollsters, they have Trump up by 5. They have him at 50 percent.”


Nunberg is correct that Trump has taken a commanding lead in Iowa, as the most recent survey from Monmouth University has the president up 6 percent there—a lead outside the poll’s margin of error.

So in other words in this four-tiered strategy the question is whether Trump can lock in his red states—he seems well on his way to doing that—and then secure his anchors in Ohio and Florida, with Iowa and North Carolina on top of each of those respectively. If he does that, he can finish Biden off in the rust belt just like he did to Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton in 2016—or he could look out west or to the northeast in New Hampshire and Maine’s Second District.

“The president got 306 electoral votes last time,” Nunberg said. “That’s with winning all of the south except Virginia. That’s with winning Wisconsin, Michigan, and obviously Pennsylvania. I believe had the Access Hollywood tape not been leaked out by NBC Universal that the president could have won Colorado. I don’t know if he can win it this time, but he could have won Colorado [last time]. And Nevada was only 20,000 votes actually.”


Shifting back to the actual multi-tiered electoral college breakdown, Trump’s allies are not mistaken to have their hopes rising ahead of the first debate on Tuesday night.

In tier one, with the exception of Georgia, Arizona, and Texas, the president seems to have all those states locked down without question—though Democrats do also intend to compete in part of Nebraska which like Maine splits its electoral votes by congressional district.

Recent polling out of each of these places, though, suggests Trump is well on his way to locking them down. Starting with Georgia, Trump has retaken the lead after a rough patch in the late spring and early summer according to the RealClearPolitics average there. Trump, in the average of polls, now leads Biden in Georgia by over a percent—and has not trailed Biden in a Georgia poll since well before the two conventions. The last poll that had Biden leading in Georgia was back in the first week of August, and Trump has led or is tied in every poll since. Polling out Tuesday from Georgia shows Trump’s lead solidifying:

Texas has seen an even more profound shift back Trump’s way. After some early-in-the-year concerns among Republicans, Trump has led every single poll since July according to the RealClearPolitics average and now on average leads Biden by nearly 4 percent in the Lone Star State. Another poll out on Tuesday shows Trump’s Texas lead holding up:

Arizona gets a little more tricky for the president. One recent poll, according to RealClearPolitics, is the ABC News-Washington Post survey released last week showing Trump up 1 percent. But a spate of other recent polls there have shown Biden with slim leads, and Biden currently has a 3.4 percent lead in Arizona per the RealClearPolitics average. But Trump allies do believe Arizona is coming back around the president’s way, as it is a traditional red state, and the Supreme Court confirmation fight for the president’s pick to succeed the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg—Judge Amy Coney Barrett—will energize the base in Arizona and help the president surge across the finish line there. As proof, a new poll out in Arizona released on Tuesday just before the debate shows Trump has tied Biden there:

The Senate race in Arizona between appointed Sen. Martha McSally (R-AZ) and Democrat Mark Kelly, in which polling has had the Democrat Kelly way ahead of McSally, also potentially complicates matters but McSally has tracked back with the president in the most recent surveys and Republicans are optimistic Arizona will swing back their way. That being said, Biden has not given up yet on the state: This past week, he rolled out an endorsement from the widow of the late Sen. John McCain (R-AZ)—who Biden, as former President Barack Obama’s vice president, ran against in the 2008 presidential election. Cindy McCain also joined Biden’s transition team after she endorsed him.

In Nebraska’s Second Congressional District, there has been only one poll publicly released according to the RealClearPolitics aggregation of polling—and it shows Biden with a reasonable lead. That poll is from the New York Times and Siena College, and Republicans are not as of yet very worried about Nebraska’s Second District flipping Biden’s way but they are keeping an eye on it as they work the bigger national map. But the one survey is worth mentioning because if Biden were able to break in here, Trump may have to make up for it elsewhere.


In the second tier, Iowa as mentioned above has shifted significantly into Trump’s corner with Monmouth giving him a six-point advantage. Biden and his running Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) as of now do not have much planned there, though he did conduct a virtual event trying to beam himself into the Hawkeye State to emphasize its importance.

With the exception of a Des Moines Register poll showing a mid-September tie between Trump and Biden in Iowa and a New York Times poll showing a slim Biden lead in the state later in the month—both of which appear to be outliers—the last time Biden led a poll over Trump in Iowa according to the RealClearPolitics collection of the state’s surveys was way back in mid-March 2019. So the president has been leading in Iowa for more than 18 months straight, and despite these latest couple media polls suggesting a tightening race the Monmouth survey shows Trump up 6 percent with little chance for Biden to make up a difference there.

