The Election Chronicles, Volume 36: Let's Look At The Electoral Map

As I write this we are 29 days from the next Presidential election. As I’m sure you know, Secretary Clinton is opening a lead over Mr. Trump. Most polls differ on her lead, but even Faux News shows Clinton with a lead.

But, as we know, the President isn’t elected by popular vote but by the Electoral College. I won’t wander too far into the weeds of how this works, but let me say this: each state gets a fixed number of electoral votes and they determine who wins the Presidency. Of the 50 states, 48 are “winner take all.” In other words if a candidate wins the majority of votes in that state, s/he wins all the electoral votes, no matter the margin of victory. Only Maine and Nebraska allow candidates to divide the electoral votes.

And as we found in the 2000 Presidential election it’s possible to win the popular vote and lose the electoral vote. In that election George W. Bush won the election even though Al Gore won the popular vote.

As I’ve been following this election I have to confess I haven’t paid much attention to national polls and have instead been looking at the electoral map. And I’ve been obsessed with two web pages with excellent content: Real Clear Politics and Five Thirty Eight.

Both track the electoral maps, but they do it in different ways: RCP looks at the polls in each state while 538 looks at the probability of each candidates’ winning a particular state.

As I write this RCP lists Clinton as winning 260 electoral votes, Trump winning 165, and 113 as tossups (could go either way). The toss up states are: Nevada (6 electoral votes), Arizona (11), Minnesota (10), Iowa (6), Ohio (18), Maine (2 of their 3), North Carolina (15), Georgia (16), and Florida (29).

Of these states, 538 projects Clinton the statistical favorite in all but Arizona, Iowa, and Georgia.

The winner next month needs to get to 270 electoral votes. Of the tossup states, Clinton needs to win only 10 more electoral votes. She can do this by winning only one of the following states: Arizona, Minnesota, Ohio, North Carolina, Georgia, or Florida. Or she could lose all those states and win both Nevada and Iowa. Trump, on the other hand, has to win 105 electoral votes. The fewest states he needs to win are these: Florida and Ohio and Georgia and North Carolina and Arizona and Minnesota and either Iowa or Nevada.

RCP also shows us a map with no tossups (that is, they look at the polling and choose a winner even if the numbers are close). It shows Clinton with 340 electoral votes and Trump with 198.

He’s got a tough rode to victory.

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