Tuesday, November 08, 2016

Final Destination 2016

"So, Politicalhack, what's your forecast for the election?" as literally nobody says to me.

Well, tough luck, I am reviving the blog to post about the most dramatic and high risk presidential election in my lifetime. And here is my final prediction, courtesy of 270 To Win,

I'll start with Maine. There's very little chance of Clinton losing the state, but Maine is an oddity that doesn't give all its electoral college votes to the winner. The state awards two electoral votes to the state-wide winner and one each to the winner in each congressional district. Nebraska does the same with its three districts. Maine's second district is winnable for the GOP, so a win there would be good for Trump. I also expect Clinton to hold New Hampshire - recent polls have given her a solid lead there, with an average 6pt gap between her and Trump. There's no early voting in New Hampshire - they don't hold with this new-fangled stuff.

Pennsylvania is a must-win for Trump and despite a recent poll showing a 2pt lead there for him, that's an outlier compared to another solid run of blue leads - averaging 4pts since the start of November. A little close to the margin of error, but the consistency of the polling leads me to call it for Clinton. Losing here would be a real danger signal - polls close at about 0100 GMT and the result appeared at around 3am.

Virginia and Florida's polls will close at midnight GMT Wednesday, but results will come in when they come in. Florida's polling is VERY close, but I suspect that the Hispanic vote there will just about give it to Hillary, although her average lead there since the start of the month is less than 1 percent. Those 29 votes could still go to Trump, but that won't be enough. This is also a must-win for Trump.

Virginia looks solid, with an average 6pt lead and only a couple of polls in weeks that have shown a tie or a lead for Trump, so that should be secure for Hillary. Georgia also closes at the same time and should be safe for Trump. It is unlikely that Hillary will flip it, but if she does, prepare for a truly historic landslide - I'm holding it for Trump.

Zero dark thirty brings poll closure in Ohio and North Carolina, another two big states for the candidates. North Carolina shows a 2.7pt lead for Clinton, so I'm going to drop that into her pile - that's a state where the Democrats have thrown resources into their ground campaign, with 27 more field offices than Trump. That sort of organisation matters in tight elections.

Ohio is renowned as a bellwether state - it has only missed voting for the winner twice since 1896, in 1944 and 1960. I think it will get it wrong again this year. It should be a Democratic state, but although the last couple of polls have given it to Clinton by a single point, I suspect that this likely to go to Trump. If it doesn't, this will be an indicator that the Democratic get out the vote campaign is making a difference on the ground. My source on the Ohio doorstep told me that it was nailbitingly close.

One of my worries has been about whether Trump's comments about American jobs will have any impact in Ohio, Michigan, Illinois or Pennsylvania. As we've seen, PA looks secure, Ohio has possibly drifted. Michigan is showing a narrow, but consistent lead for Clinton and the Democratic machine in the state sounds confident in their voter ID. Illinois has had solid double digit leads for Hillary all year - as high as 27/30 pts at one stage, but now down into the middle teens. Michigan and Illinois both close alongside Pennsylvania at 0100 GMT.

The mid-west should be as solid red as the east coast will be blue. Although Iowa has gone for the Democrats in every election bar one (2004) since 1988, the polling there offers a solid promise for Trump this year. I'd be amazed if it came home for Hillary in 2016. Wisconsin closes at 0200 with its ten electoral college votes and here, despite a couple of tied polls in recent days, Hillary has had a lead of just under 4pts through November. I wouldn't rule it out flipping, but it has been reliably Democrat since 1988.

The final group of interesting states are in the south west. 0200 sees polls close in Colorado and New Mexico, with Nevada, Utah and Arizona an hour later. I'm expecting Colorado and New Mexico to stay with Clinton. A few weeks ago, I thought Arizona might flip to Clinton, but I think there's enough of a Trump vote there to secure it for the GOP with recent quality polling suggesting a 4-5pt lead.

I wondered if the significant Mormon vote (over 60% of voters) in Utah might find Trump too strong a meat for their tastes - they have Evan McMullin, a former CIA officer turned independent Republican presidential candidate who happens to be Mormon himself. While McMullin is polling solidly with around 24% of the vote, polls in that state have Trump taking about 40%. Utah will stick with the GOP - although I did see one poll that put Trump and Clinton in a tie there, but I'm discounting that as an outlier.

Early voting in Nevada looks to have given Clinton a big head start. This is a state that likes voting early and some counts of current vote indicators suggest that Trump would need to win by 10% on the day to take the state. After Nevada, comes the rock solid west coast and distant Hawaii, which should be the garnish on the top of a Clinton victory.

That's how it should work.

After all, this is an election which pits the best-qualified Presidential candidate in decades against a man who lies more easily than he can comb his hair. Hillary should be looking at a landslide.

What can possibly go wrong?

Oh yeah. This is 2016.

Trump CAN win, there's no doubt about it, but he faces a VERY difficult path to that pinnacle. Final national polling - including Fox - seem to be giving Hillary a 4pt national lead, which should translate into an electoral college win. She can even afford to drop a couple of states along the way. Trump has a number of must-wins, at least a couple of which look to be out of reach.

But we will see. This is 2016.

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