Election 2016: A Final Look Into the Battleground States; And My Predictions

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Well, here we are. An election that seemed like it would never end will be over in a few hours.

More than 45 million Americans have already cast votes via absentee ballot, or in-person early voting with many more to do so today.

So, as we (finally!) bring the 2016 election cycle to a close, let’s take a look at where the race for the White House currently stands and where I think it will end up

Trump clearly gained some ground on Clinton over the last couple of weeks. It started after the candidates wrapped up their third, and final, debate and accelerated a bit after FBI Director (for now) James Comey sent a letter to Congress saying some emails pertinent to their investigation were found on the laptop belonging to serial junk pic sender, Anthony Weiner. It turned out the media ran with a bogus headline that the investigation into Clinton’s email server was re-opened, but by the time they walked it back, it was too late. And as we learned the other day, it turned out to be a giant nothingburger.

What seemed like a comfortable lead for Clinton became anything but, before stabilizing a bit as the Election Day drew closer.

Whether the race had closed significantly or only slightly, if you look at the trend lines, what stands out is Clinton’s level of support didn’t dropped much, if at all. Trump gained ground because more and more Republican holdouts came back to him, which should give Clinton and other Democrats some comfort. Some. Nobody likes to see their opponent gaining in the polls, but some Republicans coming home to Trump should not be a surprise to anybody.

Plus, the movement over the last week or two is in line with the trend we have seen all year. Clinton’s lead in the national polls vacillates between three and nine points. When her email server or lack of transparency (i.e her being sick and then fainting on Sept. 11) dominates the news coverage, her lead drops to the three point range. When Donald Trump’s controversy of choice is dominating the news, her lead shoots back up to the eight or nine percent margin. Right now, most national polls have settled in the five point range for Clinton. Which is probably where it has been all along.

Now that we have covered national polling, let’s take a look at what is happening in the battleground states, where we have at least some data to go off of in terms of what turnout, for both party and demographics, looks like in the early going.

Arizona

Democrats have an optimistic outlook about their chances in this traditionally red state. Recent polls have been promising, and so did the early voting numbers, at least initially.

Clinton’s chances have also been buoyed by a surge in Latino turnout. Latinos make up around 13 percent of all early voters, which is an increase from 11 percent in 2012. In a clear sign of how much she likes her chances of turning Arizona blue for the first time since 1996, Mrs. Clinton made a campaign stop here on Wednesday night at Arizona State University in Tempe. Her running mate, Tim Kaine, also made a swing through the state, giving a speech at the Maryvale Community Center entirely in Spanish yesterday.

However, even with some encouraging trends it looks like the state might be slipping away. As of today, Republicans lead in overall turnout by 101,705 votes so far. GOP returns, so far, make up 40 percent of all early votes cast, while Democratic ballots make up 34 percent, and unaffiliated ballots at 25 percent of the ballots returned so far. We’ll see if Democrats can put a dent in that margin over the weekend.

Polling in Arizona has also started to trend back towards Mr. Trump; the latest being an NBC/Marist polls that shows him leading 45 percent to 40 percent. The poll also found that 58 percent of likely voters have already done so in Arizona and Trump leads among them 47 percent to 44 percent, even with the surge in Latino voting.

For Clinton to win the state’s 11 electoral votes, she is going to need a huge Democratic turnout on Tuesday, be able to pick off enough college educated voters around the Phoenix and Tucson areas, or hope she can pick up some votes from the sizeable Mormon population in the northern part of the state.

Clinton will make it close, and her near miss will likely represent a sign of good things to come for Democrats here in future elections, given the state’s changing demographics, but it’s hard to see her overtaking Trump on Tuesday.

Winner: Trump

Colorado

While polls have tightened up a bit lately, Clinton still holds an average lead of around four to five points.

Colorado used to be solidly in the GOP column until recently, voting for the Republican candidate in all but one election, 1992, from 1964 to 2004. Like a number of states out west, Colorado’s demographics have shifted over time, becoming a younger, more diverse, and rapidly growing state. Latinos make up more than 20 percent of the population here and nearly 40% of the population over 25 years old in Colorado has at least a four year degree, 10 percent higher than the national average.

