The model by Rachel Bitecofer, which doesn’t rely on polls, predicts Trump will lose three states that were key to his victory in 2020: Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin.
And that will give his Democratic rival a clear path to the White House.
Bitecofer, of the Judy Ford Wason Center for Public Policy at Christopher Newport University, writes in a new analysis that Trump’s 2016 victory was the political equivalent of royal flush in poker.
That’s not going to happen again given how “agitated” the Democratic voters are right now, she said.
Bitecofer bases her model on statewide estimates of voter turnout.
“The complacent electorate of 2016, who were convinced Trump would never be president, has been replaced with the terrified electorate of 2020, who are convinced he’s the Terminator and can’t be stopped,” she writes. “Under my model, that distinction is not only important, it is everything.”
In addition to not relying on poll aggregators, Bitecofer’s model also doesn’t rely on a specific nominee. She said whoever Trump’s rival is won’t matter much “unless it ends up being a disruptor like Bernie Sanders.”
With Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin in the fold, the model finds that a Democratic candidate has 278 electoral votes from “safe,” “likely” or “lean” states.
Trump has just 197 in those categories. Even if he wins all of the toss-up states in Bitecofer’s model such as Florida, he’ll still fall short of the 270 needed to win reelection.
However, she said there are still factors that could change the outcome, such as the arrival of a well-financed independent such as ex-Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz or “significant disruption” such as war, recession, a terrorist attack.
She also said Republican turnout will increase, with 90% of them voting for Trump along with at least 38% of independents.
“Trump has a floor that is at least theoretically competitive for reelection and will force Democrats to compete hard to win the presidency,” Bitecofer wrote.
She said the Democrat turnout surge will be larger in many states, and added that the eventual nominee will, in fact, matter at least to some extent.
“If the ticket has a woman, a person of color or a Latino, or a female who is also a person of color, Democratic Party turnout will surge more in really important places,” she said.
If it’s a white man such as former Vice President Joe Biden, increasing turnout should be the top consideration for choosing a running mate.
That said, Bitecofer wrote:
But the Democrats are not complacent like they were in 2016 and I doubt there is any amount of polling or favorable forecasts that will make them so. That fear will play a crucial role in their 2020 victory. We will not see a divided Democratic Party in 2020.
Bitecofer predicted in July of last year that Democrats would pick up 42 seats in the 2018 midterms.
They won 40, including 24 of the 25 seats she identified as most likely to flip.