Electoral Math: Election Eve Edition

Six months out projection276-262, Clinton
Three months out: 320-218, Clinton
One month out: 272-266, Clinton
Ten days out: 333-205, Clinton
Hours later: James Comey sends a letter.

We’ll remember the morning of Friday, October 28 as “Peak Clinton.” We’ll remember everything since as “Peak Democratic Panic.” Well, everything until yesterday, that is.

In the last two weeks of this election, what many thought was a guaranteed Clinton victory has since turned into waiting to see if Trump has enough time to take the lead, and it was looking to be a photo finish. As of this morning, in a national four-way race, her average lead is down from about 7 points as of the third debate to about 2 now. In a two-way, the average lead is a scant 1.9. With 36 hours to go, the momentum was with the Republican.

Comey’s second letter will have no time to impact the polls, so it’s hard to know if Trump’s momentum will continue. My guess is that it does not, but we won’t know until ballots are cast. If Trump’s national progress does not subside, the question becomes: can the electoral map save Hillary Clinton’s campaign? We are gathered here today, on this sober occasion, to find an answer to that question.

If you’re a supporter of her, there is plenty to be scared about. Whether the national margin narrowed naturally or because of The Comey Letter, the tightening has dragged battleground states along with it. The Blue Wall has weakened, while the Red Wall has withstood the earlier losses of Arizona and Utah. Recent polls have forced Real Clear Politics, from which I get my polling data, to categorize Michigan and Maine as toss-ups. Wisconsin and Minnesota, meanwhile, are only Democratic leans… and Minnesota voted for Mondale over Reagan! Part of what gave Clinton supporters confidence over the six months of this general election was that if states that voted Democratic in the last four to six elections just voted Democratic again, all she would need was either Florida or a combination of two or three of the ten smaller battleground states to go over 270. But now, on the eve of the most unforgettable election in recent history, RCP and other outlets say those ostensibly safe Democratic states are not guaranteed.

But before Democratic readers start googling Canadian realtors, let me assure you: Minnesota will stay blue. Wisconsin will stay blue. Michigan will stay blue. RCP, out of an abundance of caution, has determined that since Clinton is not blowing Trump out in those states, they are competitive. PPFA, however, throws caution into hurricane-force winds. If you look at the polls, we’re seeing consistent leads. In the last seven weeks, she has never led one of the 12 Wisconsin polls by less than four. Gravis had an anomalous tied poll in Minnesota, but aside from that it’s leads of 6 to, most recently, 10. And in Michigan, the “toss-up,” it’s all leads of 3 to 13 dating back about 30 polls into July. Clinton might not win them by much, but she’ll win them and therefore carry all their electoral votes. Those states are not going red in this election.

But plenty of swing states might. Let’s find out which ones. Since PPFA does not predict any changes to the “walls,” we again start at 239175 with ten battleground states in play. I call those states the Presidential Politics for America Purple Playing Field (or PPFAPPF), and it has 124 electoral votes up for grabs. Here are those states and their electoral values:

The Purple Playing Field: Florida (29), Pennsylvania (20), Ohio (18), North Carolina (15), Arizona (11), Colorado (9), Utah (6), Nevada (6), Iowa (6), New Hampshire (4).

And below is a prediction of how they’ll vote on November 8, which is, you know, TOMORROW.