Like Obama in 2008 and 2012, Mrs. Clinton is looking for the coalition of Hispanic and young, white, college educated liberal voters to deliver the state’s nine electoral votes to her on Tuesday.

Colorado is one of the few states to have an all mail-in ballot system and voters have been sending them in at an increasing rate as Election Day looms.

More than two million Coloradans have cast their vote and Republicans have and edges in terms of turnout; 19,000 ballots separate the number returned by Republicans and the number returned by Democrats. Republicans currently make up 35 percent of all ballots cast, Democrats make up 34 percent, with the other 29 percent representing voters not affiliated with either party.

Don’t let the GOP advantage in turnout alarm you though. Democrats are currently outperforming their showing from four years ago. Republicans returned 33k more ballots before Election Day in 2012 than Democrats did and President Obama still won the state by six percentage points.

This was due, mostly, to his large margin of victory among the state’s fast-growing unaffiliated voting bloc. If Hillary wants to keep the state blue this year, she will have to do the same. Fortunately for her, Colorado Independents skew younger and more diverse. Voters under 40 years old make up 52% of all unaffiliated voters in Colorado. They make 40 percent of the Democratic Party and only one-third of Republican voters.

The five counties with the largest number of unaffiliated voters are Denver (168k), El Paso (163k), Jefferson (161k), Arapahoe (152k), and Adams (103k). Of those five counties, three of them, Adams, Arapahoe, and Denver, supported Obama by double digit margins in both 2008 and 2012. Jefferson County, a Denver suburb, went to Obama twice by nine in 2008 and by six in 2012. George W. Bush won the county by a six point margin in 2004. Only El Paso County (Colorado Springs) has a consistent track record of voting for the Republican candidate.

So the numbers look encouraging for Clinton, but she is not completely out of the woods yet. Turnout among voters 18 to 34 is 19 percent; down from 23 percent in 2012; and voters over the age of 65 make up 27 percent of all voters, an increase from the 21 percent of the early voting electorate four years ago. It is probably not enough to swing the election to Mr. Trump, but Clinton would feel a lot more comfortable if the 18-to-34 year old vote increased its share by a few more points.

Obviously young voters will not turn out for Mrs. Clinton in the numbers they turned out for President Obama, but their share of the electorate will increase as they tend to lag behind in early voting giving Clinton more of an edge in the state. Just over the few days, 18-to-34 year olds increased their share of the electorate by two point, while voters over the age of 65 had their make up of the electorate fall by two percent. That and according to a Public Policy Poll released last Friday, Clinton leads among Colorado early voters by a 52 to 41 margin.

Add all of this to the fact that Trump has led in just three state polls dating back to last November and you have Colorado going blue for the third election in a row.

Winner: Clinton

Florida

Donald Trump’s list of must-win state’s for is a lengthy one, but if he is going to make any headway in his quest to 270, he has to start it off by winning Florida; a state whose population has grown at a staggering 27 percent since the year 2000, almost double the national average, and whose 29 electoral votes are only surpassed by California’s 55 and Texas’s 38 on the electoral college map.

Florida’s impact on who ultimately becomes president is undisputed. It was the state that decided the 2000 election, and has been in the column of every winning presidential candidate for the last 20 years. Bill Clinton was the last candidate to win the White House without it back in 1992.

We’ll have to see what the early voting numbers from Sunday look like, but if they follow the trend we have seen throughout the early voting period in Florida, they will only reinforce the encouraging numbers for Hillary Clinton has seen from the state over the last two weeks.

Early voting has exploded this year in the Sunshine State. About six-and-a-half million Floridians have already voted so far. To put that in perspective, that is 78% of the total votes cast in the state four years ago. Not to jinx it, but there is a pretty decent chance we will know who is going to win Florida when the early voting results come out shortly after the polls close.

As of this morning, Democrats have an overall lead of 88,000 votes. Republicans have an edge of roughly 67,000 votes in mail-in absentee ballots returned, while Democrats lead among in-person early voters by more than 150,000. So far Democrats make up 40% of all votes cast, compared to 38% for the GOP and 19% for Independents. Compared to 2012, Democrats share of the early voting electorate is down by around three percent and their overall lead is down from the 167,000 margin they enjoyed four years ago after early voting.

