US Election Day (which is, I suppose, a misnomer given most votes have now been cast) is just five days away. Here – in order of reporting – are the first five of the ten counties punters need to watch in order to correctly estimate the likely election result.
Dixville Notch – Tuesday about 5:05am UK time
First in the nation to report (probably). There will be seven to ten votes cast. Last time around, Clinton got 4, Trump 2, Romney and Johnson 1 apiece.
What to expect? Biden will be keen to clear the bar Clinton set. Anything less than five votes would be a disappointment for him. For Trump, with no major third party candidates this time around, he needs to sweep up the Johnson and Romney votes.
Expected result: Biden 5, Trump 4
Perry County, Indiana – early Wednesday morning
Eastern Indiana’s polls close at midnight UK time, and late arriving ballots don’t count. So we’ll get results here pretty quickly.
Perry County is one of the swingiest counties in the US. Back in 2008 it voted for Barack Obama with a 23% margin. In 2016, it went for Trump with a 19% one.
One caveat – we don’t know whether they’ll count in person, mailed, or voted early first. Or indeed, a mixture. What we do know is that Perry is super swingy and is full of people who have switched straight from Obama to Trump.
What to expect? Perry County will likely stay Trump this time around. Indiana is Redder than it was in 2008 or 2012. But the margin matters, because this shows whether rural small town America is behind Trump to the same extent as in 2016.
Also: don’t look just at the shares, but look at the absolute number of voters.
If Trump holds Perry with a margin of 15 points or more, he’ll feel quite confident about his base. If it shrinks below 5 points, then it might be quite an ugly night for the President.
St Joseph County, Indiana – early Wednesday morning
St Joseph contains Notre Dame University. In 2016 it was a pretty much dead heat between Trump and Clinton. This county is interesting for two reasons:
Firstly, it’ll give you an indication if the young are coming out in force for Biden. Secondly, South Bend has a large African American population.
Biden needs to do well here: if he’s on target to win with the kind of shares predicted by the polls, he’ll want to stretch Hillary’s 200 vote lead to a 10,000 vote one.
On the other hand, if Trump wins here, then I think we could well see a clear Trump victory in the Electoral College.
Jefferson County, Florida – probably around 1:30 or 2am
This is another of those Obama-Trump counties. It’s on the outskirts of Tallahassee, just at the beginning of the Florida pan-handle. It’s not a well off county: it’s median income is half the US average, at around $35,000. It’s older than average, and more African American than average.
President Trump needs to hang on here if he’s hoping to win Florida; simply, if the suburbs swing against him (and they may not, of course), then these poorer areas will be key to holding on.
Loudon County, Virginia – probably around 2:30am
Loudon is part of the rapidly growing DC exurbs, without being expensive or fancy. It has good schools, and is attractive to the middle waged – people not on fat government contracts.
And how did Loudon vote in 2016? Well, it went for Hillary, but by just seven points, and she got 51.5% of the vote. As Loudon votes, so will a host of average suburbs across America.
Don’t just look at the percentages here, look at the absolute number of votes. Is turnout up here? Biden will be looking to clear the 55% mark here and take Loudon by ten points or more. If he can do that, he can feel pretty confident. President Trump, on the other hand, will just want to hold the deficit to the same level as 2016.