Florida (29 electoral votes)
2012: Democratic
2008: Democratic
2004: Republican
2000: Republican
Six Months Out polling average: Clinton 46.5, Trump 42.2 (Clinton +4.3)
Three Months Out polling average: Clinton 44.7, Trump 42 (Clinton +2.7).
One Month Out polling average: Clinton 46.6, Trump 43.4 (Clinton +3.2).
Ten Days Out polling average: Clinton 46.8, Trump 45.0 (Clinton +1.8).
Election Eve polling average: Clinton 47.7, Trump 46.8 (Clinton +0.9).
Miscellaneous: Clinton is just barely hanging on in the biggest battleground prize of the 2016 election. In the last 13 polls, Clinton leads 7, Trump 5, and the most recent one had a tie. Three of those Clinton leads were merely by a negligible point, too. One or two more polls and Trump might finally have his Florida lead. Curiously, pushing the other way was a come-from-behind victory for Democratic ballots in early voting, though the win was only by 7,000 ballots among 5.7 million returned. Trump is expected to win voting day results, and the campaign claims to be doing better with Republican ballots than Mitt Romney did four years ago in Florida and other states. President Obama won Florida by just 0.89 percent of the vote, the closest state in the election. If Trump is indeed outperforming Romney, the state is probably his.
Current edge: Too close to call. It needs more examination between now and tomorrow morning.

Pennsylvania (20)
2012: Democratic
2008: Democratic
2004: Democratic
2000: Democratic
Six Months Out polling average: Clinton 45.8, Trump 38.8 (Clinton +7.0)
Three Months out polling average: Clinton 49.3, Trump 41.3 (Clinton +8.0)
One Month out polling average: Clinton 49.0, Trump 41.5 (Clinton +7.5)
Ten Days Out polling average: Clinton 46.8, Trump 41.8 (Clinton +5)
Election Eve polling average: Clinton 46.8, Trump 44.0 (Clinton +2.8)
Miscellaneous: Here’s another disturbing trend-line for the Clinton Campaign. This one dates back to the Three Months Out post: her average leads have been 8, 7.5, 5, and now 2.8. And the most recent poll out of Pennsylvania, just like the most recent one out of Florida, has it tied. Four of the previous six polls had Clinton’s lead inside the margin of error. But still, when Trump has yet to lead any of the last 50 Pennsylvania polls, I think we can expect Clinton to hold onto a state that has gone Democratic for the last six straight elections. Trump might pilfer some working class whites, but her leads in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, including in the all-important suburbs, are probably too big to overcome.
Current edge: Clinton
Running tally: 259-175, Clinton.

Ohio (18)
2012: Democratic
2008: Democratic
2004: Republican
2000: Republican
Six Months Out polling average: Clinton 45.5, Trump 42.5 (Clinton +3)
Three Months Out polling average: Clinton 42.6, Trump 41.8 (Clinton +0.8)
One Month Out polling average: Trump 45.2, Clinton 44.0 (Trump +1.2)
Ten Days Out polling average: Trump 46.2, Clinton 45.2 (Trump +1.0)
Election Eve polling average: Trump 46.6, Clinton 45.0 (Trump +1.6)
Miscellaneous: In Ohio, where Trump was never down by that much, his late momentum looks to be enough to give him the state. Clinton’s support has leveled out while Trump’s continues to creep up. Of the last 11 Ohio polls, Clinton has only won one, and that was by a single point.
Current edge: Trump
Running tally: 259-193, Clinton.

North Carolina (15)
2012: Republican
2008: Democratic
2004: Republican
2000: Republican
Six Months Out polling average: Clinton 45.8, Trump 42.5 (Clinton +3.3)
Three Months Out polling average: Clinton 44.0, Trump 43.5 (Clinton +0.5)
One Month Out polling average: Clinton 45.0, Trump 43.7 (Clinton +1.3)
Ten Days Out polling average: Clinton 47.8, Trump 44.8 (Clinton +3)
Election Eve polling average: Trump 47.8, Clinton 46.0 (Trump +1.8)
Miscellaneous: Wow, a dramatic reversal in a state that was surprisingly trending Clinton in the first place. There was a stretch of 23 polls, from mid-September to late October, where Trump only led one poll. He has since won three of the last four, the last two by 7 and 5 points. The momentum is his. As for early voting, you’ve probably heard that Hispanic voting is up in this election (way to go, Trump) while African-American voting is down (way to go, voter ID laws and Obama only getting two terms). While that helps Clinton in New Mexico and Colorado, it hurts in states like Georgia and North Carolina. With black turnout down in North Carolina, it makes it even less likely this late polling shift is inaccurate.
Current edge: Trump
Running tally: 259-208, Clinton

