A Month Before the Election!

October 8 is already here, where does the time go! Time to update the map. The electoral geography shown on the map (below) is built on the same premises as my last prediction on August 29—large turnout, disciplined Clinton campaign, chaotic Trump campaign, media surprises, and close polls. Polls will continue to roller coaster, based on the latest actual or perceived scandals rocking the Clinton or Trump campaigns.

The electoral map the morning after Election Day.
The electoral map the morning after Election Day.

This map does not feature any swing states, and it is largely based on recent voting trends—and not so much on erratic and subjective polls. A key factor is an anticipated voter surge that we have not seen since 2008.

Based on this map, Hillary Clinton should win with 369 electoral votes, versus some 169 for Donald Trump. If this is correct, then Clinton will get almost 100 more electoral votes than the 270 needed to become President and 200 more electoral votes than Trump.

On August 29, I explained why Virginia, North Carolina, Florida, Ohio, and Nebraska’s 2nd Congressional district would go for Clinton. However, it looks increasingly likely that Missouri and Indiana could go blue also.

MISSOURI. This state could possibly go to Clinton. Why?

Recent statewide votes in Missouri.
Recent statewide votes in Missouri.

INDIANA. This state could also go blue. Why?

Recent statewide votes in Indiana.
Recent statewide votes in Indiana.

Other purported swing states, like Arizona and Georgia, should stay in the Republican column, even with their large minority populations. Democrats have not won statewide in these states in recent years. It is unlikely that the Clinton campaign could convert solid red states, even if the Trump campaign collapses, because of intense conservative propaganda concerning her (and Bill Clinton’s) actual or perceived sins. In essence, Republican sinners are redeemable, whereas Democrats are not.

Of course, a large win for Clinton in November will not end the controversy, and partisan attacks will continue as Republicans look to 2018 and 2020, following the pattern after Obama’s election in 2008. Speaking of 2018, Virginia may have a large part to play in Democratic majority in the U.S. Senate. A Clinton-Kaine win in November will require Virginia Governor McAuiliffe to appoint a successor to Senator Tim Kaine. The odds on favorite seems to be Representative Bobby Scott.

Does Geography Favor Clinton or Trump?

Candles cast light on election.
Candles cast light on election.

In honor of my son’s birthday and before things get too busy at college, I thought to put down a few words—and a map—predicting the presidential election on November 8. These humble predictions are built on a few premises:

  • Voter turnout will be high, averaging 60% or more of eligible voters.
  • The Clinton campaign maintains discipline and resolves computer vulnerabilities. With two successful senatorial campaigns under her belt, she presides over a fourth presidential campaign.
  • The Trump campaign continues its chaotic rampage, alienating key states and ethnic groups. He is a political novice, which appeals to those who despise the “political elite” but is disastrous in a presidential campaign.
  • The media should harass both candidates relentlessly (in their ad revenue race).
  • The polls paint a roller-coaster race, so pollsters can make money (plus polls are increasingly partisan and inaccurate).
States likely to vote for Clinton and Trump on November 8, 2016.
States likely to vote for Clinton and Trump on November 8, 2016.

The electoral geography currently favors Clinton, and she should win with at least 348 electoral votes, versus some 140 for Trump. A candidate needs 270 electoral votes to become U.S. President. A brief analysis of key states on the map:

Virginia. Details on why Virginia will go to Clinton can be found in my recent blog, Is Virginia a Swing State?

Florida. Trump has managed to offend the 3.2 million African Americans and 4.8 million Hispanics in the state. Even Cuban Americans, who normally vote Republican, will likely defect. Clinton has 33 more field offices in Florida than Trump. Independent voters should align with the larger Democratic electorate to win Florida for Clinton.

Ohio. At this time, Republican Governor John Kasich does not endorse Trump, meaning a divided GOP in Ohio. With some 35 field offices in the state, Clinton has more than twice the number of Trump offices.  Clinton won her primary in Ohio, but Trump lost to Kasich. All this adds to the likelihood that Clinton will garner the state, as Obama did in 2008 and 2012.

NorthCarolina BathroomCaptionNorth Carolina. Republican Governor Pat McCrory, deeply unpopular due to the “bathroom bill,” is in a close race for reelection; also, a federal appeals court overturned a new voter ID law. Dismissal of the voter ID law would help Democrats get more votes and a larger victory margin. Another close race pits Republican incumbent Senator Burr against Democratic challenger, Deborah Ross, which could determine control of the U.S. Senate. Currently, Clinton has 26 field offices in North Carolina to Trump’s 1 office.

Nebraska’s 2nd Congressional District. Clinton should earn one electoral vote from Omaha, with its large minority population, as outlined in Electoral Geography 2016. The Oracle of Omaha, Warren Buffett, is a key Clinton supporter.


States Too Close to Call (Swing States)

A generic Republican candidate would win the states below, but Donald Trump is a decidedly unconventional candidate and his campaign’s missteps could cost him a number of previously red states, as shown on the map.

