Monday, October 10, 2016

The Map That Should Scare the Hell Out of Donald Trump

Let's be clear: The notion that Donald Trump could win the 2016 Presidential Election without a huge assist from the Vladimir Putins and Rick Scotts of the world was never really as viable an idea as it seemed, even when Trump appeared to be polling close to even with Secretary Clinton. As pundits far more learned and eloquent than your present columnist have indicated, Trump's support has hit a hard ceiling during the lowest moments of Clinton's trying September, and the famed "blue wall" of Democratic electoral votes has rarely, if ever, showed any signs of cracks along the way. Things looked much closer than they should have been when Secretary Clinton had her fainting spell at a 9/11 commemoration, true. And then the first debate happened. And then Alicia Machado happened. And then the world was treated to a hot-mic conversation between the candidate and Billy Bush, which gave rise to a scandal that I won't dignify with the name that others have given it. You know what I'm not referring to just the same.

Polls, as we've seen, lag the real situation on the ground. It takes the public a famous day or two to sort out how they feel about new information -- particularly if it's momentous -- after which the polls have to be in the field for three or four days, then input into statistical software, tabulated, regressed, analyzed, and published. We've seen the first big signs that Trump could be in free-fall, but we won't really know how bad things have gotten for him as a result of Friday's bombshell for ... gosh, perhaps as much as another full week. So in the meantime, let's divert ourselves with some idle speculation about the electoral college, and that big Trump gambit we've heard so much about over these past few weeks.

To have any chance, even an unrealistic one, Mr. Trump would at the very least need a full reset of the time-zero starting conditions of any generic electoral contest between an unnamed Democrat and an unnamed Republican, and then of course he'd need to improve on recent GOP performances from there. So to start the current analysis, I'll "reset" the map at the blue wall, the red wall, and the supposedly toss-up states. (Map courtesy of

Already we're engaging in some pretty laughable conjecture, here, at least given the current state of the election. But much can change in a month, and until the polling data catches up with the bus on which Trump and Billy Bush plunged together over a cliff, conjecture is better than nothing at all.

Mr. Trump's gambit for stealing the White House, as you've probably heard, is to win (for which read, steal) Pennsylvania, Ohio, Florida, and North Carolina. These would form the backbone of a new alt-right coalition that, together with the more reliably red wall, would be sufficient to put Trump over the 270 electoral vote threshold -- if only just. Since we're indulging him to think this way, let's go ahead and award Iowa to the red team, too, since it's been the most stubborn of the supposedly toss-up states so far this season.

At this point Mr. Trump would stand on 279 electoral votes, with no clear plan for adding to that total and, obviously, no need to do so either. So let's go ahead for the moment and award the remaining un-decided states to Secretary Clinton -- all three of which show her with small but stable polling leads, anyway.

I would seem at first blush to have awarded this nightmare-scenario election to Mr. Trump, 279-259. Which would require some pretty shady dealings -- in Pennsylvania, in particular -- but which should otherwise seem as plausible as any nightmare-scenario conjecture, thirty days out, possibly could. So bear with me while I point out that this is the absolutely, positively, unconditionally, best, case, scenario for Mr. Trump. There is quite literally no better that he can do, than this. Which is a big problem in many parts of the country where he's trailing, but the hopelessness of which I believe is driven home by one state in particular: Arizona. Where Mr. Trump has trailed in every poll since the GOP convention, and currently trails by four points, just outside the margin of error.

Surely it must come as small surprise that blood-red Arizona is in play, given the high percentage of Hispanic voters there and Mr. Trump's unabashed antipathy toward immigrants. But let's take a look at what happens if this one state -- and this one state alone -- should slip through his fingers, never mind Mississippi and Georgia and Florida and North Carolina and Pennsylvania and Ohio and Iowa and South Carolina and Alaska. As you probably know, Trump is either trailing or ahead within the margin of error in all of the states listed above, but let's just pick Arizona as our Clinton-flip, and revisit Trump's grand strategy:

...Yes, you're reading that right: Trump could succeed in his *entire* strategy of winning all four of Florida, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Ohio, and he STILL LOSES, by a score of 270-268, if Secretary Clinton is able to consolidate her lead in Arizona. This, folks -- *this* is the map that should scare the hell out of Donald Trump. Even if he pulls an almost impossible inside-straight in the four states he's targeted (and in three of which he's trailing badly even now), he stands a significant chance of losing anyway.

In his post-second-debate analysis, Teagan Goddard wrote that it appears Mr. Trump no longer expects to win the Presidency, and has instead fallen back to consolidating his alt-right chops toward an eventual media deal. And while this seems about right to me (and while the toxic affect on the future legitimacy of a Clinton Administration remains ominously to be seen), it's the timing of Goddard's observation that strikes me as somewhat out of phase with the reality of the situation on the ground. The cold, hard truth of the matter is that Mr. Trump has lacked any plausible path to 270 electoral votes for weeks now, and all the buried tapes and surprise debate victories available were unlikely to sway that reality from its perch atop the hard-ceilings we've seen for the erstwhile Republican's national- and battleground polling numbers. It's not that he isn't going to win, now, in other words; it's that he wasn't going to win, anyway.

And who would have thought, five months ago, that the state most likely to sound his death-knell on election night, would be the home of Joe Arpio, *and* John McCain? Not me, anyway. And probably not Mr. Trump himself, either.

Dave O'Gorman
"The Key Grip"
Gainesville, Florida

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