Electoral Math: Six Months Out (Part 2)

Four years ago, when I wrote about the 2012 election for Construction, I identified the number one most important statistic in presidential elections: voting intentions in swing states. That’s it. That’s the ball game. Other statistics are only relevant insofar as they feed into swing state polling.

To that end, my last post reconstructed the Blue Wall and Red Wall in order to identify the current Presidential Politics for America Purple Playing Field (or, the PPFA PPF). Through looking at the last four elections and President Obama’s margins from four years ago, I determined that we could probably count on 222 electoral votes (EVs) for the Democrats and 180 electoral votes for the Republicans, with the following states, worth 136 EVs, in play:

The Purple Playing Field: Florida (29), Pennsylvania (20), Ohio (18), North Carolina (15), Virginia (13), Indiana (11), Colorado (9), Nevada (6), Iowa (6), New Mexico (5), New Hampshire (4).

(Warning: I do say “probably count on.” Plenty of elections break recent electoral trends, and, as I mentioned on Sunday, Donald Trump is a wildcard in regards to the electoral map. The PPF can certainly expand or contract depending on developments. If it does, we’ll have to adjust accordingly.)

My task today, and about once a month until the fall, will be to take stock of the PPFs in order to see who has the edge in electoral math. It’s certainly way too early now, but at least the groundwork will be set for future breakdowns, and it can be useful to see how the numbers evolve between now and November. Thankfully, in the future, I won’t need to break it up into two parts and we’ll be able to just dive right in.

So let’s do this! It’s time for the race to 270 electoral votes. The score is 222 to 180 in favor of the blue team.

Florida (29 electoral votes)
2012: Democratic
2008: Democratic
2004: Republican
2000: Republican
Current polling average: Clinton 46.5, Trump 42.2 (Clinton +4.3) Trump narrowly led a couple polls early in the year, but Clinton has led the last three by margins of 8, 13, and 1. That “1,” however was the most recent.
Other factors: Florida is Trump’s home away from home. Opponents threw the kitchen sink at Trump in the Florida Primary, but he comfortably won and knocked out home-stater Marco Rubio. That last poll should strike fear in the hearts of Democrats. Can Miami deny Trump? It’ll be awfully hard to overcome Trump winning overwhelmingly in northern Florida.
Current edge: Trump.
Running tally (which started at 222 – 180, Democrats): 222-209

Pennsylvania (20)
2012: Democratic
2008: Democratic
2004: Democratic
2000: Democratic
Current polling average: Clinton 45.8, Trump 38.8 (Clinton +7). In the six polls dating back to Super Tuesday, Clinton has won five and they’ve tied in the other. There’s a large deviation, however. The last four polls, from earliest to most recent, show Clinton up 13, a tie, Clinton up 15, and then Clinton up 1.
Other factors: It’s the only PPF that voted in one direction in each of the last four elections (and in fact has done so in each of the last six). However, it was one of President Obama’s narrowest margins of victory four years ago, and that last poll confirms it’s in play.
Current edge: Between six straight election voting Democratic and that polling average, the current advantage goes to Clinton, though it’s by no means safe.
Running tally: 242-209, Democrats

Ohio (18)
2012: Democratic
2008: Democratic
2004: Republican
2000: Republican
Current polling average: Clinton 45.5, Trump 42.5 (Clinton +3). But check out this trend in the last four polls, from earliest to most recent: Clinton by 7, 6, 3, and then Trump by 4.
Other factors: Like Florida, Ohio voted for the winner in the last four elections. It was the deciding state in 2004, and it’s been hotly contested ever since. If we take seriously Trump’s potential strength in the Rust Belt, then this state, with Republican Governor Kasich, is shaping up red.
Current edge: Momentum is firmly with Trump.
Running tally: 242-227, Democrats

North Carolina (15)
2012: Republican
2008: Democratic
2004: Republican
2000: Republican
Current polling average: Clinton 45.8, Trump 42.5 (Clinton +3.3) Clinton has won two polls (9 and 6), Trump one (2), and a tie.
Other factors: Three Republican results in four elections, and it was one of only two Obama 2008 states to turn red in 2012. Hillary Clinton will certainly be depicted as four more years of Obama, which North Carolina has already rejected once before.
Current edge: Trump.
Running tally: 242-242!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!(!!!)

