13 battleground states to watch tonight

TORONTO — Tonight’s election could be determined by a handful of all-important battleground states where both candidates have toured extensively and invested millions in hopes of winning over swing voters.

CTV’s Chief News Anchor and Senior Editor Lisa LaFlamme leads THE AMERICAN ELECTION 2020 special, with in-depth live coverage beginning at 7 p.m. ET on CTV News Channel and 8 p.m. ET on CTV. 

CTVNews.ca will also closely track the vote all night with special attention paid to 13 highly competitive states that could make the difference between a winner being called tonight or several days of tense ballot counting.

Collectively, these 13 battlegrounds account for 40 per cent of the American population.

Here’s everything you need to know about tonight’s must-watch battleground states, from the latest polling averages to when you can expect the first results.

FLORIDA

WHO WON IN 2016: Donald Trump, by 1.2 points

WHAT TIME POLLS CLOSE: 7 p.m. – 8 p.m. (all times EST)

WHEN THEY COUNT MAIL-IN BALLOTS: All advance ballots should be reported by 8:30 p.m.

LATEST POLLING AVERAGE:

ELECTORAL COLLEGE VOTES: 29

Long considered the ultimate swing state, Florida has voted for the winner of the White House in the past six elections and 11 of the past 12 elections dating back to 1972. Results are expected early tonight, but if the race is tight — which it almost always is in Florida — then put on another pot of coffee, because it’s likely going to be a long night.

If U.S. President Donald Trump carries his adoptive home state of Florida, he’s not a lock to win the White House, and will still need to hold onto states he carried in the Rust Belt. However, if Democratic challenger Joe Biden successfully flips Florida, Trump’s path to victory becomes virtually non-existent.

As former president Barack Obama recently told a drive-rally in southern Florida: “If you bring Florida home, this thing’s over.”

PENNSYLVANIA

WHO WON IN 2016: Donald Trump, by 0.7 points

WHAT TIME POLLS CLOSE: 8 p.m.

WHEN THEY COUNT MAIL-IN BALLOTS: Officials aren’t allowed to begin counting mail-in votes until election day, and officials expect most votes will be reported by Friday, Nov. 6.

LATEST POLLING AVERAGE:

ELECTORAL COLLEGE VOTES: 20

Trump won Pennsylvania by a margin of 44,292 votes in 2016, the closest results of a presidential election in the state in 176 years. Whether or not he can pull off another victory is a major question tonight.

Biden has consistently led in polls of Pennsylvania for months, and the Democratic Party has dumped a huge amount of money into state advertising. Before 2016, Pennsylvania was considered a reliably blue state, having voted for the Democratic candidate in the previous six elections.

Pennsylvania’s starring role in this election is also why fracking — a major industry in the state linked to up to 50,000 jobs — has dominated election headlines. Biden has said that, despite his progressive environmental agenda, he would only ban fracking on federal land, which makes up a small fraction of the industry. Trump has used Biden’s past comments against him and tried to paint the Democrat as a liar who will destroy the fossil fuel industry.

How Pennsylvania votes could also offer an indication of how neighbouring midwestern battlegrounds, including Wisconsin and Michigan, may vote.

WISCONSIN

WHO WON IN 2016: Donald Trump, by 0.7 points

WHAT TIME POLLS CLOSE: 9 p.m.

WHEN THEY COUNT MAIL-IN BALLOTS: In-person votes are counted first in some but not all districts, and officials expect results on election night or the next day.

LATEST POLLING AVERAGE:

ELECTORAL COLLEGE VOTES: 10

Hillary Clinton notoriously did not visit Wisconsin once in 2016 — a mistake that the Biden campaign has been keen not to make. Both Biden and Harris have toured the state early on in the election and focused plenty of resources on winning over voters.

The state is also in the midst of a spike in COVID-19 cases, and it’s yet to be seen how the ongoing outbreaks could impact in-person voting numbers.

Wisconsin’s results will begin later in the evening, and if Trump can hold onto the state, he could widen his path to victory. If he loses, his re-election chances narrow significantly, and he’d have to begin looking to western states such as Nevada or Arizona for much-needed support.

