I agree with Jonathan Last’s assessment that, in the modern age, we are unlikely to see another Presidential win by more than 7 points, provided that both the Republican and Democrat are relatively standard fare and don’t become embroiled in some sort of especially egregious scandal after their nominating convention.
I would go a step further and posit that a 10 point victory is about the maximum we will probably see in our lifetimes no matter what; the two sides are so entrenched now and both have such a dedicated echo chamber machine that is designed to enforce party conformity among their own voters that it’s difficult to see a 1984-style blowout ever happening again, even in the face of a truly spectacular failure of a campaign. I say that because it looks like the race right now is shaping up to be about a 10-point victory for Hillary, and Trump has been about the worst candidate imaginable since the convention.
Here is the proof. There’s been a new wave of swing state polling that’s come out in the last 24 hours that is consistent with Trump underperforming Romney by at least 7-8 points, including:
- This Monmouth poll showing Trump losing Florida by 9 (Trump had been overperforming in Florida relative to the rest of the nation);
- The Washington Post poll showing Trump losing Virginia by 7 (which is actually much more bullish on Trump’s chances in Virginia than most other polls);
- The YouGov poll showing Trump losing New Hampshire by 9 over the weekend (again, better than some other results).
In addition to the swing state polls, there is a significant amount of evidence that Trump may be hemorrhaging support in deep red states at a rate far worse than he is in swing states – in other words, Trump may drastically underperform Romney (by more than 7 points) in states he nonetheless wins. For example:
- Trump continues to struggle in Texas, holding a 6-8 point lead in a state that Romney won by 16 points.
- Trump is trailing North Carolina by 9, a state that Romney won by 2.
- Not to beat a dead horse, but Trump is also hemorrhaging massive amounts of the Mormon vote, which could severely affect his performance in (among other states) Utah, Nevada, and Idaho.
Not only this, there is no evidence that Trump is showing surprising strength in any particular state that Obama carried in 2012.
- Trump is trailing in Michigan by 11 points – Obama won this state by 9.
- He has fallen behind by double digits in Pennsylvania – Obama won this state by 5.
- The evidence would suggest that Trump is also likely to lose New York and California by similar margins to what Romney did.
You add all this up and it looks a lot like Trump is trailing Clinton by 10-11 points. I think – and I stress here that nothing involving Trump would surprise me anymore so this could be totally wrong – but I think that this is about as far as Clinton can push the needle, polling wise. I assume that most people are pretty much baked in on where they are with Trump right now, and that he’s probably hit his floor.
If that’s true, what would the electoral map look like? Well, surprisingly, not much different from how it did in 2012, in terms of actual states won/lost. North Carolina would flip back to the Dems. Georgia would become a pure toss up. Trump loses one of Nebraska’s electoral votes. Missouri and Arizona would likewise become toss ups. And that’s about it. So the grand effect of losing by 10 points instead of by 3, from Trump’s perspective, would not be very much in terms of what happens at the electoral college.
The reality of the current electoral map is that a 3% popular vote loss by the Republican pretty much puts all the swing states into the Democrat column already. The electoral college calculus has shifted from what it was in 2000 to the point where now, a Republican win by less than a full per cent would result in an electoral college win for the Democrats. So when a Republican loses at all, the dominoes start to fall fast. And all the other states that are in the Republican column are so thoroughly red that it’s difficult to flip them.
People talk about Trump suffering a 40-state loss, and I just don’t see it happening. Assume that Clinton wins all the states Obama carried, plus the ones I just mentioned, plus Indiana and for good measure. That puts her at 34. In order to flip the next wave of states (Mississippi, Montana, South Carolina), she probably needs to win by at least 15 or 16, and that still puts her short of 40. To get to that number (by flipping, say, Texas, Tennessee and Alaska) I think she needs to get to 17 or 18 points ahead and I don’t really see that happening.
On the other hand, of course, while losing by 10 isn’t all that much worse than losing by 3 from an electoral college perspective, it would likely have a disastrous effect on House and Senate races, most of which aren’t even in the public eye yet. As Democrats charge down the stretch, if Trump remains down by 10 or more, expect them to tie every Republican up for election to Trump, to probable great effect.
This is the new historic election. It’s not as dramatic as the old kind in terms of sheer numbers, but the long term effects will be just as serious.