Virginia (13)
2012: Democratic
2008: Democratic
2004: Republican
2000: Republican
Current polling average: We don’t have a polling average, since only one poll has been done since the primaries began. It had Clinton up on Trump, 44-35.
Other factors: Another state that has voted for the winner in each of the last four elections, it will again be a big purple prize. The state is coming off back to back Democratic votes, and it will have the DC suburbs voting overwhelmingly for the insider.
Current edge: Clinton.
Running tally: 255-242, Democrats

Indiana (11)
2012: Republican
2008: Democratic
2004: Republican
2000: Republican
Current polling average: Trump 47.5, Clinton 40.0 (Trump +7.5).
Other factors: It only qualified for PPFA PPF status because one party did not sweep its last four elections. However, that 2008 election, when the country was caught up in Obamamania, was the only election dating back to 1968 where the state didn’t vote Republican. Let’s face it — it’s a red state. Evangelical conservative Mike Pence is its governor, for St. Peter’s sake.
Current edge: Trump easily.
Running tally: 255-253

Colorado (9)
2012: Democratic
2008: Democratic
2004: Republican
2000: Republican
Current polling average: Ew, only a November poll, but for what it’s worth, it had Trump 48, Clinton 37.
Other factors: Yet another state that votes for winners. That poll is scary for Democrats, but they shouldn’t hit the panic button until we have more data. It helps that Colorado liberals are probably way too high to panic. (But will they remember when voting day is?) The state’s growing Latino population (one-fifth of the state and growing) will certainly help Clinton, but that 11-point margin from November is too big ignore. If Clinton were within five points, I’d have given her the edge for now. Instead…
Current edge: Trump, but let’s see another poll.
Running tally: 255-262, Republicans with their first lead!

Nevada (6)
2012: Democratic
2008: Democratic
2004: Republican
2000: Republican
Current polling average: None.
Other factors: In the last season of The West Wing and the current season of Veep, it all came down to Nevada. You’ve been warned.
Current edge: Clinton. Too much labor. Too many Latinos. (Is that a Trump quote?)
Running tally: 261-262, Republicans by a nose hair! Three states left…

Iowa (6)
2012: Democratic
2008: Democratic
2004: Republican
2000: Democratic
Current polling average: Clinton 45, Trump 41, but both were January polls.
Other factors: Iowa is surprisingly Democratic, isn’t it? It didn’t even vote for Governor Bush in his first election. It even voted for Dukakis in 1988! That 2004 election was the only election in the last seven where it went red.
Current edge: Clinton
Running tally: 267-262, Democrats back on top! One state from victory with the clock ticking down. Two states remain…

New Mexico (5)
2012: Democratic
2008: Democratic
2004: Republican
2000: Democratic
Current polling average: None
Other factors: You know what they say: as Iowa goes, so goes New Mexico. For six straight elections, the two have voted the same way. New Mexico’s Latinos (now nearly half its population) should deliver the state to the Democrats.
Current edge: Clinton
Running tally: 272 – 262. Democrats win. (Worth noting is that if New Mexico goes the other way, it’d be a 267-267 tie! Leaving only tiny…)

New Hampshire (4)
2012: Democratic
2008: Democratic
2004: Democratic
2000: Republican
Current polling average: Clinton 44.8, Trump 35 (Clinton +9.8)
Other factors: Um, it’s New England? Three straight Democratic votes, and five out of six, too.
Current edge: Clinton
Running tally: 276-262.


General Thoughts

1) I’m really looking forward to seeing how these numbers change month by month, and then, after the election, to see at which point the projection was most accurate.

2) If either Pennsylvania or Virginia switch sides, Trump wins.

3) If either Iowa or Nevada switch sides, we have a razor tight 270-268 finish in favor of the Democrats. If both states switch, or if one switches sides in tandem with New Hampshire, Trump wins.

4) Want a 269-269 tie? It’s in play. You don’t even need to do something crazy like give Alabama to Clinton or Vermont to Trump, either. If we start from the blue and red wall totals of 222 to 180 and have only the PPFs in play, there are several scenarios that give us the tie. For example:

  • 1) Starting from the above projection, give Ohio to Clinton, and give Pennsylvania and New Mexico to Trump.
  • 2) Starting from the above projection, give Florida to Clinton, and give Pennsylvania, Iowa, Nevada, and New Hampshire to Trump.
  • 3) Of all the PPFs, give Clinton Florida and Ohio, but Trump the rest.
  • 4) Of all the PPFs, give Clinton Florida, Virginia, and New Mexico, Trump the rest.
  • And more!

Okay, that’s enough math for one day. Sorry about that.

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8 thoughts on “Electoral Math: Six Months Out (Part 2)

    1. Besides the strengths and weaknesses of the candidates themselves, history reveals some convincing fundamentals of a part occupying the White House for too long. With the exception of Reagan-Reagan-Bush, no party has held the White House for longer than eight years straight since FDR and Truman. Before that you’d have to back to McKinley and Teddy Roosevelt. In BOTH of those cases, the first guy died in office and the second guy was a VP who became president, giving him an opportunity to convince people to vote for him for his own term.

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