Trump vs. Clinton: A Daunting and Ominous Electoral Map

Generally speaking, this writer ignores national presidential polls since we do not elect our President by the popular vote.  Instead, one must do a state-by-state analysis to determine electoral votes with 270 being the goal.  Many pundits have noted the so-called Blue Wall (ironic- Trump has to climb over that wall)- an advantage that the Democratic Party enjoys in the Electoral count.

If we look at the average margin of victory for the candidate of either party over the past four presidential cycles and exclude the states where the average margin of victory for either party was less than 5% and assign that group of states to the swing category, we find that the Democratic Party holds a 247-196 advantage in the Electoral vote count.  They only need 23 electoral votes from a pool of remaining “swing states.”  They can get all 23 in one fell swoop by taking Florida and their 29 electoral votes.  Even losing Florida leaves them more possible combinations to victory.  In short, there is a starting advantage for the Democrats.

Of course, the Republican candidate can upset that balance by taking a traditionally blue state.  Some have suggested that Trump’s best path to the White House involves flipping a blue state in the Upper Midwest.  Simply flipping Pennsylvania, for example, would still give the Democrats an advantage.  The problem with that scenario is that practically every cycle, Republicans believe they can flip Michigan or Wisconsin or especially Pennsylvania, but when the votes are counted, they run into reality.

Obviously, we are still a long way from Election Day and a lot can happen between now and then and likely will happen.  An unforeseen economic disaster or (God forbid) a terrorist attack on American soil can seriously alter the race.  Further, many states are ignored when it comes to polling in hypothetical match-ups, while other states are over-emphasized.  Either way, this cycle has taught us that polls really aren’t worth much- slightly more accurate than the punditry of supposed political experts.

Still, there are polls out there that can be used.  Using these polls (some outdated, some out-lying ones), this writer used a different method, mainly for fun, to see what the electoral map would look like.  Taking the average of polls in each state where they existed and comparing that average against the average win margin for either party over the past four presidential cycles, it looks like a completely new and strange electoral map.  For example, if Trump’s average was at or in excess of the state average, I awarded the state to him.  If it was a blue state and he was leading in the polls there, obviously he was awarded that state.

As a practical example, take Minnesota.  The average margin of Democratic victory is 6.25 points in the last four presidential elections.  Based on limited polls out of that state, Trump trails by an average of one point.  Because he is within that 6.25 threshold, the state is awarded to him.  Conversely, the average margin of Republican victory in Georgia is 10.5 points, but based on 4 polls, Trump only leads by five points.  In that case, the model awards the state to Clinton.  Although losing in available polling, the candidate is awarded the state if they are within the threshold (average margin over four presidential cycles).

What results is a totally odd looking Electoral map, but one in which Clinton still wins the Presidency.  In this case, Clinton wins 299-239.  And the map looks strange with Clinton taking Arizona, Georgia, Missouri, Indiana and North Carolina- all traditionally red states (some people put NC in the swing category; I don’t).  Conversely and even stranger, Trump takes Minnesota, Connecticut, Pennsylvania and New Jersey- all traditionally blue states.  The only swing states Trump takes are Iowa and New Hampshire with Clinton winning Ohio, Florida, Nevada, Colorado, Missouri and Virginia.

Put another way, Trump’s path to the White House would have to involve an enormous shift of the electoral map.  But there is a more ominous dimension to this hypothetical map.  Look at the states Clinton wins- Arizona, Missouri, North Carolina, Florida, Indiana, Ohio, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania.  In each of those states there is a Republican Senate seat in play for the Democrats.  Two of them (Indiana and Florida) are open seats.  In the others, there are serious Democratic candidates.  Assuming there is no ticket-splitting, not only does Clinton win the race (electoral vote-wise), but she has a Democratic Senate.

Conversely, if we use this same criteria, but run Ted Cruz against Hillary Clinton, we would not be worrying about states like Arizona, Indiana, Georgia and Missouri.  Cruz would have likely still lost to Clinton (although by a lesser Electoral vote margin), but it would look like a more traditional Electoral map likely to come down to a battle over Ohio and Florida.  Let’s face reality, despite Trump’s populist rhetoric, he is not going to win Michigan, Wisconsin or Pennsylvania.  My hypothetical model gave him Minnesota which hasn’t voted for a Republican presidential candidate since Eisenhower in 1956.

In order to NOT lose the Senate, the GOP would have to rely on ticket-splitting which involves some measure of thinking.  Given the primary results, we cannot count on people using their brains when pulling voting levers since they delivered us (well, 42% of GOP voters; less if we eliminate the dolts in the Northeast) Donald Trump.  Unless things seriously change, expect a Clinton victory in the fall and a Democratic Senate come 2017.


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