Does Donald Trump have a road to victory?

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Yes, but it is a very narrow one.

 

We’ve known for a long time that the Electoral College makes a Republican Presidential victory that much harder than a Democratic victory — especially when you take into account the ongoing demographic changes in many of the swing states, with the rapid increase in the proportion Hispanics and African-Americans who make up the electorate, which would seem to strongly favour the Democrats.

However, Donald J. Trump won the Republican Party’s nomination earlier this year, and throughout the primary process (and since) has claimed that he can turn States which have voted Democrat in the past six Presidential Elections, meaning that he thinks he can win handsomely.

There are eighteen States (plus Washington D.C), which have voted Democrat in every Presidential Election since 1992. This amounts to 242 votes in the Electoral College, just short of the 270 required for victory. In short, this means that it can be tough for a Republican to win without taking nearly all of the so-called swing states.

I have made my predictions for the Presidential Election, and I broadly stick by them, although I concede that given how the polls have tightened in the past ten days, I may have overestimated Hillary Clinton’s winning margin. However, I maintain that Hillary Clinton is on course to win, as Trump does not really have much of a path to the White House through the Electoral College.

However, this being said, there are some ways that Trump could fashion a road to the White House, albeit a very, very narrow one.

The ‘must-wins’ for Trump:

For Trump, there are several States that he must win, or his chances of winning the Presidency are completely dead and buried.

If we assume that the Electoral College map at present looks a little bit like this:

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I’ve been conservative here with the States I have called for each candidate (in particular Clinton). Even though Trump hasn’t led in a poll in Pennsylvania since late June, I’ve put it as ‘leaning’ Democrat rather than ‘safe’ Democrat, in order to be on the safe side. Likewise with Michigan and Colorado.

However, if we assume that Clinton is going to win Michigan, Colorado, and Pennsylvania, then we begin to see the difficult task that Trump has. With these three States added to the ones already wrapped up by Clinton, she would already have a total of 268 votes in the Electoral College, meaning she would need to win just one more swing state for victory.

For Trump, the path to victory is much less simple. He would have to win Florida, Ohio, North Carolina and Iowa. The most recent polling in Florida has suggested that Clinton has edged ahead, but early voting has suggested that although she has an advantage in Florida, it is not quite the same advantage as President Obama had after early voting in 2012. Remember that he beat Mitt Romney in Florida by just 0.88 percent. Therefore, I think it would be fair to say that Florida is a virtual tie at present. As for the other three States I mentioned, Trump appears to have the edge. If we look at the RealClearPolitics polling averages, Trump has a lead of 3.0 percent in Iowa, 1.4 percent in North Carolina, and 3.5 percent in Ohio, meaning that victory in these three States is well within his grasp.

If Trump were to win Florida, Ohio, North Carolina, and Iowa, then that would leave him with 259 votes in the Electoral College, still short of the 270 needed for victory but not to far away. To get over the finish line, he would need to win both New Hampshire and Nevada, as well as taking the one electoral college vote allotted to the winner of Maine’s Second Congressional District. This would give him 270.

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The problem: NEVADA.

Early voting data from Nevada has suggested that Hispanic voters are turning out in record numbers to vote in this year’s Presidential Election. It has been suggested that this is as result of outgoing Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid’s famed Get Out The Vote operation. Given the inflammatory rhetoric used by Donald Trump towards the Hispanic community at large, it is hard to imagine many Hispanics voting for Trump, and the polling throughout the race has reflected this trend. Therefore, it seem sensible to suggest that Nevada is now leaning Clinton’s way. Indeed, experienced Nevadan political analyst Jon Ralston has suggested that Clinton has already built up more of a cushion in the early voting than Obama did when he won the State by seven percent in 2012. If this is indeed the case, then victory for Trump in Nevada is now as good as impossible. Therefore, Trump will have to find a different path to victory than the one I suggested previously.

Could Trump win Michigan or Pennsylvania?

Current polling averages give Clinton a lead of 4.7 percent in Michigan, and just a 2.4 percent lead in Pennsylvania. This means that she is relying somewhat on good turnout in these States, particularly in Pennsylvania. Both States are marked by the limited impact which early voting will have: in Pennsylvania just five percent of voters early voted in 2012, and Michigan doesn’t allow early voting at all. Therefore, it is harder to properly judge the enthusiasm for either candidate this time around. The lack of early voting in these States explains why Clinton has made lots of recent trips to Pennsylvania and Michigan, and why her final rally with Barack Obama, Michelle Obama, Bill Clinton, and Bruce Springsteen in attendance, will be held in Philadelphia on Monday night.