In the nearby Buckeye State, Trump has also led in many surveys—including some out this week:

It’s a bit of a tighter race there, with some public polls showing slight leads for Trump or for Biden by just a couple points one way or another. That being said, flashback to 2016 when the public polling average had by the end of the race Trump leading Clinton by just an average aggregate of 2.2 percent—and he beat the polling average by nearly 6 percent, winning Ohio by 8.1 points over Clinton. So while some in the establishment media and polling industry consider Ohio a toss-up, it’s a pretty safe assumption based off the 2016 results and off the data pouring in from the ground that Trump is in good shape there as his allies inside and outside the campaign have made clear.


North Carolina looks much more solidly in Trump’s column than many other battleground states. Poll after poll after poll shows Trump leading the Tar Heel State, even by slim margins. North Carolina was a state that Obama and Biden won in 2008, but was the only battleground state Mitt Romney—then the former Massachusetts governor and GOP presidential nominee, now a U.S. senator from Utah—was able to move back into the Republican column in 2012. Trump won it in 2016, too, and appears poised to do so again in 2020. Even so, North Carolina is not in the bag yet, and Trump has work to do there to lock it in.

Polls out of North Carolina in recent weeks, though, have shown a shift Trump’s way. One out Tuesday for instance shows a tie:

Others have shown a tight race:

While others have shown Trump with a modest lead:

The state does also have a competitive U.S. Senate race down ticket that may affect things, as Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) fights to fend off Democrat Cal Cunningham.

Down in Florida, though, Trump has really turned a corner. As mentioned above, the ABC-WaPo poll has him up four points.

A Trafalgar Group survey at the beginning of September also showed a Trump lead:

Several other polls this month have shown Trump and Biden tied:

A Marist poll also shows Trump leading Biden with Hispanic voters in Florida:

The survey has Trump in a strong position with the general electorate as well, tied among likely voters and with a negligible lead among registered voters:

Several other surveys showed Biden with a negligible lead inside the margin of error. Biden’s lead in the state’s average of surveys is down to 1.1 percent, and if 2016 is any indicator Trump beat his 0.2 percent RealClearPolitics polling average lead over Clinton by a full percent winning Florida by 1.2 percent that year.

In a 2018 midterm election year otherwise bad for the GOP, too, Republicans had a big year in the Sunshine State. Now-Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) defeated incumbent Democrat now former Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) to take the U.S. Senate seat, and Trump ally now-governor and former Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) won the governor’s race even more decisively than the GOP won the Senate seat.


So if Trump can hold all those above tiers in place—lock in Arizona after having shifted Texas and Georgia back the right way, hold his gains in Iowa and Ohio, while solidifying leads in Florida and North Carolina, he’s almost there as Miller and Nunberg among others have pointed out.

The picture in tier four states is looking better and better for Trump, too, as he has led or tied or had virtual ties in some polling signaling very close races in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania has also seen significant swings in voter registration numbers move in the president’s direction, with several local newspapers quoting local Democrat officials sounding the alarm at the pace of shifts from Democrat to Republican among registered voters.

Earlier in July, the Citizens Voice newspaper detailed how Democrat voter registration advantages have been erased in the critical Lackawanna and Luzerne counties, which ironically contain Biden’s hometown of Scranton and other small cities like Wilkes-Barre and Hazleton.

“In the June 2 primary election, Democrats outnumbered Republicans in Lackawanna by 40,822, down from about 60,000 as recently as May 2009, four months after President Barack Obama took office, and about 48,000 at the 2016 presidential election,” the Citizens Voice’s Borys Krawczeniuk wrote. “In Lackawanna, Democrats traditionally have had more than double the number of registered Republican voters, a ratio that reached as high as five Democrats for every two Republicans as recently as May 2015. By the June 2 primary, the advantage eroded to fewer than four Democrats for every two Republicans — for the first time since at least May 1997.”

Later in the piece, Krawczeniuk continues by detailing a grimmer picture for Democrats in Luzerne County.

