Swing State Tracker: No Pressure, Pennsylvania, but the World’s Fate Rests on You

We’re going to hear a lot more about fracking.

People wearing masks wait in a socially distanced line on the sidewalk
Early voting at Philadelphia City Hall on Oct. 7. Gabriella Audi/Getty Images

This week’s Swing State Tracker is proud to announce a return to normalcy. No longer are we or you or Slate’s art team forced to grapple directly with an Electoral College tie as a linear extension of the latest polling data. Pennsylvania has returned to its rightful place as the tipping point state, where everything will be decided. It is because of Pennsylvania’s primacy that Biden will continue fielding questions about his position on hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) even though his position—no new oil or gas drilling leases on federal land—is a direct answer to the question.


Be wary of overly complicated descriptions of Electoral College paths you come across. Today, for example, we find Axios reporting on how Trump’s campaign manager, Bill Stepien, thinks they’re going to lose but can still envision a few paths to 270 electoral votes. The most straightforward is described like so: “Stepien tells them the ‘easy part’ is winning Ohio, Florida, Georgia, Iowa and Maine’s second congressional district. From there, the first pathway, and the one he views as most likely, is for Trump to win Arizona, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania.” This is just another way of saying that Trump would have to carry what he carried in 2016 minus Wisconsin and Michigan. It is what everyone, not just Bill Stepien, views as Trump’s most straightforward path, because Pennsylvania is the tipping point state.


We understand that Stepien was being relative in describing winning Ohio, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, and Maine’s 2nd District as “the easy part.” But Trump is currently trailing in the polling averages of each of those states, and in every state that has been mentioned in this blog post. He is losing the election.

Nearly 21 million people have already voted, as of Friday afternoon. To put that in perspective? If each person were equal to six cats, nearly 126 million cats would have already voted. Another way of putting it: We’re already at 15 percent of the votes cast in the 2016 presidential election, and Election Day isn’t for another 18 days.

Another 18 days …

Chart showing that Pennsylvania is the tipping point state for winning the Electoral College
Source: Oct. 16 RealClearPolitics polling averages. Slate