Is this cause for alarm? Not necessarily. And a deeper dive into the numbers explain why.

Over the last four years, the Democratic Party edge in voter registration has decreased significantly, but is due to two main factors. The first being a lot of voters became unaffiliated. The second, and most important, factor is between 2012 and 2016 a large number of conservative, white, Democrats switched parties. Many of the people who switched over to the GOP resided in the northern part of the state as well as the panhandle, two of Florida’s more conservative areas. So while they may have been registered as Democrats, the vast majority of them voted for Republican presidential candidates.

In fact, 50,000 2016 Republican early voters were Democratic early voters in 2012, meaning if these voters hadn’t switched parties, Democrats would have a lead of roughly 100,000 votes right now, which wouldn’t matter much given the number crossover votes to the GOP.

If that didn’t help you feel any better, this might. The Latino vote is surging bigly this year, increasing by an eye-opening 87 percent from 2012. Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg said last Friday that turnout among Florida Latino’s is “explosive” and that Democrats are stunned by the scale of it. According to Michael McDonald, Associate Professor at the University of Florida and expert in US elections, when it is all said and done, the number of Hispanic voters in Florida that have cast ballots before Election Day will surpass the total number of Hispanics who voted in 2012.

And for all the talk earlier last week about African American turnout lagging from 2012, they have pulled their weight as of late. African American early voters are up nine percent from 2012.

The demographic breakdown among early voters in Florida is as follows:

  • White: 4.2 million votes; 65.8%; 2012: 3.3 million votes; 67.9%
  • Hispanic: 976,300 votes; 15.3%; 2012: 522,500 votes; 10.9%
    • African American: 834,600 votes; 13.1%; 2012: 764,000 votes; 15.9%
  • All other races: 373,000 votes; 5.8%; 2012: 251,500 votes; 7%

Early voting in Florida is not just cannibalizing regular general election voters. 76 percent of the two-and-a-half million Democrat who have voted thus far, voted in 2012, including 500,000 who voted early this year but voted on Election Day four years ago.

For Republicans, 2.4 million of them have voted already, including 79 percent who voted four years ago, and about 560,000 of whom waited until Election Day in 2012.

So Democrats are turning out new voters at a slightly higher rate than Republicans.

Most of the new votes this year are coming from unaffiliated voters. About 1.2 million unaffiliated voters have cast ballots this year, but only 60 percent voted in 2012.

Of all the voters who have come out to the polls so far this year, but stayed home in 2012, 23 percent are white, 20 percent black, 34 percent Hispanic, 35 percent are Asian, a demographic group quickly trending towards Democrats, and 34 percent are from other or multiracial backgrounds. And new unaffiliated voters in Florida are young and more diverse.

On the County level, Democrats have run up strong margins in their typical strongholds like Broward County where they lead by more than 205,000 votes, Miami-Dade where they have a 112,000 vote cushion at the moment.

A potential issue is Palm Beach County. Democrats have outvoted Republicans by 72,000 votes there, but the 108,000 voters are only 62 percent of the early vote total from 2012 whereas Broward and Miami have surpassed their 2012 totals.

Democrats are also getting some good news in the famous I-4 Corridor, a series of growing, swing counties that stretch across the central part of the state from Tampa in the east to Daytona Beach on the state’s west coast. These counties include Hillsborough, which includes the city of Tampa and its suburbs to the north and east and has sided with the candidate who carried Florida in all but one presidential election (1960) since 1880; Orange and Osceola Counties, the former emphasising Orlando, the latter its suburbs to the south, which have seen a huge influx of Puerto Ricans who overwhelmingly vote for Democrats; Polk and Seminole, two counties to the southwest and northeast of Orlando, respectively, that were carried by Romney, McCain, and Bush; and Volusia County (Daytona Beach), which went narrowly for John Kerry in 2004 and Barack Obama in 2008, before flipping to Romney by a one point margin four years ago.

In Hillsborough, Democrats lead Republicans in ballots cast by 28,000 votes (42 percent to 35 percent) and have a 25,000 vote margin in Osceola County. Their margin increases to over 65,000 votes in Orlando.

