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Demographic shifts since 2016 could be enough to defeat Trump. But it’s complicated.



Four years ago, President Donald Trump lost the popular vote by 2.9 million votes and still won the White House thanks to a near-perfect geographic vote distribution that allowed him to capture big Electoral College prizes by razor-thin margins.

The key? Trump’s unprecedented 37-point margin among white voters without four-year college degrees, who are especially influential in the upper Midwest.

But as the U.S. becomes more diverse and college-educated, Trump’s core demographic is steadily declining. In 2020, noncollege whites are on track to make up about 43 percent of the nation’s adult citizens, down from 46 percent in 2016.

Meanwhile, whites with four-year degrees, who are trending blue and increasingly behave like a different ethnic group from noncollege whites, will make up 25 percent of adult citizens, up from 24 percent in 2016. And Black Americans, Latinos, Asians and other nonwhites, historically Democrats’ most reliable supporters, will make up 32 percent, up from 30 percent four years ago.

A new interactive collaboration by NBC News and The Cook Political Report finds that if 2016’s rates of turnout and support were applied to 2020’s new demographic realities, Trump would narrowly lose Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — more than enough to swing the presidency to Joe Biden. And, Trump would lose the popular vote by about four points, roughly double his 2016 deficit.

To let readers test their own assumptions about how these kinds of demographic shifts might affect the election, we’ve created an interactive tool that accompanies this article. To estimate the impact of changes in population, turnout and support on the Electoral College, you can use the tool to “swing the vote” and create your own November scenarios.

Right now, in the final stretch, Trump is doing everything he can to fire up his base, and he does have room to grow: In Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, where Trump’s combined margin of victory was just 77,444 votes, 4.9 million eligible noncollege whites didn’t cast ballots in 2016. By contrast, only 1.6 million eligible nonwhites and 1 million eligible college-educated whites didn’t vote.

But Trump might need to boost noncollege white turnout by about 5 points — from 55 percent to 60 percent nationally — just to offset the impact of their dwindling share of the electorate and get back to the same 306 electoral votes he won in 2016.

At the moment, Trump’s bigger problem is that Biden is winning more noncollege whites than Hillary Clinton did in 2016. The latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll shows Biden losing them by 23 points, whereas exit polls showed Clinton losing them by 37 points. That would be more than enough to offset modest gains Trump has made since 2016 among Hispanics and other nonwhites.

Of course, race and education aren’t the only prism through which to examine the changing American electorate. Breaking down the electorate by age, for example, reveals something different: Voters 65 and older, who narrowly supported Trump in 2016, have become a slightly larger slice of eligible voters since 2016 as more Baby Boomers have aged into that category.

However, age isn’t as straightforward: To put it gently, plenty of the oldest 2016 voters have since exited the electorate. At the same time, many 18-22 year olds, who overwhelmingly dislike the president, have entered. And today, polls consistently show Biden doing several points better with seniors than Clinton, while Trump’s support is concentrated among voters between the ages of 50 and 64.

Using the information above, you can start trying out the tool to see the impact of these changes. But to start, here are six possible scenarios of our own:

Six scenarios to swing the 2020 election

1. Biden makes a Sun Belt breakthrough

For years, Democrats have dreamed of breaking Republicans’ grip on increasingly diverse and metropolitan Sun Belt states. In this scenario, Biden turns out enough nonwhites and wins over enough college-educated suburban whites to wrest Arizona, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and Texas from Trump’s column (in addition to Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin) — for a landslide victory.

2. Trump bounces back with seniors

Today, Biden is performing much better with voters 65 and older than Clinton did four years ago. But if Trump could find a way to get his margins with seniors back to 2016 levels, he could hang on to retiree-heavy battlegrounds like Arizona and Florida. In this scenario, Biden wins the popular vote by a full 3 percentage points but flips only Michigan and Pennsylvania, and Trump prevails by two electoral votes.

3. Biden squeaks by with white college graduates

In the 2018 midterms, Democrats’ route to the House majority ran through high-income suburbs populated by white college graduates. If Biden were to replicate those gains, he could prevail, even if Trump matches or slightly exceeds his own 2016 numbers among other groups. In this scenario, Biden narrowly wins by flipping Arizona, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Nebraska’s 2nd District.

4. Biden coalesces the youngest and oldest

Today, Biden enjoys something of a “sandwich” coalition in polls: He’s performing best with the youngest and oldest age groups. In this scenario, Biden roughly matches Clinton’s share of the vote among voters under 65, but overtakes Trump with much stronger support from seniors. He wins by flipping the senior-heavy states of Arizona, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

5. Trump prevails with inroads among nonwhites

One polling bright spot for Trump this year has been stronger support among nonwhite voters — particularly Latinos — than he received in 2016. If he were to combine those gains with 2016-level support among whites, he could actually improve on his showing. In this scenario, Trump holds all 30 states he won in 2016 and even flips Nevada red, narrowly winning the popular vote, too.

