Georgia and Texas Are the New Battleground States for 2020

Trump has accelerated a political realignment that would have otherwise taken decades.

One of the most endearing memories about Tim Russert’s election coverage was his use of the small low-tech white board to make predictions. Most often it included two states that always showed up as the battlegrounds in presidential elections: Ohio and Florida. When the New York Times released their latest poll of the 2020 race, one of the bombshells was that Biden had a significant lead over Trump in six battleground states. That included Florida, along with Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Arizona, and North Carolina. David Wasserman explained why Ohio is no longer on the list.

Ohio is demographically similar to Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania: It has an aging, large blue-collar white population, a modest Black population and a relatively low Latino share. But Ohio voted for Trump by 7 to 8 points more than the three other states. If Biden is competitive in Ohio come November, he’ll have already won Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — and almost certainly the presidency — rendering Ohio irrelevant.

The idea of Ohio being irrelevant in a presidential race would have shocked Russert. That is not the same thing as declaring that the state is now red. Instead, as Wasserman suggests, if Ohio is competitive, Biden will have already won.

It is worth noting, however, that if polling by the NYT is both accurate and predictive of what will happen in November, Biden has a lead of somewhere between six and 11 points in the states identified as battlegrounds. That calls into question the whole idea of whether or not they’re really battlegrounds. Bill Barrow explains why the south is the new battleground.

Many Southern electorates are getting younger, less white and more urban, and thus less likely to embrace President Donald Trump’s white identity politics. Southern Democrats are pairing a demographically diverse slate of candidates for state and congressional offices with presumptive presidential nominee Joe Biden, a 77-year-old white man they believe can appeal to what remains perhaps the nation’s most culturally conservative region…

Decades of economic development have coaxed new residents to the area. That includes white people from other parts of the country, Black families returning generations after the Great Migration north during the lynching and segregation era, and a growing Latino population…

“North Carolina, Georgia, Texas – these are becoming real two-party states,” said Republican pollster Brent Buchanan, whose firm, Cygnal, aides GOP campaigns across the country.

Biden’s campaign manager, Jen O’Malley Dillon, talks eagerly of “an expanded map” that puts North Carolina and Florida in the same toss-up category as the Great Lakes states that sent Trump to the White House. Georgia and Texas, she adds, will be tighter than they’ve been in decades.

Dillon might actually be understating things a bit. According to the NYT poll, Biden leads Trump by double digits in those Great Lakes states. A recent Fox News poll has Biden up by two points in Georgia and one in Texas. A Republican campaign consultant who Tim Miller spoke to said that “I’ve got Trump down in Texas.” That’s why Texas and Georgia are the true battlegrounds—or toss-ups.

All of this was happening before Donald Trump took over the Republican Party, but his presidency has accelerated the pace of a realignment that would have otherwise taken several more election cycles to complete. That could be the silver lining to an extremely dark and stormy four years.

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Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly. Follow her on Twitter @Smartypants60.