On this first day of June, there are 160 days until Election Day (Tuesday, November 8, 2016) when American citizens will go to the polls and make their selection for the next President of the United States of America.
On this first day of June, there are 201 days until the day when the next President of the United States of America will be actually be selected. That day, the first Monday after the second Wednesday in December (which in 2016 will be the 19th), is when the members of the Electoral College gather in their respective state capitals (and the District of Columbia). It is those 535 members, strewn in fifty-one locations, who will actually choose the next American Chief Executive by marking their ballots.
Those days are still far, far away, but that in no way shall deter this blog from prognosticating about the current state of the Electoral College on this first day of the sixth month of 2016.
As I have written before, I have a baseline tally of where I think each of the fifty states (plus the District of Columbia) stands in terms of how they lean towards the presidential candidate of the Republican Party and the Democratic Party. I have four categories where I place each state (and DC). Those buckets are “Solid”, “Mostly”, “Leaning”, and “Tossup”.
“Solid” states, whether solid for the Republican Party or the Democratic Party, have a high confidence rating that they will vote for that political party. There is little chance, short of an amazing confluence of events that stagger the mind, that a “Solid” state will flip to the other party.
States that are classified as “Mostly” can be fairly certain to vote a certain way. There is a possibility (not an impossibility, but mostly an improbability) that a state could flip to the other party, but it would take a considerable expenditure of resources.
I see states classified as “Solid” and “Mostly” as safe states for their respective political parties and their presidential candidates. These states will remain (caveat: unless an event of meteoric proportionality occurs) blue or red for the remainder of this election season. With that in mind, when the “Solid” (dark blue/red) and “Mostly” (blue/red) states are filled in on a map, the Electoral College looks like this (and huge respect goes to the people at 270towin.com for this great interactive map)…
From now until Election Day, the Democratic Party can count on a minimum of 202 votes in the Electoral College and the Republican Party can count on a minimum of 181 votes in the Electoral College.
The remaining thirteen states (tan), and the 155 votes in the Electoral College that they control, are the members of my Swing State Symphony which I believe will determine the fate of the 2016 American presidential election.
This blog post is to fill in those baker’s dozen of states and see where, in my analysis, the balance of the Electoral College stands. My one constraint in this exercise is that I cannot punt or hedge: I must turn each of these thirteen states red or blue. For my analysis, I will be using the state polls that have been taken since the start of 2016.
Proceeding alphabetically, I would start with Colorado, but I am going to skip the Rocky Mountain State (for reasons I will explain later), and instead will start with Florida. In the Sunshine State, there have been ten polls taken (list here). The first three, taken in mid-January, late February, and early March showed a victory for the presidential candidate of the Republican Party, Donald Trump. His average margin of victory in that trio of surveys is 2 percentage points. The next seven polls, from early March until the middle of May, show Hillary Clinton, the presidential candidate from the Democratic Party, winning the state. Over those past seven straight polls showing Clinton as the victor, her average margin of victory was 5 percentage points. Thought the trend is skewing downward for Clinton (her average margin of victory in the most recent four polls was only 2 percentage points), I will award Florida (for the moment) to the Democratic Party.
Iowa is next and the Hawkeye States poses a tiny problem as there have only been two polls taken since the start of the year (list here). One survey shows a draw and the other shows a Clinton victory of 8 percentage points. I hesitate to make a prediction on such a small data sample, but I cannot punt and Iowa goes blue.
In my original baseline tally, Colorado, Florida, and Iowa were classified as “Tossup” states. This meant that, based on historical analysis of previous presidential elections, I could not determine which way that state leaned. The next state in my Symphony is Minnesota and my baseline tally had placed this state in the “Leaning” category. A “Leaning” state was a state that, based on historical analysis of previous presidential elections, had shown a slight tendency towards one of the two major, but could easily flip to the other side with some prodding (read my previous post as to why Minnesota is a “Leaning” state). The Gopher State started this exercise leaning towards the Democratic Party and since there have only been two polls run in Minnesota since January (list here) and both show victories for Clinton (with an average margin of victory of 9 percentage points), the Land of 10,000 Lakes will stay in the Democratic fold.
