Monday, November 7, 2016

The States to Watch are Not the Ones You Might Think

First, a bit of light housekeeping: As in 2008 and 2012, I will once again be live-blogging the election returns as they come in tomorrow evening -- with a big caveat: I have a teaching obligation that doesn't permit me to begin until roughly nine o'clock on the east coast. But I promise to be here as soon as possible, and to get caught up as quickly as I can.

Second, with all the kerfuffle about whether the race is tightening, or stabilizing, or tightening only in the battlegrounds, or not, I thought it might be an idea to point out that little has changed about the structural underpinnings of this election: Donald Trump didn't really have a plausible path to 270 electoral votes in late September, and he doesn't really have a plausible path to 270 electoral votes, now.

To emphasize this point, I want to take a moment to imagine a scenario in which, late tomorrow night, we all find ourselves unable to call any of Florida, North Carolina, Ohio, Iowa, *or* New Hampshire. (These are the states that have consistently been listed as the most likely tipping points for the 2016 contest, in some combination.) I know this scenario would require an odd set of circumstances, but just play along while I spring the punch-line on you:

As long as Secretary Clinton holds Michigan and Pennsylvania, and consolidates her leads in Virginia, Colorado, and Nevada, nothing else actually matters.

...And nothing else actually does.

As far as I can tell, Clinton stands on 274 absolutely solid electoral votes. That is, before any of the supposedly decisive states are even factored into the equation.

Nevada, as it happens, and the positively gob-smacking performance of the Harry Reid machine in securing such a prohibitive early-voting lead for Team Blue, will be the story of things tomorrow night. If it even gets that far, which it may well not, since I think Clinton is going to win in Florida before the polls in Nevada have even closed.

I'm a homer, so I also think Clinton's vaunted ground game is going to make the difference in Ohio (late indications are that her position is improving there), as well as in North Carolina (where the GOTV effort is only being helped by the presence of a polarizing race for US Senate *and* the Governor's Mansion. I also think she'll hold in New Hampshire, as her non-response bias problem with recent polls there fades into the dusty archives of history alongside Director Comey's Fifteen Minutes of Fame. As other commentators have noted elsewhere, a quick blue call for New Hampshire after polls close there will spell a seriously long night in a certain gilded Manhattan penthouse. Mr. Trump, meanwhile, will hang on in two out of Iowa, Arizona, and Georgia, but not the third one -- though at this hour I'll admit that I have no idea which.

Your final map, early Wednesday morning, would thus look (something) like this:

Whether I've got the exact states right is (semi-obviously) beside the point of this column, and also of this election: Barring something genuinely unforeseen in any of Pennsylvania, Virginia, Colorado, or Michigan -- and assuming Jon Ralston isn't wrong about Nevada in a way he's never been wrong before about anything in his life -- we will all wake up two mornings from now to the first female President-elect in our nation's history. Eventually to succeed the first black President in our nation's history, next January.

And in this white man's opinion, it will be about, freaking, time

Dave O'Gorman
Associate Professor of Economics
Santa Fe College
Gainesville, Florida

No comments: