Can Trump actually win?

There are plenty of pundits saying no, he can’t win. But can he?

The Hill reports:

In 2012, GOP nominee Mitt Romney won 206 electoral votes to President Obama’s 332 electoral votes. This was an improvement over 2008 when the Republican candidate, John McCain, won only 173 electoral votes and Obama won a whopping 365.

To win the 270 votes needed to claim victory in the electoral college, Trump will have to keep every single state won by Romney — including Arizona and Georgia — and find 64 more electoral votes somewhere.

The question is where? If Trump holds all the Romney states and carries Virginia, Pennsylvania and Florida, he still loses.

“Every preliminary electoral-map forecast this spring paints a bleak picture for Donald Trump in his effort to win the presidency against Hillary Clinton,” Dan Balz recently wrote in the Washington Post.

Balz pointed to separate forecasts from three veteran political handicappers who make the same prediction: Trump is going to get crushed by Clinton in an electoral college landslide.

The problem I have with that analysis is that it presumes that Trump will follow in Romney’s footsteps in campaigning. I’m not so sure he will, everything we have seen so far suggests the play book should be ripped up and we should write one along the way.  

I’m not saying Trump will win, but I am saying that these pundits have been so very wrong so far and therefore until I see empirical evidence that says otherwise I will reserve judgment.

David Wasserman at FiveThirtyEight suggests that it won’t be Ohio or even Florida that we should watch as key states. Rather he thinks it is Pennsylvania we should be watching:

When most people think of battleground America, they think of Florida and Ohio, two of only three states (along with Nevada) that have voted for the winner of every presidential election since 1996. They tend not to think of Pennsylvania as a classic “swing state” — it has voted for the Democrat in every election since 1992, and it didn’t even crack the top 10 in 2012 campaign ad spending.

But in 2016, Pennsylvania could be the keystone of the Electoral College and the ultimate arbiter of whether Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton resides at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

[…]

In 2016, Florida and Ohio will likely remain necessary for Trump to obtain 270 electoral votes. Predictions that 2016’s Clinton vs. Trump showdown could “scramble” the traditional red/blue map are probably overblown; political scientists1 John Sides and Andrew Gelman have found that over time, year-to-year swings between the states are getting smaller. That said, the ordering of the battleground states — from most Republican leaning to most Democratic leaning — is unlikely to stay the same, especially because 2016 is an open election.

I’d argue Pennsylvania has leapfrogged Colorado and Virginia as the next most winnable state for Republicans. In fact, it may be on pace to claim sole “tipping point” status.

Why?

As it turns out, Colorado and Virginia are among the top 10 fastest Democratic-trending states in the nation — they are, respectively, getting about 0.9 percentage points and 1.2 points more Democratic-leaning compared with the country every four years. By contrast, Pennsylvania has gradually migrated in the opposite direction. It’s gotten about 0.4 percentage points more Republican every four years.

Projecting this trend forward another four years from 2012’s results would reorder the existing battleground states on the 2016 electoral map.

Pennsylvania, where the projected Democratic share of the two-party vote would drop to 52.3 percent, would become the next most winnable state for Republicans after Florida (50.6 percent) and Ohio (51.9 percent). In fact, after Pennsylvania, the next most winnable states for Trump would be New Hampshire (52.9 percent) and Iowa (53.0 percent), followed by Virginia (53.2 percent), Wisconsin (53.4 percent) and Colorado (53.7 percent).

And how does that affect Trump?

[T]here are a few key drivers behind why Trump is likely to perform better in Pennsylvania than in Colorado or Virginia, regardless of the final national outcome:

1. The Economy — Voters are more likely to turn on the party in the White House when they perceive the economy to be doing poorly. At the moment, the economy is doing a lot better in Colorado and Virginia than it is in Pennsylvania. Gallup found that in 2015, Colorado and Virginia residents had the seventh- and eighth-highest economic confidence in the nation. Pennsylvania residents’ economic confidence was well below average.There’s also a much larger blue-collar manufacturing sector in Pennsylvania, which plays into Trump’s protectionist, “Make America Great Again” mantra. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that as of March 2016, 10.1 percent of Pennsylvania‘s nonfarm labor force was employed in the manufacturing or mining/logging sectors, compared with 6.6 percent inColorado and just 6.1 percent in Virginia.

2. Demographics — Older, white voters without college degrees are the bedrock of Trump’s coalition, and Pennsylvania is the sixth-oldest state in the nation. As of 2014, its median age was 40.7 years, three years older than in Virginia and four years older than in Colorado, according to the census. Pennsylvania also has a much whiter electorate. According to the Census, as of 2014, 83 percent of its eligible voters were non-Hispanic whites compared with 78 percent in Colorado and 70 percent in Virginia.But here’s the kicker: According to the Census, just 29 percent of non-Hispanic whites age 25 and older in Pennsylvania held at least a bachelor’s degree, compared with 43 percent in Colorado and 39 percent in Virginia. That’s a massive disparity, and whites without a college degree have been among the fastest GOP-trending groups nationally. All of these arrows point to Pennsylvania as a much more favorable electorate for Trump.

3. Voting Laws — Since the 2012 election, Colorado and Virginia have taken steps to expand participation. In 2013, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper signed legislation that allows same-day registration, which could reduce barriers to young and Latino first-time voters. This April, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe signed an executive order restoring voting rights to 200,000 felons who have served their sentences, a move that The Upshot’s Nate Cohnestimated could boost Democrats by half a percentage point.Meanwhile, Pennsylvania’s voting laws haven’t meaningfully changed. Felons who have completed their sentences have long been able to vote in the Keystone State, and in 2014, then-Gov. Tom Corbett announced he wouldn’t appeal a state court ruling striking down the GOP legislature’s strict voter ID law, which was supposed to take effect after 2012.

I wouldn’t write Trump off, plenty have and their reputations are now in tatters. It will be tough for him to win, but everyone thought he’d be sitting in Trump Towers by now cooling his heels after being ousted from the Republican primaries.

 

-The Hill, FiveThirtyEight


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As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

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