September 15, 2016

State of the race - September 15th

Two recent polls have Donald Trump pulling ahead among Likely Voters in the critical states of Florida and Ohio. Combined, those two states have a rich total of 47 electoral college votes (more on that later.

Looking at the safe states scenario, Hillary Clinton has a pretty safe lock on 200 of a needed 270 electoral college votes to win the presidency. Trump has 163. If we assume that the polling trends in Florida and Ohio will give Trump those states, he takes a 210 to 200 lead.

In addition if Trump loses either Georgia or Arizona then Hillary will have already won in a landslide - having taken both Ohio and Florida in the process. So adding those two states to Trump's column, is a fairly likely outcome, because barring any October surprises (which are still possible). That bring's Trump's total up to 237. And that's where Trump's path becomes more difficult.

Virginia has trended Democrat over the last two elections and while Trump can win it, it's 13 electoral college votes likely will end up in Hillary's column. The same is true for vote-rich Pennsylvania. Trump could surprise there but that is a longshot scenario. Tiny Live Fee or Die New Hampshire likely falls Hillary's way unless we are in a Trump landslide scenario. Pollster Frank Luntz believes Trump's momentum in N.H. will continue and Trump will win it. Maybe so, but not yet.

With those states falling that way, we have a 237-237 electoral college tie. Adding Maine's votes-plitting system to Clinton's tally, and Nebraska's to Trump (a likely outcome in each case) we're at 238-238 with 62 yet unallocated.

16 come from Michigan (which are Hillary Clinton's to lose, even with Ford closing plants and moving the jobs to Mexico a move no doubt that helps Trump's chances there). Clinton leads by 5 with less than 2 months to go. If Trump closes Michigan that could very well land him the race but I still see Michigan in the Clinton column.

6 votes are from Iowa Trump is now slightly up Iowa and this state is continuing to trend his way. Give these votes to Trump.

9 electoral college votes are assigned to Colorado used to be a swing state. It's gone liberal and Clinton has an 8 point lead. There's no polling that I'm aware of in September, there which is problematic, but the state is likely going blue again and Hillary will get those votes too.

6 votes come from Nevada. Nevada has gone reliably blue forever. In August, Hillary was 5 points ahead (on a volume of one poll). In a single poll in September, Trump was ahead by 1. Trump's a casino guy and Nevada is a casino state. Despite Clinton's lead among Hispanics, a key voting block in that state, I think pulls off a surprise in the state.

That puts Hillary at 263 and Trump at 250 and 2 states remaining; 10 from Wisconsin and 15 from North Carolina. If Hillary wins either state she's won. In North Carolina Hillary leads by a mere 0.6% in the RealClearPolitics average of polls. The state is simply too close to call. Wisconsin is another matter. Hillary has a 4 point lead. But again, those polls are all from August during Trump's swoon, and prior to Hillary's latest issues about health and calling Trump supporters a "basket of deplorables". My view is that Hillary still leads but that the margin is likely almost as slim as North Carolina.

In other words, this contest is currently a coin toss and victory is a razor thin margin for either candidate. But I don't expect it to stay that way.

We haven't seen the debates yet. Will Hillary wilt? Will Trump stick his foot in his mouth? Either could happen. Then again, either candidate has the potential to do well for themselves as well. It's a big unknown.

WikiLeaks is promising some devastating leaks on Clinton emails in October. If they have anything it could be a big deal. If Julian Assange is just trying to promote his site, and there's nothing there, it is a complete non-factor.

Trump hasn't released his taxes. Either he does and it has bad news or optics for him, he doesn't and he looks supsicious or he doesn't and it has no bad news. Again, it is an unknown.

But there's an even bigger factor than all of these I think.
Hillary Clinton has had a tough week, but here’s something she’s doing extremely well: raising enormous amounts of money. As of late August, Clinton had raised a total of $446.4 million (including through SuperPacs) compared to Donald Trump’s $137.3 million. That’s a prodigious advantage and one that could certainly make the difference in a tight race.

...Even though Clinton has spent $349.6 million so far compared to Trump’s meager $96.7 million, the race is nearly even.

...Still, Hillary’s campaign apparently thinks money can buy her much-needed love. Early efforts to make Clinton more “likable” came up short as outings like the cross-country trip in her “Scooby” van and (secretly scripted) chance meetings with everyday Americans flopped. As the campaign has progressed, her unfavorable ratings have steadily climbed. A recent CNN poll shows her negatives are now worse than Trump’s, and that’s an accomplishment.

...Donald Trump scored points in August by visiting flood victims in Louisiana and meeting with the president of Mexico. Hillary Clinton was resting and meeting with donors.

...Clinton’s money haul will not only give her a big TV advantage, but it also allows her to open more offices, organize more phone banks, send out more flyers and otherwise invest in the machinery of delivering votes and voters on election day. One analysis claims Clinton has more than three times the number of campaign offices in swing states as Trump does.
Team Trump meanwhile, believe that they have found a way around the tranditional advertising and campaign offices approach. They proved that in the primaries, but the primaries are a different beast than the general election. Their unconventional approach is a gamble. Who's right? Again, it's an unknown. Right now, this race is just too close to predict. The next 6 weeks will reveal a lot, and I suspect by election day we will probably have a better idea, before election-day voting even gets started.  In the meantime, with all of those upcoming unknowns (likely some breaking each way in favor of either candidate), it's going to be a wild ride.
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