We’ll Get There

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Hi. Welcome to On Politics, your guide to the day in national politics. I’m Lisa Lerer, your host.

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Credit…Antonio de Luca/The New York Times

Remember when I told you to exhale? I think that was yesterday, though time has folded into an electoral map.

Well, are you still breathing? Good.

It’s been a rough day. We’ve laughed, we’ve cried, we’ve panic-refreshed our screens and we’ve eaten a whole lot of gummy worms. (Wait, is that just me?)

But, just for a minute, let’s look at the situation in a slightly different way: Democracy is messy, but so far it seems to be working.

At least 159.8 million Americans cast ballots, according to a projection by NBC News, which would amount to the highest turnout rate since 1900. Votes are being counted. Carefully. And we may know who our next president is within days, if not earlier.

Like I said, take a breath.

I suspect that tonight you just want to know what every American wants to know: Who is going to win this thing?

With Wisconsin and Michigan moving into Joe Biden’s column this afternoon, the road to 270 electoral votes is getting narrower for President Trump.

As of 8:45 p.m. Eastern time, Mr. Biden had 253 electoral voters, while President Trump had 214. Seventy-one remained on the map.

Three of those are in Alaska, which are likely to go to Mr. Trump. For the sake of the scenarios we’re about to lay out, let’s just assume Alaska falls in his column.

That leaves five states up for grabs: Nevada, Arizona, Georgia, North Carolina and Pennsylvania.

For Mr. Trump, there is no getting around a simple mathematical fact: To win, he must nab Pennsylvania. But that state alone isn’t enough. To reach 270, Mr. Trump must pick up Georgia and two additional states.

So a Trump win looks something like this: Pa. + Ga. + two of Ariz., Nev. & N.C.

For Mr. Biden, the math is much easier. He needs 17 more electoral votes. So, if he wins Pennsylvania, the race is over. He can also reach 270 by winning two of the other four states.

A Biden win looks like one of these scenarios: Just Pa. OR two of Ariz, Nev., N.C. & Ga.

Now, there’s one other possibility. Frankly, I hesitate to even mention it because it’s very unlikely but also very likely to make you reach for another glass of wine.

Let’s call it the OMG scenario. If Mr. Trump wins Pennsylvania, Nevada, Arizona and North Carolina and Mr. Biden takes Georgia … we have a tie.

Yes, a tie. 269 to 269. Our founders in all their infinite wisdom created a system that wound up with an even number of total electoral votes. Yay!

I do not expect this to happen. The realistic takeaway from all this math? Right now, it is going to be much easier for Mr. Biden to win than Mr. Trump.

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I mean, uh, the election?

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