Trump v Hillary: The Electoral College

Lurking in the background of the Republican primary contests is the contention, contained in the Real Clear Politicspolling averages, that John Kasich (+7%), Marco Rubio (+4%), and perhaps Ted Cruz (+1%) would defeat Hillary Clinton while Donald Trump (-6%) would not. Throw out that piece of conventional wisdom. Three perspectives:

1. National polling is meaningless in presidential elections; it is the electoral college which counts. Democrats run up huge margins in the Northeast and West Coast states with inner city machines delivering 80% + majorities; Republicans are more evenly distributed around the country. That is why Democratic candidates for the House get more votes than Republicans, but the number of House members is not even close. It is also why Democrats would like to eliminate the Electoral College and go to direct election of the president – perhaps philosophically a good idea; definitely a good idea for Democrats; ain’t gonna happen.

2. Recent history has conceded 17 states (and 217 electoral college votes) to the Democratic candidate and 23 states (and 191 electoral college votes) to the Republican candidate with the presidential election (requiring 270 electoral votes) being fought out for the 130 electoral votes in the 10 “battleground” states –  Colorado (9); Florida (29); Iowa (6); Nevada (6); New Hampshire (4); North Carolina (4); Ohio (18) ; Pennsylvania (20); and Virginia (13). The central question is whether Hillary or a Republican would bring the most energized voter base in these 10 states; whether the demographic which fits the Donald Trump voter is significantly present in these states (as opposed to the Hillary demographic); and whether the turnout in those states which have already had their primaries can shed any light on the question.

Each state has its own story – with Florida and Ohio having “favorite sons”, and many having US Senate and governor races which will help to drive turnout, but in general, Republicans should take heart from the fact that voting in Republican primaries is up substantially from 2008 (the last year when both parties had contests) while Democratic participation is down substantially. Virginia (where the government bureaucrats and lobbyists have reason to be fearful) is a good example – in primaries won by Trump and Hillary, the Republican turnout of 1,025,000 was up 109%; the Democratic turnout of 784,000 was down 20%.

In looking at the delegate counts on the Democratic side, it is telling that Hillary sweeps the South where African Americans dominate the party, but the states are secure for Republicans in the general election. Conversely, her weakness in the industrial Midwest represents Republican opportunity.

3. The follow-up question becomes whether either can expand the playing field – either because their constituency is disproportionately present in a state generally favoring the other party, or because they are repellent to a significant number of voters in a state that generally favors their party. The extremes don’t matter – if Hillary could carry Texas or Trump could carry California they wouldn’t need them – so there are just a handful of states to think about: perhaps Georgia (16), Louisiana (8), and Missouri (10) being vulnerable on the Republican side, and Maine (4), Michigan (16), and New Mexico (5) being vulnerable on the Democratic side.

Perhaps the most noteworthy is Michigan where most of the discussion was about Bernie Sanders upsetting Hillary despite polling about 20% behind. More encouraging for Republicans, they got 54% of the vote in a “blue” state with plenty of the angry middle class white voters that are fueling the Trump and Sanders campaigns. Illinois is probably “a bridge too far”, but this augurs well for places like Indiana, Iowa, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.

There is a lot that could scramble the polling between now and November – Trump could do something stupid (what’s that you say?); FBI Director Richard Comey could ask Attorney General Loretta Lynch to indict her party’s candidate; the economy could hit a bump (like 2008?); terrorists may have a big success; sanity and civility may return to Mayville. Except for the first, these are all unknowns. However, betting around the water cooler should not assume that the evidence so far supports the risk of a third Obama term, no matter who the Republicans nominate.


This week’s video is an explanation by the Senate Majority Leader on his refusal to consider Judge Merrick Garland for the Supreme Court to replace conservative icon Antonin Scalia. As Republicans decide whether to defect if they do not like their presidential nominee, this controversy will help to hold people in line.

www.RightinSanFrancisco.com – 3/18/2016