6. Biden rebuilds Obama’s Midwest “blue wall”

In 2016, Democrats’ “blue wall” of supposed Great Lakes strongholds crumbled. But Biden could resurrect the coalition he and former President Barack Obama built if he wins a higher share of white working-class votes than Clinton and restores Black turnout to Obama-era levels. In this scenario, Biden wins all 26 states Obama carried in 2012, including Iowa and Ohio, and picks up Arizona and North Carolina.

Notes: For purposes of this interactive, votes for independent and third-party candidates are counted as nonvotes in turnout figures. In 48 states, the winner of the popular vote gets all the state’s electoral votes. Maine and Nebraska award two electoral votes to the statewide winner and one electoral vote to the winner in each congressional district.

See the tool at

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White House views coalesce behind pre-election vote on Trump Supreme Court pick



WASHINGTON — A consensus has formed within the West Wing to push for a vote on President Donald Trump’s coming Supreme Court nominee before the election, with aides and advisers saying they are increasingly optimistic that they will be able to pull off the speedy confirmation.

Some outside advisers had initially argued that waiting to hold a vote until after Election Day could be the most politically advantageous strategy, said a person familiar with the thinking. Having the seat vacant could motivate conservatives to turn out for Trump to ensure that it got filled and save senators in tight races from having to make a controversial vote so close to the election.

But the momentum in the past 48 hours has swung toward getting a vote done as soon as possible, with those inside and outside the White House arguing that the quicker the process, the more likely they are to fill the seat, senior administration officials said. An official said it now looks like a “strong possibility” that there will be a vote before Election Day as consensus grows among Republican senators to move ahead with the nomination.

Ultimately, the timing will be up to Senate Republicans. At the Republican closed-door lunch Tuesday focused on politics and the Senate race forecast, there was some discussion about timing, according to multiple sources. But Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky has refused to specify a timeline, saying instead Tuesday that he would proceed with a vote when the nominee emerges from the Judiciary Committee, chaired by Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. Graham has said he would announce timing for a committee hearing and a vote after Trump names a nominee; three sources told NBC News that the committee is planning to hold a hearing in the first half of October.

Trump and White House aides have been in regular contact with McConnell and his staff, officials have said.

There are other practical challenges to a speedy confirmation, beyond politics and strategy: The nominee must undergo an updated FBI background check, the Senate Judiciary Committee needs to hold a hearing and the nominee must be voted out of committee — all necessary steps in a process that could take weeks, and be accompanied by any number of unforeseen delays.

If Trump names his pick to replace Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Saturday, as he has indicated he will, the Senate would have less than 40 days before the election to confirm a nominee — a speedy schedule by recent standards, although not unprecedented. Trump met Monday with one possible nominee, federal appeals Judge Amy Coney Barrett, and he is scheduled to meet Friday in Miami with another front-runner, federal appeals Judge Barbara Lagoa.

Trump said Monday that one reason he wanted a vote as soon as possible was that he doesn’t want to have a tie in any future court rulings. The court, now at eight members, is scheduled to hear oral arguments in a case involving the Affordable Care Act on Nov. 10, and the justices could have a role to play in the election if the results are contested.

“So let’s say I make the announcement on Saturday — there’s a great deal of time before the election,” Trump said Monday. “That’ll be up to Mitch in the Senate. But I’d certainly much rather have the vote. I think it sends a good signal. And it’s solidarity and lots of other things.”

If Republicans lose control of the Senate, they would still be able to vote on a nominee during the lame-duck session before new senators are sworn in at the start of January. But they run the risk that public sentiment could shift further away from Republicans’ filling the seat should the party lose control of the Senate, the White House or both — risking the solidity of the mostly united front Republican senators currently show, an outside adviser said.

But waiting until after the election could aid Republican senators facing tough races in traditionally red states, including Joni Ernst of Iowa, Thom Tillis of North Carolina and Martha McSally of Arizona, the adviser said. For those senators, there could be a political advantage in having the seat open on Election Day as a way to motivate conservative voters.

Republicans have a four-seat majority in the Senate, while six Republican incumbents either trail their opponents or hold razor-thin leads.

No president has seated a Supreme Court nominee within three months of a presidential election, according to Senate historical records dating to 1900. President Lyndon Johnson tried to fill a vacant seat in 1968, but when he had to withdraw the nomination because of ethical concerns, he declined to nominate a new justice, saying then that “in ordinary times I would feel it my duty now to send another name to the Senate for this high office. I shall not do so.”

While recent Supreme Court nominees have taken more than 60 days to get confirmed, there is some precedent for a speedier process — Republicans have been pointing to the 33 days it took to get Sandra Day O’Connor confirmed in 1981.

Trump retweeted comments Tuesday by talk radio host Rush Limbaugh calling for the Senate to skip hearings and move straight to a vote, but White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said the White House was working with Graham on following the traditional committee hearing process.

Geoff Bennett and Leigh Ann Caldwell contributed.

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Biden compares Justice Department to Trump’s ‘private law firm’



Joe Biden criticized President Trump and Attorney General William Barr for their handling of the Department of Justice during an event with Black small business owners in North Carolina. Biden compared the DOJ to Trump’s “private law firm.”

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