Arizona (11)
2012: Republican
2008: Republican
2004: Republican
2000: Republican
Ten Days Out polling average: Clinton 43.5, Trump 42.0 (Clinton +1.5)
Election Eve polling average: Trump 47.0, Clinton 43.0 (Trump +4.0)
Miscellaneous: That didn’t last long. Trump has led the last five straight polls (by an increasing margin, to boot).
Current edge: Trump
Running tally: 259-219, Clinton

Colorado (9)
2012: Democratic
2008: Democratic
2004: Republican
2000: Republican
Six Months Out polling average: We had no relevant polling (only a November one).
Three Months Out polling average: Clinton 45.0, Trump 35.5 (Clinton +9.5).
One Month Out polling average: Clinton 44.3, Trump 40.8 (Clinton +3.5)
Ten Days Out polling average: Clinton 45.8, Trump 39.0 (Clinton +6.8)
Election Eve polling average: Clinton 44.0, Trump 41.0 (Clinton +3.0)
Miscellaneous: Not a good ten days for Clinton here, either. After 11 straight polling wins for Clinton since early October, Trump pulled even with a tied Gravis poll last week. Two other polls counted in the RCP average only had Clinton up one. Early voting Republican ballots also stormed back into a near tie. This state is a lot closer than we expected during the summer, when Clinton sported a commanding lead. However, thanks to the Latino surge, a state like Colorado, which is 15 percent Latino, should help Clinton hold onto her 3-point polling lead.
Current edge: Clinton
Running tally: 268-219, Clinton

Utah (6)
2012: Republican
2008: Republican
2004: Republican
2000: Republican
Ten Days Out polling average
: Trump 31, McMullin(!) 25.2, Clinton 25.2 (Trump  +5.8)
Election Eve polling average: Trump 37.4, Clinton 27, McMullin 25.0 (Trump +10.3)
: It was fun while it lasted.
Current edge
: Trump
Running tally: 268-225, Clinton, but she’s having trouble putting Trump away.

Iowa (6)
2012: Democratic
2008: Democratic
2004: Republican
2000: Democratic
Six Months Out polling average: Clinton 45, Trump 41 (Clinton +4)
Three Months Out polling average: Clinton 41.3, Trump 40.8 (Clinton +0.5)
One Month Out polling average: Trump 45.3, Clinton 40.5 (Trump +4.8)
Ten Days Out polling average: Trump 44.0, Clinton 42.3 (Trump +1.7)
Election Eve polling average: Trump 44.3, Clinton 41.3 (Trump +3.0)
Miscellaneous: I’m proud to have called this state for Trump three months ago (and ever since) even while Clinton held a lead. I cannot say, however, that I’m proud of Iowans.
Current edge: Trump
Running tally: 268-231, Clinton. Here’s a good time to remind you that I didn’t call Florida. If Trump wins that coin toss of a state, right now it’s 268-260 with two states remaining.

Nevada (6)
2012: Democratic
2008: Democratic
2004: Republican
2000: Republican
Six Months Out polling average: None.
Three Months Out polling average: Clinton 43.0, Trump 40.7 (Clinton +2.3)
One Month Out polling average: Clinton 44.2, Trump 43.0 (Clinton +1.2)
Ten Days Out polling average: Clinton 45.8, Trump 43.8 (Clinton +2)
Election Eve polling average: Trump 46.5, Clinton 44.5 (Trump +2)
Miscellaneous: In ten days, Clinton’s 2-point lead flipped to Trump. In the four polls used to calculate their averages, Clinton led the first by 2, then there are two Trump leads of 6 and 4, and then a tie. Trump seems to have the momentum and edge here, but early ballot reporting and the pop in Latino voting might negate his advantage.
Current edge: Too close to call. Needs further examination.
Running tally: Still 268-231, Clinton, with one state remaining.