MICHIGAN

WHO WON IN 2016: Donald Trump, by 0.3 points

WHAT TIME POLLS CLOSE: 8 p.m. – 9 p.m.

WHEN THEY COUNT MAIL-IN BALLOTS: Ballots can’t be tabulated until election day, and officials say it could take until Friday, Nov. 6 for results

LATEST POLLING AVERAGE:

ELECTORAL COLLEGE VOTES: 16

Trump narrowly won Michigan in 2016 by just 10,704 votes. The result stunned pollsters and the Clinton campaign, both of whom assumed the state, which had reliably voted for Democrats in the six previous presidential elections, would go to Clinton.

Biden, Obama and Trump all campaigned in Michigan in the final week of the race, where polls suggest Biden holds the lead.

To make matters tricky, Michigan is one of the states that anticipates a possible delay in counting mail-in ballots, with results possibly as late as Friday. If the race is close, those mail-in votes could make all the difference.

ARIZONA

WHO WON IN 2016: Donald Trump, by 3.5 points

WHAT TIME POLLS CLOSE: 9 p.m.

WHEN THEY COUNT MAIL-IN BALLOTS: Mail-in ballots can be counted up to two weeks before election day

LATEST POLLING AVERAGE:

ELECTORAL COLLEGE VOTES: 11

Arizona hasn’t voted for a Democrat since Bill Clinton’s victory in 1996. But the state has continued to shift more to the left in recent years, and polling averages suggest Biden has been leading there by a small but steady margin.

Some pundits view Arizona as part of Biden’s “plan B” approach to win the White House if he fails to clinch Pennsylvania.

NORTH CAROLINA

WHO WON IN 2016: Donald Trump, by 3.6 points

WHAT TIME POLLS CLOSE: 7:30 p.m.

WHEN THEY COUNT MAIL-IN BALLOTS: Early votes and mail-in ballots are counted first and expected to be reported by 7:30 p.m.

LATEST POLLING AVERAGE:

ELECTORAL COLLEGE VOTES: 15

Trump won North Carolina by a comfortable margin in 2016. The reason it has become a battleground this year is a steady shift in polling toward Biden. The Cook Political Report suggests the race, which once leaned toward Republicans, is now a toss-up.

North Carolina is a medium-sized battleground, with nearly half the electoral college votes as Florida. If Biden flips the state, it will be a significant but not fatal loss for Trump, but could spell trouble in southern states with similar voting demographics.

GEORGIA

WHO WON IN 2016: Donald Trump, by 5.1 points

WHAT TIME POLLS CLOSE: 7 p.m.

WHEN THEY COUNT MAIL-IN BALLOTS: Officials have said it could take days for full results, including counting mail-in ballots

LATEST POLLING AVERAGE:

ELECTORAL COLLEGE VOTES: 16

Georgia is closely linked to Florida, both geographically and politically. If Georgia votes for Biden, it’s almost certain that Florida will have flipped for the Democrat as well.

Georgia has voted Republican in every election dating back to 1992, when the state supported Bill Clinton. The state also represented one of Trump’s more comfortable leads in the South in 2016.

OHIO

WHO WON IN 2016: Donald Trump, by 8.1 points

WHAT TIME POLLS CLOSE: 7:30 p.m.

WHEN THEY COUNT MAIL-IN BALLOTS: Advance ballots are counted first and are expected to be reported by 8 p.m., officials say

LATEST POLLING AVERAGE:

ELECTORAL COLLEGE VOTES: 18

Long considered a perennial swing state, Ohio has shifted toward Republicans in recent years. In 2016, Ohio voters supported Trump in greater levels than voters in traditionally Republican states such as Arizona and Georgia.

This year, the race in Ohio remains extremely close, with polls showing slim leads wavering between Biden and Trump.

Like most of the Midwest, results from the suburbs will be important to watch, as polling suggests suburban women have turned away from Trump and organized vast get-out-the-vote efforts in support of Biden. Whether or not those efforts make a difference has yet to be seen.

Be careful when watching the first results from Ohio. Mail-in ballots are counted first, which will likely give Biden an edge, followed by in-person ballots that could show much stronger Republican support.

