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.

A NOVA Geographer in Tampa

The 2014 annual meeting of the Association of American Geographers (AAG) offered opportunities to meet scholars from all over the world and gain new geographic insights. I attended sessions on themes ranging from “Kurdish Geopolitics” to “Human Dynamics in the Mobile Age.”

Screen shot 2014-04-20 at 11.24.21 PMOn April 10, I presented a paper, “Visualizing Geopolitics: Virginia’s Elections,” in a session titled, “Cultural Geography of the American South.” Other papers in the session dealt with Georgia, Mississippi, and New Orleans. I started with the statement, “In 2008, Virginia voted for a Democrat (Barack Obama), breaking a Republican voting pattern that began in 1968.”

My AAG paper featured graphics done for the NOVA Institute for Public Service and its blog regarding the November 2013 elections in Virginia, in which Democratic candidates swept statewide offices for Governor, Lt. Governor, and Attorney General for the first time since 1989. Democrats currently hold all five statewide offices, including both U.S. Senate seats, which has not happened since 1968.

VirginaGovElection 2013

My presentation included a map (above) of Virginia, showing election results by city and county. At first glance, it looks like Mr. Cuccinelli should have won because most of Virginia is red, but a closer look reveals that Mr. McAuliffe captured 12 of Virginia’s most populous counties and cities—versus 5 for Mr. Cuccinelli. Virginia’s largest county, Fairfax, gave Mr. McAuliffe some 68,000 more votes than his rival. Democratic votes from cities and urban counties can overwhelm the relatively small number of Republican votes from sparsely populated regions. In western and southwestern Virginia, 11 counties stretching from Highland to Lee along the Virginia border gave Ken Cuccinelli a total of only 30,770 votes.

Terry McAuliffe campaigned throughout Virginia and was elected governor by accumulating votes from:

  • urban areas—especially Northern Virginia, Hampton Roads, and Richmond
  • university campuses (he visited all 23 community colleges)
  • rural counties with high minority populations

For example, the southwestern Virginia county of Montgomery, home to Virginia Tech, gave Terry McAuliffe 10,689 votes. Rural Brunswick County in southern Virginia, which is 57% black, provided Mr. McAuliffe with 2,704 votes.

My paper’s conclusion? The Commonwealth of Virginia, once a dependable red state for Republicans, has become a purple state; one that is increasingly favorable for Democratic candidates. Some 50 attendees were at the session, and questions focused on the Senator Mark Warner’s 2014 reelection bid. I explained that geopolitical trends indicate Senator Warner’s should easily win because he is popular throughout the state — even in Republican strongholds like southwestern Virginia.

The 2014 AAG Annual Meeting was a great learning experience, and I would like to thank NOVA’s Professional Development Committee. Their grant awards program made this trip possible.