The Presidential Election Puzzle

America will pick their next President on Tuesday November 8th.  In the remaining days, candidates will remain focused on campaign rallies and television advertising in the key battleground states that will determine the outcome of the election.

A great source for following the breakdown of polling in each state is Real Clear Politics.  RCP is citing most often by media outlets because it provides and average of all the polls taken in each state and come up with a plausible outcome based on those averages.  Currently, the national polling average has Hillary Clinton with a +1.7% advantage in a 2 way race and +2.2% advantage over Donald Trump in a race including multiple candidates.

Two things of note:  First, there are multiple candidates on the ballot.  Gary Johnson (Libertarian Party) and Jill Stein (Green Party) are both showing that they register at with a few percentage points in national polls. Evan McMullin is also running an independent campaign for President, focused primarily on winning the state of Utah’s 6 Electoral Votes, which would typically go to the Republican nominee. Several polls have shown McMullin quite competitive in Utah.  Second, the national polls are just an indicator of the mood of the country, but will not determine the outcome of the election.  The candidate who will become the next President of the United States will have to win 270 Electoral Votes in the Electoral College.

The Electoral College was designed by America’s Founders to weigh each state’s influence according to population, giving them a representative number of votes.  The Electoral College votes for each states are determined by the number of Congressional Districts in each state, plus the number of US Senate seats (which is 2 for every state).  This guarantees even the least populated states like Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming at least 3 Electoral Votes.  Our system also allows states to determine how those Electoral Votes are allocated.  For example, the states of Maine and Nebraska break up the allocated votes according to Congressional District.  Each state has 4 Electoral Votes; 2 of which will be determined by each state’s Popular Vote, and the other 2 are determined by the outcome in each of the state’s Congressional districts.  Normally, this has not been a factor, however, Maine’s 2nd Congressional District is considered a “Toss UP” in this election.  Currently, Clinton is leading Trump in the RCP Polling Average by only  +0.7%.

When looking at polling, pollsters allow for approximately a 3% swing in either direction, called the margin of error.  Similarly, not all polls have the same methodology.  Over and under sampling of certain groups within the electorate are often a subject of dispute.  According to the pundits, pollsters and campaigns, there are anywhere from 11-18 states that are going to determine the outcome of the November 8th election. RCP Averages currently have the following states in the “Toss Up”category:  Florida (29), Ohio (18), Georgia (16), North Carolina (15), Virginia (13), Arizona (11), Colorado (9), Iowa (6), Nevada (6), New Hampshire (4) and Maine 2nd (1).

Additionally, there there are several other states that are currently categorized as “Leans Democrat” that have seen recent visits from both candidates this week. These include:  Pennsylvania (20), Michigan (16), Wisconsin (10) and New Mexico (5).  The Rust Belt states of PA, MI and WI have been seen to be of particular interest to the Trump campaign, where his message on opposition to trade agreements like NAFTA and the pending Trans Pacific Partnership seems to resonate with blue collar workers.

Three other states are listed as “Leans GOP,” which include:  Texas (38), Indiana (11) and Missouri (10).  In recently weeks, the Clinton campaign made trips to Arizona and Texas, hoping these once solid Republican states with high populations of Latino voters could start moving in her direction.  Given recent movements in the polls it is very likely Mr. Trump will win Texas and these other GOP leaning states, but Arizona will likely remain a critical battleground state.

One thing is for certain, Florida’s 29 Electoral Votes are crucial for both candidates.  The amount of time spent in the state by both candidates in all corners of Florida in the last week of the election is testimony that the entire election could come down to outcome of the Sunshine State.

 

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