These 10 counties could make or break Trump in the 2020 election: report

These 10 counties could make or break Trump in the 2020 election: report
Gage Skidmore

Parts of a political pundit’s job can be quite easy, while other parts are much more challenging. It doesn’t take a lot of political savvy to assert that in the 2020 election, President Donald Trump is likely to lose California and Massachusetts and win Utah, Idaho and Nebraska. But analyzing how battleground states like Pennsylvania, Michigan and Florida (all of which went to President Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012 before going to Trump in 2016) might vote next year requires a lot more thought. And Reid Wilson, in a listicle for The Hill, cites ten counties in the U.S. that could make or break Trump in the 2020 election.


Not surprisingly, many of the counties that Wilson analyzes are in Obama/Trump battleground states — for example, Erie County, Pennsylvania; Sauk County, Wisconsin and Muskegon County, Michigan. But Wilson’s listicle becomes especially interesting and informative when counties in Arizona, Georgia, North Carolina and Texas are cited.

Arizona used to be a very Republican state and was closely identified with Sen. Barry Goldwater and Sen. John McCain, who proudly described himself as a “Goldwater Republican.” But in 2018, Arizona elected Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, a centrist Democrat, to the U.S. Senate — and recent polls are showing a close 2020 race in which incumbent Republican Sen. Martha McSally could either narrowly lose to Democrat Mark Kelly or narrowly defeat him. The possibility of a Democrat winning the Senate seat held for so long by Goldwater and later, McCain, shows how much of a swing state Arizona has become, and Wilson cites Maricopa County as a place that could help determine whether Trump wins or loses Arizona’s 11 electoral votes next year.

Trump, Wilson notes, defeated Democrat Hillary Clinton by only 3% in Maricopa County in 2016. But in 2018, that country favored Sinema.

Texas and Georgia are two states that have gone from deep red to light red. In 2018, Texas Democrat Beto O’Rourke narrowly lost to incumbent Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, while Democrat Stacey Abrams narrowly lost to Republican Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp. And two counties that Wilson recommends keeping a close eye on in 2020 are Tarrant County, Texas and Peach County, Georgia.

Trump, Wilson observes, won 52% of the vote in Tarrant County in 2016, but in 2018, O’Rourke received more votes than Cruz in Tarrant County. And Peach County (described by Wilson as a “bellwether for the entire state”) is a place where Trump received 50.3% of the vote in 2016 and Abrams lost by “just under 500 votes” two years later.

North Carolina is a state that Obama narrowly won in 2008 and narrowly lost in 2012; then, in 2016, Trump won the state by 3.6%. And Wilson observes that in 2016, Trump won New Hanover County in North Carolina by only 2.9% — stressing that “the GOP’s historic advantage there is shrinking.”

Wilson also discusses some counties in states that Clinton won in 2016, including Lincoln County, Maine; Hillsborough Country, New Hampshire; and Washington Country, Minnesota. All of those counties were close, and Wilson points out that in New Hampshire, “Clinton won by fewer than 3000 votes.”

The 2020 election will ultimately come down to turnout. In 2018, a heavy Democratic turnout in many areas resulted in a blue wave in the House of Representatives — where Democrats enjoyed a net gain of 40 seats — while a heavy GOP turnout in other areas enabled Republicans to slightly increase their majority in the Senate. And in 2020, turnout will be crucial in the swing counties that Wilson discusses in The Hill.

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