Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Mapping the Electoral College

As a Democrat, I am prone to occasionally being Chicken Little when electoral results are coming in.  Unlike Republicans (perhaps because they know their candidates should lose and it'd be better for the country...or perhaps their nerves are stronger) Democrats cannot handle being behind in close races.  Watching each poll that is coming out in the last few days of Donald Trump vs. Hillary Clinton and seeing Clinton slip (for the first time) behind in the Real Clear Politics average polling (even if that site is somewhat problematic in this department as they aren't quite as thorough as the Huffington Post, which still has Clinton leading) is a daunting, terrifying thing.  Never mind that Trump will never be in such a strong position to pick up voters (he's won the nomination, he's getting most of the establishment GOP behind his bid-if he doesn't win votes now, when will he?), while Hillary Clinton is facing a tumultuous scene with DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Sen. Bernie Sanders making her life exponentially more difficult.  Clinton will surely rally voters once Sanders drops out (my gut is saying more and more that the powers-that-be will get him out after the DC primary in a few weeks, though he could well cost DWS her House seat in the process), and these polls will look something like a mirage.  As a result, I still think the former Secretary of State is the most likely person to win the White House this November, though Mr. Trump has gained a bit in recent days.

What I wanted to do for this article is create the five, in my opinion, most likely scenarios to play out this November.  Each year there are always articles about how someone is going to "reinvent" the electoral map, but really since the Gore/Bush elections of 2000, the electoral map has stayed relatively limited, with the same swing states staying swing-y.  Yes, there's been a few changes (Missouri and New Mexico are no longer on the menu, while Virginia and North Carolina are now in-play), but as a general rule we haven't seen something seismic like Texas or California suddenly move to a swing position, and it's unlikely that either Trump nor Clinton will be able to make that happen.  As a result, we're working within the same parameters, though keeping in mind that Clinton may do better with Latinos than Obama four years ago while Trump may over-perform with blue-collar males.  With those caveats, hare are the five most likely scenarios (I created the maps on 270 to Win-please visit and support them as it's an amazing site):

1. My Current Guess (Clinton Wins by 347-191)

This is my current guess, which brings us to roughly where President Obama was against Gov. Mitt Romney in 2012, plus North Carolina.  Essentially this gives the entire slate of tossup states to Hillary Clinton, which is pretty possible at this point-her approval ratings are bad, but not as bad as Trump, and her window to improve is much stronger, considering she'll likely pick up the bulk of Independents supporting Sanders once the primary is a distant memory.  This isn't opening up any states like Arizona or Georgia, but it also gives her an extremely healthy margin-she could literally lose any one state that I've predicted here and still take the White House.

2. The Latino/Rust Belt Split (Clinton Wins 278-260)

Under this scenario, we assume that Clinton's numbers with white males, particularly white blue-collar males, doesn't get better, her numbers with white females reflect more historical measures, but she still gains a disproportionately large share of African-Americans and Latino-American voters.  Here we see most of the Rust Belt going for Trump, while perennial swing states like Colorado and Florida stay with the Democrats.  A couple of things to note here: one, I'm still sticking with the most traditionally blue states in the Great Lakes region (Minnesota, Illinois, and Michigan) going with Clinton-if she lost any of these, she'd lose the election.  The same can be said for Florida, which would probably be very competitive under this scenario.  Similarly, if Clinton were able to pick up Wisconsin or Pennsylvania (both of which have gone for the Democrats the past six elections in a row), she'd gain considerable breathing room.

3. Trump Sinks (Clinton Wins 385-153)

While a landslide seems less likely now than it did a few weeks ago, there is still the chance that Trump could implode enough that the Democrats win a few extra states that we wouldn't have expected.  Here I am putting all of Scenario 1's states into the Clinton column, along with Georgia, Missouri, Arizona, and Nebraska-2.  One could argue that in this scenario she could maybe pick up one or two of Utah, South Carolina, Indiana, Montana, or the Dakotas as all either were on the menu for Obama in 2008 (the closest thing we've had to a landslide this century) or may have a populace particularly averse to Trump, but that seems unlikely without more evidence-this is surely the best case scenario for the Democrats without getting too ridiculous.

4. Trump's Path to Victory (Trump Wins 293-245)

I'm having trouble believing that Trump will win a couple of the swing states even under the best of circumstances.  While Virginia wasn't on the table for the Democrats prior to 2006, they have held every Senate election since then, as well as delivering for President Obama twice and even going for a relatively underwhelming Democrat in 2013 for governor.  It's hard to imagine them abandoning Clinton, particularly since she'll probably play well in the vote-rich northern suburbs that hated Trump in the primary.  The Latino votes in Colorado and Nevada (other states that have shifted pretty hard to the left in recent years), keeps them off-the-table.  As a result, here is Trump's likely best-case scenario.  Notice that winning Florida gives the map back to Clinton, and that she gets back to 270 if she can hold, say, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, so Trump's path is narrow, but have no doubt that it's very real.

5. And Because, Why Not-the Most Likely Tie (269-269)

Veep went there this year, so I can't help but at least take a shot at it.  This isn't that far-fetched, quite frankly-it would require Clinton to win every Kerry state save Wisconsin, plus Virginia, Colorado, and Nevada-not an impossible spot to be in, though I have a feeling that either Trump would win New Hampshire or Clinton would take Iowa so this is unlikely to happen.  This could, weirdly enough, result in a President Trump and Vice President Julian Castro, as the incoming Congress, not the current one, would be electing the new president-it could even fall upon Joe Biden to cast the deciding ballot for his successor.  Rest assured that all hell would break loose in this situation, including the possibility that someone not on the ballot (like a compromise Biden/Romney ticket) could take the White House, but though it's been a ridiculous possibility for decades (why not just throw one more elector into the bloody pot?), it's never actually happened and I doubt it will this year.

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