This has been the messiest election season in United States history. Even in the calcified state of the current political climate, I don’t think there’d be much argument on this point. Between actual discussions of schlong size, and listening to a candidate discuss women as “it”, we’ve long passed the point of a national humiliation.
In that regard, there’s a fact that’s been bothering me. And it’s this: the election’s over. Hillary won.
It’s been over for a long time. The horse race polls showing national percentage gaps matter not a whit. It’s done. So long as people get out and vote, it’s not even going to be close. It’s math, folks. And the electoral math has long since been blue for this race.
The trouble is a question of optics. Let’s take a look at the current state as of October 9th.
If you skip past the bar that indicates 254 electoral votes for Clinton, it looks like a hot mess. But look closer. Blue states are those where currently Clinton has both an 80% or greater chance of winning the state, and where she is polling more than two percentage points above the margin of error in all polls rated “B” or higher by Real Clear Politics. Red states are for Trump, using the same rules. Lighter blue or red means the state is 60% or greater for that party. Yellow is a crap shoot.
Remember when Pennsylvania was a swing state? CBS has Clinton up by 8, ± 4.2 percent. NBC/WSJ/Marist has her up by 12, ± 3.7 percent. It’s not close. Virginia’s been almost 10 points pro Hillary since late August. Detroit News has Hillary up 7, ± 4 percent in Michigan. And these polls were before a deep analysis of what constituted locker room banter.
Our problem here is usually, the bigger the state, the smaller the population. So let’s look at the same map, same colors, but now by electoral votes.
Okay, now things start to get more interesting. Hopefully the above should make it a bit clearer.
The point of the above. A week ago, Clinton had a lock on 230 electoral votes. Before Friday’s debacle and Sunday’s debate, she’s pretty well got 254 electoral votes locked, to Trump’s 164. Get 270 and the game’s over folks.
Let’s rearrange the tile map a bit, and forgive the sloppy Sunday-night Photoshop:
So, based on the above, let’s assume for a moment it holds steady through Election Day. Clinton goes into the home stretch needing 16 electoral votes, while Trump needs 106. Here are the states that are less than 80% locked (and also are polling under 2% of the margin of error, rated B or above in the polls).
The polls here tend to be a little all over the place. The projections are the blended average from the above mentioned sources. In Florida, Wisconsin and Colorado, the odds are from 62–95% that Clinton will take the states. In Georgia and Arizona, it’s 52–99% Trump. For Ohio, North Carolina, Iowa and Nevada, it’s a giant crapshoot.
But that doesn’t matter. Clinton takes Florida, it’s over. She takes Ohio, it’s over. Wisconsin and North Carolina… really, anything that gets 16 electoral votes. Trump… he basically needs to take them all. That’s. Just. Not. Happening. It’s like landing 00 in Roulette twice in a row while getting eaten by a shark. And his luck at casinos wasn’t that good.
This isn’t trying to get into the why. If you want the why, I strongly recommend Dante Chinni’s Politics Counts column in the Wall Street Journal. He’s been tracking demographic shifts in the United States for more than a decade and its impact on the electorate via the American Communities Project. Nor is this trying to get into the politics.
No, this is just the straight math. And after spending countless hours looking at the polls, following the projections, there’s just no point in the suspense. It’s like watching a Bruckheimer flick: it might look super scary, but that asteroid just ain’t hitting the planet. Cue Aerosmith. Thanks Bruce.
If you don’t like the above, I encourage you to dig into the numbers yourself. You can find all the raw numbers and an election dashboard at #arewethereyet (http://awty.frischling.com). No opinion. No editorial [edit from 10/10: forgot to mention, no ads]. Just the numbers.
Of course, I encourage everyone to get out to vote, no matter what. You don’t get to whine about it if you don’t head to the polls.
Bill Frischling is a hardcore data geek and the Entrepreneur-in-Residence at U.S. News and World Report. After Sunday’s debate, he felt the need to vent. Opinions and views in this post are his and his alone.