A man arrives to vote on Nov. 8 at Brooklyn Avenue Elementary School in Los Angeles. (Frederic J. Brown/AFP)

We’re a bit late, but allow us to now wish you a happy new year, and may 2020 bring you nothing but blessings.

There is no 2019, after all, not in the political world. There is only a two-year long period called 2020, which began a bit before the end of 2018, which itself was about 10 months long, coming at the end of a three-plus-years-long 2016. From here until next November, nearly everything in the political world will happen in 2020′s shadow — and much of the rest of American culture will be similarly shaded.

So let’s embrace that. Let’s lean forcefully into the idea that the most important thing over the next two years is this upcoming presidential contest. But let’s not do so within the constraints of party politics. Let’s instead begin to celebrate the presidential contest by considering presidential races not between the major party candidates, but between any two things in the universe.

How can we do so? Well, a presidential race comes down to the voting preferences in each of the 50 states and D.C. Get more support in a state, get the electoral college votes, add to the total. As it happens, in this modern world we have a way of evaluating and comparing interest in any two things in each of the states: Google.

Google’s main tool is its search engine. But it also has a tool called Google Trends which allows users to see how interest in search terms has varied over time or to compare interest between any two (or three or up to five) things has changed over time. It’s not the same as voting, of course, but it does allow us to see how much more Alabama cares about cake than pie, for example. Literally: Over the past six months, there’s been twice as much interest in “cake” as “pie” in that state.

Stretch that same assessment out over the 50 states and you learn that, in a presidential race between cake and pie based on Google search interest, cake would win 48 states and D.C. to pie’s wins in Vermont and Maine. The electoral map would look something like this:


Cake vs. pie. (Philip Bump/The Washington Post)

Thanks to assistance from the Google Trends team, we’ve made a tool that allows you to compare any two things, concepts, people, figures, what have you and determine which might win a presidential race, based on search interest. Be warned that many such races end in cake-style blowouts. Be warned, too, that the contests are resource-intensive, so we can only compare a limited number of contests per day.

But, have at it.

Who's running?

vs.

(Tool not showing up? Try on desktop or at this version of the page.)

Click any state to see the split in interest there. Also included, a rough estimate of the popular vote, based on 2016 vote totals and that difference in interest in each state.

Many of you will, quite naturally, be tempted to pit 2016 candidates against one another. Feel free. But given a universe in which you could match any two things against one another for the leadership of the free world, why on earth would you limit your picks to politicians?