What seems clear, is that Pennsylvania is improbably close, compared to how it seemed just one month ago. However, for Hillary Clinton to lose Pennsylvania on election day would mean an absolute calamity for her campaign, and would suggest the polling is completely wrong. It seems improbable to say the least.

For Trump, the best hope is probably Michigan given the prevalence of ‘blue-collar’ voters. However, the Clinton campaign is extremely organised here, and it is hard to see Trump making to breakthrough he requires.

Realistically, the only path I can see for a Trump victory is the one I mentioned previously. For Trump, winning Florida, Iowa, Maine’s Second Congressional District, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, and Ohio seems the only way. And with Nevada looking how it does, although a Trump victory remains possible, it is looking very unlikely at this point.

How Clinton could finish Trump off: win Florida.

For Clinton, this is the State which could precipitate a good night’s sleep on Tuesday. She doesn’t have to win Florida, but if she does then the race is as good as over. Assuming she has won Nevada, then if she also wins Florida, Trump could take Pennsylvania and still lose:

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If Clinton wins Florida, it is an absolute knockout blow. There is no way Trump will come back from that.

What will actually happen?

As it stands, I maintain that Clinton will win, and probably relatively comfortably as well. Although perhaps not as comfortably as I predicted last month (click here to view my earlier predictions).

I still think that Ohio and Florida can be won by Clinton, but it is looking more and more unlikely. It has been reported that her early voting numbers in Florida are not quite as good as Obama’s were, which suggests that she is on course for a narrow defeat. However, this doesn’t really matter, as Clinton can comfortably win the Presidency despite losing Florida (and Ohio).

I would be unsurprised if Clinton managed to take Florida but narrowly missed out on Ohio, which would still give her a very comfortable victory in the Electoral College.

Ultimately, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Electoral College map looked something like this:

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Overall, I think that despite the late tightening of the polls, Clinton is on course for victory. There have been suggestions that the polls must be wrong, and that they must be underestimating Trump’s support. In fact, I think that the opposite is more likely. It wouldn’t surprise me if Clinton’s victory margin on Tuesday is more than the polls suggest. With the news that the FBI won’t be changing their conclusions in the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server, it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to expect some of the ‘soft Republicans’ who had considered reluctantly voting for Trump, instead casting their votes for Clinton. Given this possibility, I wouldn’t rule out Clinton also taking Ohio; and getting very close in Iowa, Arizona, and crucially North Carolina.

All in all, the stage is set for an exciting election night. Although I would say a Clinton victory is very likely, the real question is, by how much.

Can Hillary Clinton really win Texas?

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Probably not, but the gains made in this election could win it for the Democrats in 2020 or 2024.

When you think of Texan politics, particularly in Presidential elections, you tend to think of domination by the Republican Party. Indeed, Texas hasn’t been carried by the Democratic Party since 1976, when Jimmy Carter won here. In addition, no member of the Democratic Party has been elected to Statewide office in Texas since 1994. All in all, the last forty years have seen total domination by the Republican Party in Texan politics. Therefore, it was no surprise to see most people react with disbelief at seeing polls suggest that Texas was now considered a ‘toss-up’ in this presidential election. Despite the divisiveness of Republican Party candidate Donald Trump, I don’t think anyone ever thought that Hillary Clinton stood any sort of chance here.

This week, three separate polls, all with large samples, all found that the race in Texas was extremely close. Polling by the University of Houstonfound that Trump was just three points ahead, the same margin found by a poll conducted by CBS News and YouGov. And then, polling by The Washington Post and SurveyMonkey found that Trump’s lead in Texas was just two points. Given that there hasn’t been a great deal of polling in Texas (for the most part because it has always been believed that it would be an easy win for Trump), it is hard to say how accurate these polls are. However, given that several polls, all with large sample sizes, have found Clinton only just behind, it seems fair to say that they must be fairly accurate. The tight race in Texas mirrors much of what is happening in many States which tend to be seen as safe Republican. Overall, Trump is underperforming in these states relative to how Mitt Romney performed in 2012. Although the Electoral College system means that Trump’s winning margin in these states doesn’t matter so long as he wins, the possibility that he could lose a safe state like Texas, will be alarming to this campaign. With 38 Electoral College votes, Texas has the second most clout after California, meaning that it is potentially a huge prize for Clinton, could she win it.

