Now that the primaries are over and done with, we can fully turn our attention to the general election match-up between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.
If you had asked Democrats for a best case scenario in terms of who their nominee would match-up against in November, Donald Trump would be by far the most frequent response.
Considering his unfavorable numbers, bombastic personality, and propensity to make offensive, and in some cases, downright racist remarks, Democrats not only see an easier path to victory, but an opportunity to vastly expand on their already significant advantage in the electoral college.
Many in the punditry class have prognostications about how many red states Hillary Clinton can put in play, or even flip to her column this year.
I have given this a lot of thought as well and to be perfectly honest, I am having a hard time seeing how Clinton expands on the electoral college map we saw in either 2008 or 2012.
Here are the 2008 and 2012 maps:
To state the obvious, 2008 was a very unique election. While demographic shifts obviously flipped some states, there were a few outliers as well; namely Indiana, which had not gone for a Democrat since 1964, and Nebraska’s 2nd congressional district which, while a more liberal part of the state, had always solidly voted for a Republican candidate.
To me, the 2012 map seems to represent the norm in terms of our current electorate.
Looking at both maps, I just don’t see what other state’s Clinton can flip. People have mentioned Missouri, but the state has been trending towards the GOP over the last few election cycles. Mitt Romney carried the state by 10% in 2012 and McCain also carried it, albeit by less than 1%, in 2008; a wave election for Democrats.
Many have suggested Indiana is in play again this year. But Obama only won the state by 1% in 2008. Romney carried it by 10% in 2012 and when Republican presidential candidates have won the state, they have done so by double digit margins in all but three elections since 1964; with 1976, 1992, and 1996 being the exceptions.
Given the Republican lean of these two states, coupled with the fact Hillary Clinton is hated as much as, if not more than, Obama among GOP/GOP leaning voters, I don’t see either of these states flipping this year.
In 2008, Obama won 365 electoral votes. If you copied that exact map in 2016, it would total 359 as a result of the reallocation of electoral votes after the 2010 census. In my opinion, 359 electoral votes represents the best case scenario for Hillary Clinton this year.
North Carolina’s demographic shifts have turned it into a swing state over the last two elections. Obama carried it in 2008 and Romney narrowly carried the state in 2012. It has a sizable African American electorate and the state’s Research Triangle, encompassing Raleigh and Durham, is an area attracting a large number of young voters who traditionally vote for Democrats. So this is a state Clinton can flip back to the blue column.
The other state possibly in play this year is Arizona. Democrats had planned on making a run at carrying the state in 2008, but it was wiped out once John McCain became the Republican nominee. Mitt Romney also carried the state in 2012 thanks in large part to Arizona’s sizable Mormon population.
This year, with these factors out of the way, Democrats think it is in play due to its growing Hispanic population and Donald Trump’s unprecedented unfavorables with them. It is an outside shot, but I can see a scenario where Clinton could win here.
If Arizona and North Carolina flip this year, it’ll give Clinton 358 electoral votes, and the presidency. Like I said before, I believe this is her ceiling.
Predictions of Clinton carrying Utah or Texas are absurd.
Georgia is a state Democrats can carry eventually given that state’s demographic shifts, but it is unlikely to happen this year.
Democrats with dreams of a massive landslide on the scale of 1980 or 1988 are basing it purely on wishful thinking. Even with Trump’s issues, Republican voters are falling in line behind him by and large, which will make it even harder for Clinton to flip traditionally red states.
Clinton is a heavy favorite to win in November; don’t get me wrong. But when you consider the polarization of the country’s electorate and the fact Hillary Clinton is also a flawed candidate, it is easy to come to the conclusion that should Clinton win, the electoral map will look a lot like the one we saw in 2012, with an outside shot of looking similar to 2008.
If Democrats had lightning in a bottle this year, like they did with Barack Obama in 2008 and to a lesser extent in 2012, maybe it would be a different story. But they don’t have lightning in a bottle. They have Hillary Clinton.
Note: Maryland Scramble will provide a more in depth look and analysis into a number of “in play” states throughout the summer. Stay tuned.