TEXAS

WHO WON IN 2016: Donald Trump, by 9 points

WHAT TIME POLLS CLOSE: 8 p.m. – 9 p.m.

WHEN THEY COUNT MAIL-IN BALLOTS: Officials in Texas have not provided an estimate

LATEST POLLING AVERAGE:

ELECTORAL COLLEGE VOTES: 38

Texas being in play is highly unusual for an American presidential election. It’s been 44 years since Texas voted for a Democrat, and it’s rare to see a Democrat within striking distance of the Republican candidate.

But six days before the election, the non-partisan Cook Political Report switched its rating for Texas from “leans Republican” to “toss-up.”

If Biden flips Texas, Trump is virtually guaranteed to lose the White House, and may have already seen deep losses in other traditionally Republican states. Biden’s campaign has been criticized by Democrats in Texas, including former Democratic candidate Beto O’Rourke, for not spending more time and money in the state.

IOWA

WHO WON IN 2016: Donald Trump, by 9.4 points

WHAT TIME POLLS CLOSE: 10 p.m.

WHEN THEY COUNT MAIL-IN BALLOTS: Absentee ballots will likely be counted first, and officials expect results in a timely fashion

LATEST POLLING AVERAGE:

ELECTORAL COLLEGE VOTES: 6

One of the smaller battleground states, Iowa supported Trump in 2016 at an even higher margin than Texas. This year, polls show an extremely tight race, with Iowa now considered a toss-up.

Similar to other midwestern states, watch for results in the suburbs around Iowa’s biggest cities. Trump and Biden both campaigned in Iowa in the final days of the race, where they’re both hoping to win over influential suburban voters.

Biden himself has said he believes he has a “fighting chance” in Iowa, which supported Obama in 2008 and 2012.

Unless the national race is extremely close, don’t expect Iowa to be the tie-breaker as the state only has six electoral college votes to offer.

NEW HAMPSHIRE

WHO WON IN 2016: Hillary Clinton, by 0.3 points

WHAT TIME POLLS CLOSE: 8 p.m.

WHEN THEY COUNT MAIL-IN BALLOTS: Officials have not provided details.

LATEST POLLING AVERAGE:

ELECTORAL COLLEGE VOTES: 4

Even smaller than Iowa, New Hampshire is a petite battleground state that Trump fought for, but ultimately did not win, in 2016.

Polls show Biden boasting a very strong double-digit lead there. Unless we see a major polling error bigger than the one that was seen in 2016, it’s unlikely that Trump can steal New Hampshire from Biden’s column.

NEVADA

WHO WON IN 2016: Hillary Clinton, by 2.4 points

WHAT TIME POLLS CLOSE: 10 p.m.

WHEN THEY COUNT MAIL-IN BALLOTS: Officials have not provided details.

LATEST POLLING AVERAGE:

ELECTORAL COLLEGE VOTES: 6

Nevada is another state in play this year that supported Clinton in 2016. Democrats typically boast a strong ground game in the state thanks to the influential Culinary Union, which helps door-knock across the state to consolidate left-leaning, working-class voters.

However, the pandemic sidelined those door-knocking efforts for months this year, potentially disrupting a reliable source of Democratic support.

Even so, polling suggests Biden holds a steady lead over Trump in the state. If Trump can win in Nevada, he’ll eat into Biden’s base of support and offset potential losses elsewhere in the country.

MINNESOTA

WHO WON IN 2016: Hillary Clinton, by 1.5 points

WHAT TIME POLLS CLOSE: 9 p.m.

WHEN THEY COUNT MAIL-IN BALLOTS: Officials expect final results on election night or by noon on Wednesday, Nov. 4.

LATEST POLLING AVERAGE:

ELECTORAL COLLEGE VOTES: 10

Polls suggest that Minnesota is barely a battleground state, with Biden holding double-digit leads there and Clinton winning voters there in 2016. Even so, the midwestern state is a close neighbour to other crucial battlegrounds, such as Michigan and Wisconsin, and wins for Trump in those states could spell trouble for Biden in Minnesota.

For context, Minnesota hasn’t voted for a Republican since Richard Nixon won re-election in 1972.

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