Overall, I think Clinton winning Texas this time around is rather unlikely. We must remember that these polls were undertaken at a time when Donald Trump’s approval ratings were at their absolute lowest, shortly after the release of the Access Hollywood tapes. With just over two weeks to go until election day, I would anticipate the race tightening slightly. Nonetheless, the polled margin between Clinton and Trump in Texas is about the same as Georgia, which is now considered a battleground state; and, the margin is not much more than Trump’s current lead in Iowa, a State I expect Hillary Clinton to ultimately clinch. In addition, 38.8 percent of Texas’ population is Hispanic, and Hillary Clinton has a fifty percent lead over Donald Trump among Hispanics.

Therefore, the possibility that Clinton could win Texas should not be dismissed. Ultimately though, 2016 may just be several years too soon for Democrats to make a breakthrough in the Lone Star State. The Republicans have a large cushion here, and it would be a huge ask for the Democrats to overturn this. To do so, may require resources which are better served in marginal states which Clinton has a stronger chance of win like Iowa, North Carolina, and Arizona.

However, although there is a strong chance that Trump can retain Texas for the Republicans in this election, the gains made here by the Democrats in this elections, as well as the ongoing demographic changes throughout the state, means that there is a very real possibility of the Democrats making a breakthrough here in the 2020 or 2024 presidential elections.

Of course, it is hard to say whether the fall in Republican support in Texas in this election is down to Statewide demographic changes, or simply a case of Texans not liking Donald Trump. We must not forget that this years Texas Republican Primary was won by Senator Ted Cruz, and that Trump was able to muster just 27 percent of the vote. This suggests that maybe it is simply a case of Trump’s unpopularity which has allowed Clinton to gain somewhat of a foothold here. However, the reduction in the Republican dominance of statewide politics in Texas is a trend which has been ongoing for several years. In 2000, Republican candidates running for statewide office average about 60 percent of the vote, however by 2008 this had fallen to 53 percent. This suggests that the rise of the Democrats in Texas is not just a case of dissatisfaction with Donald Trump, but that it is in fact part of a wider trend.

Texas is a State where minorities are gaining greater electoral clout every year. Non-Hispanic whites already make up just 43 percent of the population, down from 45.3 percent in 2010; and Hispanics make up 38.8 percent of the population, up from 37.6% in 2010. The number of Hispanics in Texas is expected to further increase over the next few years.

The Democrats already dominate urban areas in Texas, and in 2012 President Obama won Texas’ four biggest cities: Austin, Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio. However, this was counteracted by Republican support in in suburban and rural areas of Texas which propelled Mitt Romney to 57.2 percent of the vote. Although the Republicans have counted upon their strong support in rural areas in recent elections, the bad news for them is that Texas’ population growth is in its urban areas.

As Texas becomes more urbanised, and even more ethnically diverse, the Democrats will benefit. Although, the population perhaps isn’t quite diverse enough for Hillary Clinton to win Texas in this election, it is expected that the number of African-American, Hispanic, and Asian residents in Texas will grow and grow over the next few years. This makes it a very real possibility that the Democrats could carry the State in the 2020 or 2024 Presidential Elections.

Ultimately, Hillary Clinton won’t win Texas this time around. Although the polls suggest that the race in Texas is pretty close (and it probably is) the Republicans just have too large a cushion here to lose this time around. Although the Clinton Campaign could potentially win here by diverting a large number of their campaign resources, this would be unwise given that there are states like Arizona which are much more sensible targets. However, the changing demographics in Texas mean that a Democratic win here in the 2020 or 2024 Presidential Election is a very real possibility. If Texas were to be turned blue, then that could leave the Republicans truly facing an existential crisis. Without Texas, it is hard to see how the Republicans could possibly win the Presidency, and it would mean that party having to hugely rethink what they stand for if they were to have any hope of competing in the future.

Click here to view my full set of predictions for this presidential election.