Republican margins in Polk and Seminole are 1,023 and 10,000 respectively; and a little over 4,000 in Daytona Beach (Volusia). Daytona Beach might be an uphill climb for Democrats this time around given the county is 73 percent white, well above the state average, where 79 percent of its population over the age of 25 do not have college degrees, also well above the state average.

Clinton’s campaign is likely happy with what they are seeing in Duval County (Jacksonville), a solid Republican county that hasn’t voted for a Democratic presidential candidate since 1976. Democrats, at least for now, lead in terms of ballots returned by 4,200 votes.

Trump is all but certain to the carry the county, but in order to make up for the heavy losses he is taking in south Florida and some of the swing counties along the I-4 corridor, he needs to win Duval by a margin similar to the the 61,000 votes George W. Bush won by in 2004. If Mr. Trump is held to margins similar to the 8,000 and 14,000 vote advantage John McCain and Mitt Romney enjoyed, which looks likely given the early Democratic lead, he is in trouble.

If you want to know how confident Mrs. Clinton is about Florida, it is important to note that she did not visit the state this past weekend or yesterday. Opting instead to spend her time in former Rust Belt states to rally support there.

This is not to say Florida is in the bag for the Clinton campaign. There is a distinct possibility that Trump runs up large margins among white voters, who have also increased in terms of raw numbers this year, and offsets her gains among Hispanics.

Clinton could also stand to see Democrats return their absentee ballots between now and tomorrow. There are more than 815,000 absentee ballots that have not been returned yet and Democrats make up a plurality of them, including a combined 100,000 Democratic ballots still outstanding from Broward and Miami-Dade County.

At the end of the day, Florida is going to Florida. It is going to be close in the end. But given the surge in Hispanic voting and the fact many of them are low propensity voters, Clinton has the edge here and I expect it to hold up.

Winner: Clinton

Iowa

We did an update about the early voting numbers in Iowa about a month ago and back then, the numbers suggested Democrats were trending closer to their 2014 early vote numbers than their 2012 numbers, which is a not a good thing.

Fast forward to the present day and the number of absentee ballots returned are slightly off the pace. At this point in 2012, one day before Election Day, 673,000 ballots were returned to the board of elections. Republicans have returned just over 218,000 ballots, which is slightly ahead of their pace four years ago when 215,000 GOP ballots were returned. Democrats on the other hand, are underperforming their 2012 showing by more than 20,000 votes. Currently, Democrats lead early voting by 42,000 but that too is down sharply from 2012 when they led by almost 67,000 votes heading into Election Day. And this doesn’t even take into account the crossover vote that Mr. Trump is likely to benefit from.

Iowa has always been the state Trump was most likely to flip due to the demographic advantages he has. For starters, this is a very white state. White’s make up 87 percent of the population, 10 points ahead of the nationwide population, while African Americans, Hispanics, and Asians make up a combine 12 percent of the population. African Americans are 13 percent of the US population alone.

This is also state with a large number of white voters without a college degree and one that has a sizable evangelical population; the two voting blocs the Mr. Trump receives overwhelming support from. 74% of Iowans over the age of 25 do not have a college degree, compared with 71% of Americans over 25 who do not have a degree; and the evangelicals who account for 26 percent of the population here are well above the nationwide percentage of 17 percent. Only eight states have a larger evangelical christian population than Iowa.

People seem to forget this, but Iowa was trending towards the Republican Party not too long ago. This is a state Michael Dukakis won by 10 points in 1988 and went solidly for Bill Clinton in 1992 and 1996. But in the year 2000, Gore won by less than 4,000 votes over George W. Bush. Four years later, Bush won the state over John Kerry by 10,000 votes.

So the swing towards the GOP was pretty evident. That is until Barack Obama threw a wrench in the machine when he took the state by storm in the 2008 caucuses, and then went on to win the convincingly in the 2008 and 2012 general elections. But the Senate race in 2014 started the trend towards the GOP back up again. What many thought would be a close race between Democrat Bruce Braley and Republican Joni Ernst, some even suggested Braley was the favorite early on, turned into an Ernst route.

