Sunday, November 6, 2016

Trump v. Clinton - The Official Election Projection

It's finally over. Well, almost. In fewer than 36 hours, we will likely know the winner of the 2016 Presidential election. Barring some wild, unforeseen circumstance, Hillary Clinton will likely emerge as the President-Elect and the first woman to become Commander -in-Chief. It will not be the blowout that it would have been had the election been held two weeks ago. At that point, Secretary Clinton had a six or seven point lead and was tied or even leading in some states that are now leaning towards Trump such as Arizona, Iowa, and Ohio.  

The headline, of course, is that Clinton will win, but she will likely do so without a majority of the popular vote. It's possible, of course, that Secretary Clinton could over perform via her massive get-out-the-vote operation and inch just above 50%, but it's more probable that no candidate will reach that magic number, largely due to the presence of multiple third party candidates running this year.  

Of course, Presidential elections are not won or lost, necessarily, in the popular vote. So is Mrs. Clinton's popular vote lead secure enough to win 270 electoral votes? In short, yes. The map below shows Battleground270's 50-state electoral projection. 

This map is good for 322 electoral votes for Secretary Clinton, which is 52 more than she needs to win. Therefore, she could lose three of the four next closest states in her column (North Carolina, Florida, Nevada, and New Hampshire), and still come away with the win. Speaking of the individual states, let's take a look at which states we project Clinton to win on Tuesday.

The closest state (for either candidate) will probably be North Carolina. The Tar Heel State will represent the only Romney state to go for Clinton, but that should not be terribly surprising, as it's electorate has gotten more racially diverse and more highly educated, even in just the past four years. Mitt Romney won North Carolina by about 2% in 2012, but it'll go to Clinton with Trump at the top of the GOP ballot.

Florida will also be a relatively close state, though it will not be the closest state, as it was in 2012. Current polls show a dead heat in Florida. Therefore, Clinton's historic ground game (and Trump's complete lack of one) is going to make all the difference.  

Both Nevada and New Hampshire are two states that have tightened a bit in the past couple weeks, and recent polls show both of them as ties. In Nevada, polls are almost always off in the state, and early voting numbers have shown that it will be nearly impossible for Trump to catch up on election day, as greater than 70% of the vote will have already been cast by Monday night. New Hampshire does not allow early voting, but it is a highly elastic state, meaning that it swings as the overall popular vote does. With Clinton's polls rebounding in recent days, it's probable that her lead in New Hampshire will do the same.  

The remaining blue states make up Clinton's so-called firewall, or "blue wall", as some commentators have dubbed it. While there's a lot of talk of Donald Trump picking off the rustbelt states such as Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, or even Minnesota , that's not likely to happen. He has not led in a single credible poll in any of those states since his convention. Some of those he has never led in. They will safely go to Hillary Clinton.

Moving on to the 'Trump states', we'll start with Ohio. Yes, it's looking as if Trump may just win Ohio, though it will be by less than 1% (just like North Carolina for Mrs. Clinton). While some people like to equate Ohio and Pennsylvania, Ohio has a very different electorate. Racially, they are basically identical, with the electorate being 84% white. However, Ohio has more evangelical Christians, fewer registered Democrats, and more voters without a college degree. Further, Ohio is one of the states that has been hardest hit by trade deals such as NAFTA. Polls currently show Trump with a 2-3% lead, but we're projecting Clinton's massive ground game to make up about half of that deficit.

Arizona is a state that Secretary Clinton likely would have won if the election was two weeks ago. Polls then had her either tied or up by a couple points over Donald Trump. However, she's since lost that lead, and even massive latino turnout is unlikely to put Arizona in the 'win' column for Mrs. Clinton.  

The state that represents the largest electoral shift from 2012 is Iowa. President Obama won Iowa then by about 6%, but Trump will likely win it this year by about 3%, representing a 9% swing. Iowa's electorate is tailor-made for Trump : heavily white, working class voters without a college degree. 

Like Arizona, Georgia was trending in Hillary Clinton's direction before the Comey letter was sent to Congress 10 days ago. While it was not likely she would win it at that point, Clinton could have finished within a point or two of Mr. Trump. Now , however, it's out of reach for her campaign.  

The final state we'll discuss is Alaska. Some may be surprised that it is this far down on Trump's list, and it's very possible that Donald Trump will win the state by double digits. Polling in Alaska is historically unreliable, but the polling we do have shows Trump with a lead somewhere between three and eight points. The 'X-factor' is Gary Johnson. Alaska is a very libertarian-esque state, and Gov. Johnson has hit double digits in some polls. If he gets upwards of 15% of the vote on election day, Clinton could squeak out a win. If he's under 10%, Trump will win.

You may be wondering how I've come up with these projections; .. In short, I use a mix of data and subjective analysis The polls almost certainly will not be 100% correct In most polls, close to 10% of voters remain undecided . It could be that those voters stay home on election day, or they may all vote for one candidate. I've tried to use historic and short-term trends as well as demographic make-ups and voting patterns in order to accurately predict where I think each state will end up. After all, in 2012, I called all states but Florida correctly, and that one was only off by less that 1%. I'm excited to see how close it'll be this time.

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