New Hampshire (4)
2012: Democratic
2008: Democratic
2004: Democratic
2000: Republican
Six Months Out polling average: Clinton 44.8, Trump 35 (Clinton +9.8)
Three Months Out polling average: Clinton 45.0, Trump 38.0 (Clinton +7)
One Month Out polling average: Clinton 45.0, Trump 39.8 (Clinton +5.2)
Ten Days Out polling average: Clinton 45.0, Trump 38.8 (Clinton +6.2)
Election Eve polling average: Trump 44.4, Clinton 42.4 (Trump +2.0)
Other factors: Say WHAT?! I just had to re-check my link to make sure I wasn’t still on Iowa or Nevada or something. Trump has turned a 6.2-point deficit from ten days ago into a 2-point advantage today. Clinton never trailed a New Hampshire poll before The Comey Letter. In the five polls since, however, Trump has led four of them (leads of 5, 2, 2, and 1) with a tie in the other. Bernie Sanders should have been parked in the Granite State for the last week just to protect it, but alas. There has been no early voting in New Hampshire to give Clinton a lead to protect on voting day itself.
Current edge: Trump
Running tally: 268-235, Clinton. Neither gets to 270 without Florida and Nevada.

General Thoughts

1) Here’s a pretty good place to link to my “What If It’s a Tie?” piece. It could happen. In the above scenario, I had given Trump the electoral vote from Maine’s Second Congressional District, but it’s close and could easily go to Clinton. That would give her 269. Then we give Florida and Nevada to Trump. The combined 35 electoral votes get him to 269, too. Boom. Tie.

2) “But what if the polls are wrong?” Many outlets are still predicting a comfortable Clinton victory, but Trump supporters insist the polls are wrong or unfairly skewed in some way. And they just might be. I do want to remind everyone, however, that the same charges were made by Romney supporters four years ago, but it was Obama who ended up doing a bit better in the actual results compared to the polls. Still, I’ll answer the question. What if the polls are wrong? Well, Trump might win, I guess. Or Clinton might win by a landslide. But polls have been pretty good at predicting national winners for some time now.

3) Trump’s path to victory: if he starts at 175 and we give him Florida, Ohio, North Carolina, Arizona, Utah, Iowa, Nevada, and New Hampshire, he gets to exactly 270. That’s his path. If he loses any of those states, he needs to make it up elsewhere. (Most likely candidates: Pennsylvania, Colorado, Michigan.) In other words, he needs to run the table on his winnable states or earn a surprise somewhere else. Clinton’s path, by contrast, is much, much easier. She just needs to win one of those toss-up states while not losing states that are leaning toward her. It’s very likely that she does that.

I therefore see Pennsylvania as the state to keep an eye on. If Trump steals a surprise 20 electoral votes, Clinton would then need to win Florida or two to four other states where I’ve given Trump the edge.

4) Finally, though I’ll want to save most of this for tomorrow’s election night preview, here’s an appetizer:

  • East coast results will set the table. If we see Clinton on her way to winning Pennsylvania and Florida by 9:00 EST, she’s your president-elect. If Trump is winning both, we know that the polls indeed missed Trump’s movement, and Trump is your president-elect, particularly if he’s up in Ohio and North Carolina, too.
  • If Clinton leads Pennsylvania and Trump Florida, we start taking a closer look at Ohio, North Carolina, Iowa, and New Hampshire.
  • If Trump wins Florida and the rest of my predictions hold, Nevada will determine the president of the United States some time after midnight. I tried to warn you of this scenario at the Six Months Out mark, mostly because The West Wing and Veep tried to warn us about it before that.

See you tomorrow for more on election night’s timetable, including my Florida and Nevada calls. (And maybe a reversal elsewhere, if new information presents itself.) It’s almost here!


4 thoughts on “Electoral Math: Election Eve Edition”

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