Plus, the Clinton’s have had nothing but trouble with this state dating back to 1992. Bill Clinton didn’t compete here in the 1992 primary, ceding the state to long time Sen. Tom Harkin, but he still managed to come in fourth behind Harkin, Paul Tsongas, and uncommitted.

In 2008, Hillary’s campaign was over before it really began when she was blown out by Obama; eventually finishing in third behind John Edwards. And back in February of this year, Clinton won the Iowa Caucuses by the slimmest of margins over insurgent candidate Bernie Sanders.

Trump has led Clinton here throughout most of the year. This was confirmed again this week when a Des Moines Register poll, the gold standard of polling in the Hawkeye State, showed the Republican nominee with a seven point lead.

Think of 2016 as the year Iowa started to go the way of Missouri. A swing state friendly to Democrats that became a solid red state.

Winner: Trump  

Ohio

Ohio is another state we took a look at earlier so I won’t rehash too much of it right now, except to say this another state Trump should do well in given its demographic trends. While not as pronounced as Iowa, Ohio is another Midwestern state that is more white, and less educated than the country as a whole.

It is a state that has been especially hard hit by the exodus of manufacturing jobs overseas as well as the country’s shift towards more renewable sources of energy. This has had an adverse effect on the conservative southwestern part of the state where the vast majority of its coal mines, and thus coal miners, are. When Donald Trump starts ripping NAFTA and other trade deals, it really strikes a chord here.

Not only is Trump expected to do well in the conservative northeastern and southwestern parts of the state, he is also expected to vastly outperform Mitt Romney and John McCain in the blue collar, but reliably Democratic, areas in the northeast near and around Youngstown, where both John Kerry in 2004 and Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012 received more than 60 percent of the vote.

Judging early voting in Ohio is a little more difficult than other states since they do not register voters by party. But we can still get a good idea of where things are going based on where the early votes are coming from.

Up until recently, the picture looked bleak for Mrs. Clinton, with early voting increases coming mostly from the areas of the state most likely to friendly to Mr. Trump, and turnout, namely African American turnout, lagging behind 2012 totals in the Democratic strongholds of Cuyahoga County (Cleveland), Franklin County (Columbus), and Hamilton County (Cincinnati).

However, those numbers bounced back in a big way over the weekend. Cuyahoga County finally surpassed its 2012 early vote total, barely; increasing by 1,052 total votes (+0.4%). Franklin County meanwhile ended up with 22,500 more votes (+10%) in early voting this year than they had four years ago. Hamilton County, as far as we know, is still slightly down from 2012.

We have also seen increased early voting turnout in reliably republican counties like Delaware, Lake, and Warren Counties. As I said in my Ohio post last week, these are very wealthy, educated, and white suburban voters Trump has had trouble with all year. Especially college educated, suburban women. Whether these Republican voters come home to the GOP or crossover to vote for Clinton out of disgust for Mr. Trump will play a large part in determining who will win Ohio’s 18 electoral votes.

I may be one of the few remaining holdouts but I am somewhat bullish about Clinton’s chances here. Granted it was one poll, but the Columbus Dispatch this week released a poll showing Clinton with a 50 to 49 edge over Trump. But this poll was almost right on the money in the final 2012 poll when they had Obama leading Romney 50 percent to 48 percent; Obama went on to win 51 percent of the vote, while Romney wound up with 48 percent.

An added bonus was a story in The Hill last week reporting that a recent AFL-CIO poll showed Trump’s support among their members dropping from 44 percent in June to 32 percent in late October; five points below the 37 percent Mitt Romney received four years ago. So maybe, just maybe, Trump’s support among blue collar workers is not as strong as it once was.

I said last weekend my made up odds had Clinton with a 51 percent shot at winning the state. Today, I will put her chances at 50.1 percent.

Winner: Clinton

North Carolina

If one state is most likely to be this years version of Florida 2000 (cringes) it is probably North Carolina. It is that close here and the early voting numbers show a mixed bag.

On one hand, 305,000 more Democrats have voted than Republicans, giving them a lead of 10 percentage points. On the other, that lead is down significantly from 2012, when Democrats lead by more than 15 percent after early voting. On Election Day in 2012, Mitt Romney routed Obama enough to make up the early voting deficit and win the state narrowly. So as it stands now, Trump has an easier hill to climb than Romney did.

