GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — It is more than a year before Michigan’s 2020 presidential primary, but candidates are already stumping in the state.
Beto O’Rourke, a former Texas congressman, and U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York — both Democrats who are running for president — were in the state Monday. Republican President Donald Trump will be in Grand Rapids next week.
So why is Michigan getting so much attention so early on? The answer is the electoral college. Most states are winner-take-all, which means getting the electoral votes, not the popular vote, is what wins the race.
You need 270 electoral votes to become president. In the most recent presidential election, Trump netted 306 and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the Democrat on the ballot, got 232.
But Trump had nearly 3 million fewer total votes than Clinton. That could be accounted for in two states: California and New York. Big numbers in big states don’t matter beyond the simple majority it takes to get all the electoral votes.
Fast forward to 2020. If you are Trump and the Republican party, you have to hold on to battleground states that saw Democratic pickups in the midterm election. One of those is Michigan.
Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania could very well be the states to make the difference in 2020. Conventional wisdom is that Democrats would need to win at least two. If they win all three and everything plays out the way it did in 2016, they would take the White House.
But there are 50 states in play. If Democrats were to flip Florida, for example, they would only need one of the previously listed states.
It’s far too early to guess which way Michigan will go — the general election is still nearly 600 days out — but no matter how you look at it, the math is making the Mitten a major player. That means you’ll see a lot of the candidates here between now and the next presidential election.