There are no certainties in politics. Just ask Clinton circa 2016. But, for most of 2020 the presidential election has been defined by a steady Biden lead nationally and in battleground states across the country. Yet, that lead has shrunk just as voters head to the polls.
Additionally, Trump’s assailing of mail – in balloting seems to have put his party in a bind in numerous states (AZ, FL, MN, PA, IA, NH, NV and NC) where his party reportedly lags Democrats in early voting and mail ballots (note: not all states openly report their party registration figures and in other states like NC, OH and MN, many voters have shifted their partisan allegiances if not their registrations in recent years). The caveats aside, we should expect to see two things occur if Trump is to vastly outperform the polls and stage a surprise comeback.
The first would be based on current mail and early voting trends, exit polls should be favorable to the President. For Trump to win he will need need a lot of supporters to turn out on Election Day and even considering Republicans and conservatives are less likely to talk to exit pollsters the fact they need to substantially outnumber Biden backers should mean we should see signs of this in Exit Polls.
Taking Florida as a reference, this means we should see Trump win Independents by about 3 to four points (which is equal to 2016 exit polls) and he should lead among men by about 10 points. If he is not even hitting these baseline numbers assuming Republicans continue to narrow the Democratic early vote over the next week to the 2016 advantage in early votes they enjoyed (250K or so), it could be an early and disappointing night for the GOP faithful.
Another sign it could be an early night is if key counties in FL and NC are underperforming for the GOP. Much has been made of the Biden camp making inroads into key GOP strongholds like Sumter (home to the Villages) and Collier County in SE Florida. If these counties are underperforming for Trump it could be his final nail in the coffin unless he is making inroads into most likely Miami – Dade County, where his increased strength among Cuban – Americans would show.
However, it should be noted if Trump is actually hitting these markers, we might be in for a longer night than the Biden camp wants. Odds are good if Trump is carrying Florida than he is carrying North Carolina (North Carolina is arguably redder than Florida) and as either of those states go so goes Georgia. By then, we would be hitting the Midwest and more fun would begin.