Part of the reason the margin between the two parties is smaller is because 125,000 more Republicans have voted this year than at this point in 2012, while the number of Democrats who have voted compared to this point four years ago has decreased slightly. This is especially true among African American voters, whose share of the vote is down five percent this year; a stark contrast to white voters in the state who have increased their voter share by 22 percent.

In other states, like Florida and Ohio, African American turnout recovered from a slow start as early voting wound down. Not so in North Carolina, and I am sure a lot of it has to do with the fact the state has made it harder for African Americans to vote early. Turnout among younger voters is also down from this point four years ago.

However, even though things look brighter for Trump than some thought initially, there are a number of x-factors that will determine who carries the state.

The first is unaffiliated voters, who represent the biggest increase in early voting, with 239,800 more voting early this year, an increase of 42 percent. Unaffiliated voters in North Carolina tend to lean towards Democrats so that could help Clinton make up for a downturn in African American voters. There are also more voters who are Hispanic, Asian, and multiracial than in 2012, 44 percent more, in fact. And women turnout is up by a net 187,000 votes compared to men who have increased their vote numbers by a net of 133,000 and change.

Clinton as to hope the increase of diverse, unaffiliated voters around the Raleigh and Durham areas in the Research Triangle as well as in Charlotte are enough to put her over the top.

I give the slightest of edges to Clinton.

Winner: Clinton

Michigan

I feel like the punditry class has the same conversation about Michigan every four years. At some point in the election cycle, they spend their time wondering “is this the year Republicans finally win Michigan?” Think of Republicans as Captain Ahab and of Michigan (and Pennsylvania) as their White Whale.

In some respects, it does make sense to for them to try and pick up their 16 electoral votes. Michigan is another state in the former Rust Best with a large white, working class population who do not have college degrees. So the strategy for Trump is the same as it is in Ohio, Iowa, and other Rust Belt states; run up the score with these voters.

The problem Trump, and Republicans, in the past have run into is the fact that Michigan, even with it’s white working class population, is more diverse than other states in the Midwest. White’s in Michigan are 76 percent of the population, which is actually a percentage point below the country as a whole, and the state’s African American population (14%) is a point above the US’s (13%).

Democrats always win big in Wayne County (Detroit) and have also done well in Detroit’s wealthy, and highly educated suburb, Oakland County. Obama carried Oakland County by about 100,000 votes in 2008, and by a little over 50,000 votes in 2012. They count on these margins, and success in places like Ann Arbor and Lansing to overcome Republican’s success in the more rural parts of the state, especially in the upper peninsula.

There is no early voting in Michigan and absentee voting is excuse based, unlike many states in the country that now have no excuse absentee voting.

Data out of Michigan is notoriously bad, but analysis shows a return of almost 900,000 thousand absentee ballots as of Nov. 5. State officials expect that number to exceed the 1.3 million absentee ballots cast in 2012 when it is all said and done.

According to Practical Political Consulting, a Michigan based firm that analyzes absentee ballot returns, Republicans have returned 310,000 ballots, while Democrats have returned 252,000.

However, like in some other states mentioned above, do not hit the panic button. Remember, Michigan has excuse only absentee balloting. The criteria for being granted an absentee ballot includes:

  1. Being 60 years old or older
  2. Unable to vote without assistance at the polls
  3. Expecting to be out of town on election day
  4. In jail awaiting arraignment or trial
  5. Unable to attend the polls due to religious reasons
  6. Appointed to work as an election inspector in a precinct outside of your precinct of residence.

Given this requirements, it is safe to assume absentee balloting would skew more towards older, more religious voters, which would explain the current Republican advantage.

One potential red flag for Mrs. Clinton is the decline in absentee votes coming from Detroit, which cast 81,000 absentee ballots in 2012 but has only returned 65,000 this year. But Obama won the state by nearly 450,000 votes four years ago, so Clinton does have some margin of error to work with should the African American vote in Wayne, and across the state, continue to underperform through Election Day.

As for the overall outlook of the state, there is zero evidence Trump is a threat to win here. He has not led in a poll all year and typically polls in the low 40s. Clinton’s average lead in Michigan polls is about five percent, which is exactly the same as Obama’s average lead heading into Election Day in 2012. He went on to defeat Romney by 10 points. I do not think Clinton will win by that much.