Missouri. This state is a target for the Clinton campaign, as it has a history of electing Democrats statewide. The Obama campaign lost Missouri in 2008 by only 4,000 votes. Clinton’s running mate, Senator Tim Kaine, grew up in Missouri, and the state could be won with a large turnout in urban areas; however, this is where Rush Limbaugh country meets Ferguson and #BlackLivesMatter. Democratic Governor Jay Nixon is popular, but neighboring Kansas Republican Governor Sam Brownback is the most unpopular governor in the nation due to conservative policies adversely affecting the Kansas economy–this will likely sway voters in Kansas City and western Missouri.

Montana. Obama lost this state by some 10,000 votes in 2008. Democratic Governor Steve Bullock is highly popular and is running for reelection. Clinton’s campaign organization and endorsements in the state are impressive, whereas Trump seems to be taking Montana for granted.

Indiana. Trump’s running mate, Indiana Governor Mike Pence, could help keep this a red state; however, Democrat Evan Bayh is leading in the Senate race. In addition, the governor’s race is tight, meaning voter turnout should be high, which favors Democrats. Obama won this state in 2008 but lost it in 2012, when turnout was lower.

Arizona and Georgia should stay in the Republican column, even with their large minority populations, but polls show that the race is close in both states.

It’s All About Geography

From a geopolitical point of view, Hillary Clinton will likely achieve an electoral landslide, based on past presidential votes, statewide votes, campaign experience in critical states, and the strategic distribution of field offices. National polls, state polls, pundits, and partisan politics may portray this as a close election, but it should be a blue wave.

Electoral Geography 2016

Came across an article, “The Map: 11 Angles on the Electoral College,” on Sabato’s Crystal Ball site. As a geographer at Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA), I love titles like this. I eagerly read Sabato’s 2016 predictions, which included several major points:

  1. In the 4 presidential elections from 2000 to 2012, only 10 of 50 states changed their electoral vote: Colorado, Florida, Indiana, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, and Virginia.
  2. Practically speaking, the GOP doesn’t have a path to victory without Florida and Ohio.
  3. Could Wisconsin go Republican if Scott Walker were the 2016 nominee? The article points out that Walker’s mid-term victories in 2010 and 2014, and recall election in 2012, averaged a 55% voter turnout. The state’s presidential turnout in 2012 was 73%, which means Walker would face a much larger and more Democratic electorate in his state.
  4. It would be hard for the Republicans to win the White House without Virginia, which is seen as a toss-up state.
Map 1. Predictions according to Larry Sabato, University of Virginia
Map 1. Predictions according to Larry Sabato, University of Virginia

Virginia’s Color on Sabato’s Map

Is Virginia really a “Toss-up” state? Probably not, based on recent elections:

  • Republicans have not won a statewide office since 2009, in both low and high turnout elections.
  • Virginia’s Governor, Lt. Governor, Attorney General, and both U.S. Senators are all Democrats. Republicans do not hold a statewide office.
  • The Republican U.S. Senate wave in 2014 did not unseat Democratic Senator Mark Warner, despite a low 41% voter turnout (compared to 73% for a presidential election) and Republican-passed voter restrictions.
  • Maps of electoral geography show that Virginia is favorable to Democrats, as is Fairfax County, Virginia’s most populous county.

For these reasons, it seems that Virginia leans to Democrats and should be a “Leans D” blue on Sabato’s map (see Map 1 above).

In essence, Virginia has transitioned from a Toss-up to a Democratic state, albeit a fragile one. West Virginia has made the reverse transformation since 2000, going from a dependably Democratic state to a reliably Republican one.

A Small Part of Nebraska Leaning to Democrats?

Only Nebraska and Maine can split their electoral votes. I would add Nebraska to electoral vote “Toss-ups” in Sabato’s map (see Map 1 above), because one of its 2008 electoral votes went to Obama. The 2nd Congressional District (Omaha) is increasingly Democratic, despite alleged Republican gerrymandering in 2011.

In 2014, Democrat Brad Ashford defeated the Republican incumbent, Lee Terry, who held the 2nd District for 16 years. This indicates that the single electoral vote for Nebraska’s 2nd District (NE-2) could again swing to Democrats in 2016. I would think that the NE-2 box should be a toss-up yellow—instead of the “Likely R” red that is presently on the map.

A Difficult Republican Path to the Presidency

By adding Nebraska’s 1 electoral vote (NE-2) to the Toss-up category and Virginia’s 13 electoral votes to Democrats, new totals for Sabato’s map would be:

     Democrats: 260; Toss-ups: 73; Republicans: 205

Republicans will need to focus on Florida and Ohio. The Republican National Convention in Ohio reflects a Midwest strategy. The Democratic National Convention is in Pennsylvania, which Republicans see as a potential swing state in 2016, yet it has not voted for a GOP presidential candidate since 1988.

I have drawn up a map (see Map 2 below) that (I humbly think) accurately illustrates the narrow path to victory for Republican candidates. On this map, the GOP needs to capture all 6 toss-up states to get above 270 electoral votes (the winning magic number). Democrats, on the other hand, only have to take 1 or 2 toss-up states to win.

Map 2. Predictions based on changes to Virginia & Nebraska.
Map 2. Predictions based on changes to Virginia & Nebraska.