Trump’s campaign team doesn’t see a path to victory without North Carolina, and they’re not entirely wrong

Trump hosts north carolina event
Trump speaks at a Make America Great event in North Carolina.
  • During a week of Supreme Court hearings and town halls, both presidential candidates spent time in North Carolina to win over undecided voters.
  • The state holds 15 seats in the electoral college.
  • In the 2016 presidential election, President Donald Trump defeated Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton by 3.7 percentage points.
  • This year, however, former Vice President Joe Biden is leading Trump by 4 percentage points among likely voters, according to recent polling. 
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Amidst a tumultuous week of Supreme Court hearings and dueling town halls, both President Donald Trump and former Vice President Mike Pence made sure to set aside time to campaign in North Carolina.

Per a recent report from Axios, the Trump administration is looking at three main pathways for a second term in the White House. Each of the three paths is contingent upon Trump winning the Tar Heel State. 

According to election simulations from Decision Desk HQ, there are scenarios where Trump can win on Nov. 3 without North Carolina's support. However, picking up North Carolina is one of the easiest ways for Trump to get four more years.

In DDHQ simulations, only 17% of instances where Trump wins a second term in office are accompanied by a loss in North Carolina. Biden is much less reliant upon the state: Simulations show he wins the presidency 32% of the time even without the state's 15 electoral votes.

North Carolina voted for a Republican candidate in 10 of the last 12 presidential elections. The most recent time the state voted for a Democratic presidential candidate was in 2008 for President Barack Obama. In 2016, it was close, with  Trump edging out Hillary Clinton by 3.7 percentage points, according to Ballotpedia.

"Even if Trump loses North Carolina, if he can hold on to some other pivotal states in the electoral college — especially Florida and Pennsylvania — he can still manage a narrow win," Kiel Williams, author at DDHQ, said about the 2020 election.

Williams noted that while Trump could win without the state, losing North Carolina would bode poorly for the Trump campaign on election night. Losing there would mean that Trump likely didn't deliver in other battleground states either. 

"If Biden is winning in an environment like North Carolina, he is likely winning on terrain like Pennsylvania as well," Williams added.

Forecasting from DDHQ shows Biden has a 61% chance of winning North Carolina. Recent polling from October 9 to October 13 by the New York Times and Siena College shows Biden leading Trump by 4 percentage points among likely voters in the state. 

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