The Show-Me State of Missouri is also a “Leaning” state, but this state leans towards the Republican Party. This designation is because of its history. Over the last four American presidential elections (since 2000), Missouri has voted for the candidate from the Republican Party. Over the past seven (since 1988), it has voted Republican five times. In 2012, Republican Mitt Romney won a majority of votes (53.76%) and beat Democrat Barack Obama by 9 percentage points. Since the start of this year, there have only been a pair of surveys in Missouri (list here). Both polls show wins for Trump with an average margin of victory of 3.5 percentage points). Missouri stated Republican and has stayed Republican. Thus, it goes into the red column.
Next up is Nevada, but it will be passed over for the time being for the same reason Colorado was.
New Hampshire, a “Tossup” state in my original baseline tally, might need to have its category modified. Since January, with one exception, every survey run in the Granite State has shown a Clinton victory (list here). The sole exception is the most recent poll (Boston Herald, 405 likely voters, margin of error 4.9 percentage points, report here) which showed a 44%-44% tie between Clinton and Trump. The Boston Herald draw aside, the previous seven surveys (as listed by Real Clear Politics) show Clinton defeating Trump (average margin of victory is 8.2 percentage points) for New Hampshire’s four votes in the Electoral College. As it stands now, New Hampshire goes for the Democratic Party.
New Mexico also needs to be skipped and join its brethren Colorado and Nevada.
North Carolina, another “Leaning”-Republican state, has definitely seen its share of surveys. By my count, there have been 11 polls taken in the Tar Heel State since the year started (electiongraphs.com shows ten, the missing poll is this one from SurveyUSA taken in March). In those eleven polls, Trump wins six, Clinton wins four, and there is one tie. By the squeakiest of margins, I will place North Carolina with the Republican Party.
In Ohio, in the “Tossup” bucket, there have been eight polls taken since the start of the year (list here). In those eight, Clinton is the victor six times and Trump is the victor twice. One of Clinton’s victories is even outside the margin of error making it a decisive victory for her. Ohio goes blue.
Another “Leaning”-Democratic state in my Swing State Symphony is Pennsylvania. Since the year began, there have been seven polls taken in the Keystone State. Of those seven, the presidential candidate for the Democratic Party wins six times (twice decisively, meaning a victory even when the margin of error is taken into account) and there is one tie. Pennsylvania leans blue and remains blue for this post.
Virginia (“Tossup”) has only seen four surveys since January (list here). Of that quartet, Clinton is victorious three times (including two decisive wins) and there is one tie. The Old Dominion and its thirteen votes in the Electoral College favor the Democratic Party.
Wisconsin (“Leaning”-Democratic) was by far the easiest to place in this exercise. In 2016, there have been eight polls (list here) documenting the presidential preferences of the citizens of the Badger State. In all eight, Clinton wins decisively (meaning she wins even when the margin of error is taken into account).
The three states that I skipped (Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico) were all passed over in this exercise because there have been no surveys taken in these states since the beginning of the year. As it turns out, it does not matter which way this trio of states swings in this particular exercise. With the other ten painted either red (Missouri, North Carolina) or blue (Florida, Iowa, New Hampshire, Minnesota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Wisconsin), the resulting map (with “Solid” and “Mostly” from the first map now turned dark blue/red and my Swing State Symphony states turned light blue/red depending on the above analysis) now looks like this…
With eight of the Swing State Symphony states, as of June 1, leaning towards the presidential candidate of the Democratic Party, Hillary Clinton now has a projected 312 votes in the Electoral College regardless of how the citizens of Colorado, Nevada, and New Mexico vote. At best, the presidential candidate for the Republican Party, in this projection, can win 226 votes in the Electoral College, but that is still 44 votes short.
The above is by no means a prediction. It is only how I see things as of June 1 based on my analysis of state polling since January. Election Day, as stated above, is 160 days (a shade over 5 months) away and a great many things can happen. Polls will continue to come out and we’ll see where the state of things are come July.