End of the Line

End of the Line

Final Prediction:

Clinton: 341 electoral votes
Trump: 197 electoral votes
Third parties, Independents: no electoral votes
States switching to Republican: Iowa
States switching to Democrat: North Carolina
Senate: Republicans, 51; Democrats, 47; 2 Independents (Net, +3 Democrats)
Seats switching to Democrats: Pennsylvania, Indiana, Wisconsin, Illinois
Seats switching to Republicans: Nevada
House: Republicans, 235; Democrats, 200 (Net, +13 Democrats)

First and foremost, this is not a unique or new methodology. I largely copied Henry Olsen’s from the eve of the 2012 general election as I felt his was the most effective at extrapolating results from the demographics of that year. I further took my findings from the presidential race and expanded the results to figure out the contested House and Senate races. 

Here’s what the polling shows. Donald Trump never had a chance. Whether we like it or not, race is the most predictive factor in determining partisan affiliation, and partisan affiliation determines the vote, period. Where there are more white Republican voters, Trump will win. Where there are more non-white voters, he will lose, and Hillary Clinton will win.

Essentially, Trump will lose most swing states because they’re swing states. Decades ago, they were whiter and more open to Republicans, but they all remained swing states due to increasing populations of non-white voters. In fact most of them haven’t swung right since 2004, when a Republican incumbent president was on the ballot. In the polls, Trump consistently hovers between 49% and 52% of white vote and 15% to 20% of the nonwhite vote. Clinton, on the other hand, hovers between 33% and 40% of the white vote and anywhere from 69% to 85% of the white vote. That is lower than Obama in 2012 and he landed around the high mark of 79% in the election.  So Trump is underperforming with both whites and nonwhites relative to Mitt Romney in 2012, but, in this election of attrition, Hillary Clinton also underperforms relative to Obama. That surely won’t be enough to net Trump the popular vote but elections are decided by the electoral college. His only hope is that Clinton significantly underperforms relative to Obama in 2012 in Nevada and Pennsylvania. Clinton could lose everywhere else but if she were to hang onto both of them, she would win with 274 electoral votes. 

The thought process leading up to the final month before voting started in October stressed Trump’s strength among white men, which has been weaker than Mitt Romney, and Hillary Clinton’s weakness with blue-collar voters, and millennials. But Hillary’s secret weapon was always women. Her opponent is Donald Trump, so it wasn’t even a question of which way women would vote in 2016; it was only a question of magnitude. As of the weekend before election day, women are coming through in record numbers, on average 55% for Hillary Clinton to 35% for Donald Trump -  which would secure Colorado, Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. Combined with reliably blue states, that is 268 electoral votes. The polls tightened significantly in New Hampshire in the final days, but it remains to be seen if Trump translates that into success on election day since the Live Free or Die State does not have early voting. As of Sunday, November 5, all of Trump’s paths to 270 go through the Granite State. I project that he won’t win it, though. White women are key bulwark for Democrats’ hopes in New Hampshire and will help keep it blue in 2016. 

Trump’s fortune declines even more precipitously because any strength with white voters is entirely offset by inordinate weakness with non-white voters, often key voting groups in swing states. Latinos appear to be on the verge of rejecting the Republican nominee 19% to 67%, taking Nevada out of contention, as evidenced by the early vote, and hurting Trump in Florida. Trump does the worst with African-American voters, 7%. Trump’s strength with older white voters has helped keep Iowa and Ohio close, but the campaign lacks the infrastructure to capitalize on his standing, even as negative press consumed the Clinton campaign. Here, the old adage applies heavily: turnout is key. If Trump’s white majority turns out in Iowa, Ohio, Florida, and North Carolina, he could win them all. Likewise, if Clinton’s campaign boosts turnout among African-Americans, millennials, and Latinos, she would triumph. Trump’s lead looks the strongest in Iowa, so I assume now that he’ll neck it out. Clinton has targeted Ohio and North Carolina, and the early vote is bearing this out. I’m giving Iowa to Trump, but Ohio, Florida, and North Carolina to Clinton. Trump’s collapse in the final three weeks of the election brought Arizona close to the line but Clinton’s ensuing drama helps keep the state in Trump’s column. It will be at least another election cycle until Arizona, Georgia, and Texas hue blue. 

Prepare for a landslide: 341 electoral votes for Clinton to Trump’s sub-200 result of 197. Trump also loses a state Romney carried in 2012, North Carolina, and Clinton loses a state Obama carried, Iowa. 

Despite Clinton’s impending landslide victory, down-ballot Republicans are doing surprisingly well. This is why Democratic operatives were literally screaming at her for continuously letting Republicans off the hook when it came to their support of Trump. 

Senate incumbents, all elected in the TEA Party election of 2010, were always poised for the greatest challenge of their careers in 2016. Sure enough, one talented upstart, Wisconsin’s Ron Johnson, will succumb to the man he beat that year, former Senator Russ Feingold. Another retread, former Senator-turned-lobbyist Evan Bayh will beat Rep. Todd Young in Indiana despite the home state governor running as the Republican vice presidential nominee. This was masterful recruiting from Hoosier Democrats, shamelessly political, but masterful. Pat Toomey was teetering on the brink in true toss-up status. Trump has come just short of ordering his devotees to punish disloyal lawmakers, which could have turned them against Toomey in western Pennsylvania, but Trump’s revolting nature has suburban voters poised to stay home, which could help or hurt either Senate candidate depending on which way they lean. In the final stretch, McGinty is pulling out a lead so it’s looking like curtains for Pat Toomey. 

Beyond that, though, many incumbent Senate Republicans managed to run ahead of the presidential nominee throughout most of 2016 and most will earn reelection despite Trump’s struggles. Senators Rob Portman, Chuck Grassley, Roy Blunt, Richard Burr, John McCain, and Marco Rubio will be reelected thanks to their high name recognition and campaigns that broke away from the Trump-Clinton circus. Senator Kelly Ayotte was another that teetered on the brink, but the fact that she remains in the mix is a sign of strength heading into election day. Republican recruit Joe Heck made a valiant effort to secure Nevada and managed to avoid enough fallout from the Trump collapse, bringing the Senate seat held by detestable political animal Harry Reid to the Republicans. Ticket-splitters figure heavily into Ayotte, Portman, and Rubio’s victories as well. Expect the Republicans to hold onto control of the Senate by one seat, 51 to 47, with two Independents that caucus with the Democrats. 

As for the House, the Speaker was right to worry that every percentage point Trump drops takes a few more competitive races into the Democrats’ column. But this analysis/prediction does not assume that Clinton winning a state’s electoral votes gives Democrats victories in all of the state’s contested races. It depends on the individual district, whether or not an incumbent is running, and how well the candidates appeal to the swing voters of the district. In fact, this helps Republicans since the enthusiasm gap was always in their favor. Democrats focused so heavily on the presidential race that it took attention and resources away from their down-ballot candidates. In many of the contested races, Republicans will win tough races against lesser-known, less-talented challengers. Only in Illinois, Nevada, New Hampshire, New York, and New Jersey will they succumb to Democrats running on Hillary Clinton’s coattails. The pickup is only going to be between 10 and 18 seats.

So we are due for more divided government, a very normal outcome for such a tumultuous election. Hillary Clinton will have won a mandate ...to not be Donald Trump. The Democrats will claim her landslide victory means Republicans are so out-of-touch they simply must embrace every progressive idea to even earn a hearing from core groups of American voters. I hope they’re principled enough to stress their sincere concerns with the ideas offered and not prone to further alienate fellow Americans.

The Republicans will survive a tough year, but have made no progress, even lost ground, in their struggle with the electoral college. They have to do better among women, African-Americans, and Latinos to have any hope of winning a presidential election. Donald Trump was the worst possible candidate for this task. Moreover, we’ll have a clear picture of the precarious double-bind that appealing to white male voters turns away millions of other voters: Trump was more competitive in Ohio and Iowa than Romney due to a stronger showing with white blue-collar voters, but it’s still a net loss, with Arizona, Nevada, Florida, and North Carolina heading away due to dismal numbers with non-whites.

This election was a generational opportunity and Republicans might have made a mistake that will last as long. There is no clear path for Republicans to win 270 electoral votes, so we could be headed toward a repeat of 2016 as everyone thinks they are the key and no one is willing to concede otherwise. 

And in the meantime, President Hillary Rodham Clinton, everyone… 


Follow the author on Twitter @CACoreyU

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Senate Races to Keep an Eye On…

Senate Races to Keep an Eye On…