“The picture looks even bleaker for Democrats in Luzerne, where Trump walloped Clinton by 26,237 votes, or 19.4 percentage points, reversing Obama’s 2008 and 2012 victories there,” Krawczeniuk wrote. “Democrats outnumber Republicans by 24,728 voters, less than half the margin of the early Obama years. Republican voter registration is up to 38% of all voters while Democratic registration dropped to 49.7%, the first time below 50% since at least May 1997. From an advantage of 18 Democrats for every 10 Republicans in November 2010, the ratio is down to 13 to 10. In 2016, Democrats outnumbered Republicans by almost 34,000 voters. Overall, at the primary, the county had 80,226 Republicans, 104,954 Democrats and 26,101 voters registered in other parties or unaffiliated for a total of 211,281. Since Trump first appeared on local ballots in the April 2016 primary, the county added 11,623 Republicans while Democrats lost 533 voters.”

The picture is so bad for the left that local Democrats are sounding the alarm, telling the local newspapers that they think the national Democrats’ hard-left turn toward socialism is bad for the party.

“I talk to a lot of people who I know are lifelong Democrats and they’re like, ‘I’ve had it. This Democratic Party isn’t the party that my parents belonged to. The thing has gone, far left, progressive.’” Lackawanna County Democrat Party chairman Chris Patrick said, for instance. “Some people buy into that. I think what’s happening is a lot of longtime Democrats are more moderate, more maybe a tiny bit right-leaning conservative instead of this far-left liberalism.”

The Philadelphia Inquirer, when Vice President Mike Pence and Biden faced off in the Keystone State in the summer, followed up with its own detailed breakdown of Pennsylvania concerns for Democrats in more than just Lackawanna and Luzerne Counties but here in the Philadelphia area as well.

In the piece, local Democrat operative Dan Lodise is quoted as saying “enough” people do not “talk about” Trump flipping many Democrat votes the GOP’s way in the region.

“You see a lot of 25- to 65-year-old white working-class men who shifted,” Lodise said. “They not only voted for Trump but have continued to vote for Republicans since.”

Lodise said that U.S. Rep. Brendan Boyle (D-PA) and Democrat Gov. Tom Wolf both lost support, about 6 percent apiece, in their reelections in 2018 as compared with previous elections—something he attributes to Trump peeling off Democrats and creating new Republicans in the Philadelphia area.

“I’ve been doing this work in this community for 16 years,” the Democrat Lodise said. “I’m legitimately concerned.”

This is why Pence, Trump’s vice president, appeared at a “Back The Blue” rally at the Fraternal Order of Police lodge in northern Philadelphia, the Inquirer noted. Breitbart News accompanied Pence on the trip and interviewed him during it.

Since then, now the local union of firefighters and EMTs in Philadelphia has bucked its national counterpart’s endorsement of Biden and issued a full-throated endorsement of Trump:

Polling in Pennsylvania has also tightened in recent weeks:

If it’s any indication where the race is going after the first debate on Tuesday night, Biden is campaigning in Pennsylvania—yet another trip after many others he’s made to the Keystone State—on Wednesday for a train tour out west in the state. Trump, meanwhile, will rally supporters in Minnesota.

In Maine’s Second District, Trump has led a number of surveys as well:

The ones he is not leading in show a close race there:

Wisconsin and Michigan are a little more complicated, and polling in both places has been a bit all over the place. Though some recent surveys have showed Trump up or close to winning both:

Minnesota has also seen some tight polling, but again the president has work to do there:

That’s not to mention the fact that the president has also had strong showings in recent polls out of Nevada, which he narrowly lost in 2016:

Trump made a campaign swing through Nevada a couple weeks ago, holding rallies in the Las Vegas and Reno areas in a push to try to flip the state.

Trump is even doing better than expected in Virginia where Republicans have been sliding for many years and haven’t won at the top of the ticket in more than a decade. One recent poll had Trump back just 5 percent, enough to get Trump to hold a last-second rally in Newport News in an effort to gin up more support in the Old Dominion.

Colorado, with a competitive Senate race looking tough for incumbent Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) who’s facing off against former Democrat Gov. John Hickenlooper, seems like more of an uphill battle but some polling has shown the president trailing by just single digits there. If the rest of the race shifts his way in rust belt states in the next couple weeks, look for Trump to move out west and push for Colorado and maybe even a New Mexico.

New Mexico GOP chairman Steve Pearce insists the president can and will win his state, as Democrat policies on things like the coronavirus lockdowns and law and order are boomeranging back on them with the public disapproving of their vision for the country.


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