This is not a column for the people who live politics 24/7. This is a short, helpful primer to allow you to speak knowledgeably about the topic tomorrow as you watch the returns come in with your friends and family.
Candidates compete to win the popular vote in each state. Each state is allotted a number of electoral delegates based upon population. Larger states have more delegates. The margin of popular vote victory in each state is unimportant. A win of a single popular vote will award the entire slate of delegates to the victor. (Maine and Nebraska can split their vote.)
There is a grand total of 538 electoral votes in play. Winning 270 is necessary to become the next President of the United States.
The Starting Line
There are a number of states which reliably vote Democrat or Republican each election. These states will invariably be “called” immediately upon the closing of the polls. Because of the time zones, results will come in for the East Coast states first. If you want to have any idea who is going to win without having to stay up all night, analysis of a few key races here may be all you need.
The farther to the right or left the state is listed denotes the lead the candidate currently has in the state. For example, there is no one who reasonably predicts California to vote for Donald Trump, or for Alabama to back Secretary Clinton. In an effort to predict the winner, we can sort these expected outcomes into the columns above and reach a “Starting Line” score of 203-164 favoring Clinton, with 171 delegates remaining in the “toss up” category.
This is where the election will be decided, and will monopolize television coverage throughout the night. The biggest prizes of Florida, Pennsylvania and Ohio will be the focus. Since Hillary should have a significant lead, Trump can not afford to lose many of these states and be successful. Donald needs to win at least 106 out of the 171 toss up delegates to be victorious.
Early Indicators (How to look like an expert!)
The ginormous question mark this election cycle is about the accuracy of the polls.
Several recent worldwide polling efforts, including the Brexit vote, have proven to be wildly inaccurate. The East Coast returns will give us our first indication of what we can expect. Although Trump still trails in most polls, supporters argue that his popular support is weighted down due to under sampling and the Bradley effect. Under sampling refers to the ratio of Democrats to Republicans included in the poll results. These are often based upon the previous election voter turnout. Trump supporters believe that the Republican turnout will be greater than that of 2012. The Bradley effect is the belief that those who intend to vote for Mr. Trump are less inclined to admit it publicly for fear of being ridiculed, and are therefore under counted.
- SOUTH CAROLINA, GEORGIA
These should be easy victories for Donald Trump. If these races are not called within a half hour or so of the 7pm poll closing times, it would signal the start of a long night for the Manhattan businessman.
- NEW HAMPSHIRE
This is in the “toss up” category, but has voted Democrat 5 out of the last 6 cycles. If Trump can win here in deep blue New England, he may very well carry the Midwest “rust belt” state of Pennsylvania, almost insuring him the Presidency.
I believe early on it will be apparent if either candidate is outperforming their polling. If it is Hillary doing so, you can go to bed confident in knowing you will wake up with a female President-elect. Her lead is already substantial. If Trump is beating the polls, try to figure out by how much.
Trump will need to overcome a 1 point margin to win Florida and its 29 electoral votes. The toughest challenge would be to win Virginia. He would need to outperform his polls by over 5%. Winning Virginia is not necessary for an overall Trump victory, however. If he can manage to get actual voters to turn out a single percentage point ahead of his current estimate, he would win Florida and New Hampshire out of Hillary’s column and eke out a narrow 270-268 victory.
So, as you can see, the margin is razor thin! It should be an exciting night, for sure. Be sure to get out and vote if you have an opinion. Treat each other with respect and dignity, no matter who they are pulling for. Remember we are all Americans out there and will have to live with each other when this whole thing is over!
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