If I could make a quick observation about Michigan and the broader Midwest; it is pretty clear she will underperform Obama in this region. It is easy to forget that Obama did a lot better among blue collar white voters than the convention wisdom suggests. Some political observers have compared Clinton’s popularity in the region to that of 2004 candidate John Kerry, which I think is pretty accurate.

Kerry just could not connect with blue collar whites, partly because he was seen as an out of touch elitist, and also because Bush was extremely popular with among them. And despite that, even as he went on to lose the election, Kerry still won Michigan by over 150,000 votes. He also hung on, barely, in Wisconsin that year, and in Pennsylvania, a state we will get to, as well.

2016 will be no different in my opinion.

Winner: Clinton

Pennsylvania

Now we arrive at the Republicans other white whale.

If the punditry class hems and haws about Republicans snagging Michigan too much, they are even worse when it comes to Pennsylvania. Trump was here a number of times over the last two weeks, in an effort to gin up more support among the states white working class, which is sizable to be sure. So once again, we had to hear a discussion about whether the GOP’s last minute blitz in Pennsylvania will pay off.

There is no early voting in Pennsylvania, which explains why Clinton held a huge rally in Philadelphia last night and brought out the A-Team; Bruce Springsteen, Bon Jovi, and the Obama’s. It was a clear effort to fire up African American support in the city and further underscored the importance of the state in her quest for the presidency. I explained why Pennsylvania was so important back in August. It is because a win here, all but clinches the White House for her.

In addition to Philly, Clinton is also hoping to rout Donald Trump in the city’s suburbs to make up for the support he will get in the middle, and more rural part of the state. They call it Pennsyltucky for a reason. She is also hoping to do well in Allegheny County (Pittsburgh) where Democrats tend to do very well.

Pennsylvania has gone for the Democratic candidate in the last six presidential elections based in large part on their inability to breakthrough with African American voters in Philadelphia, and to a lesser extent, Pittsburgh. Recent polls show Trump underperforming Romney among African American’s in Philly and also in Bucks, Delaware, and Montgomery Counties, the aforementioned suburbs surrounding the city.

There is a decent chance Trump gets closer than Mitt Romney, who lost the state by more than 300,000 votes (52 percent to 47 percent), due to his support with blue collar whites. But overperforming past Republicans with that demographic will not be enough to make up the difference.

Winner: Clinton

Nevada

Republicans had some hope for Nevada this year. And for a little while this year, it looked as though they were onto something. Trump showed some very surprising strength here throughout the year and even some recent polls looked promising for him.

This surprised many considering the state’s growing Latino population and Obama’s decisive wins in 2008 and 2012. But one thing people may not know about Nevada is that it is a state where that has large share of white voters do not have a college degree. So it is not surprising to see Trump showing some strength here.

Of course there was always the possibility the polls were understating Clinton’s support. There is a history of this happening. In 2008, the RealClearPolitics average of polls showed Obama with a lead of six-and-a-half points. He won by 12.

In 2012, RealClearPolitics had Obama with an average lead of only three percentage points. He went on to win the state by seven points.

Polling misses are not just unique to presidential elections either. In 2010, they had GOP Senate candidate and certifiable human being, Sharron Angle, leading Harry Reid by almost three percent. Reid, with the help of his vaunted turnout machine, won reelection by more than five points.

And by the looks of it, the same thing is happening this year. RealClearPolitics shows Trump, on average, leading by a little less than one point, but the early voting numbers tell a completely different story.

Republicans have a slight edge in the number of mail-in absentee ballots returned (2,500 more than Democrats), but they typically do better in this category and their margin this year is below the 3,700 absentee ballot advantage they had four years ago.

Democrats, meanwhile have dominated in-person early voting, casting 48,000 more votes than registered Republicans. This is down slightly from the advantage of 51,000 last time around. This is in large part because Republicans currently enjoy larger advantages in the rural, and very conservative, counties outside of Clark (Las Vegas) and Washoe County (Reno).

Again, given the demographics of these counties, this was bound to happen. Democrats needed to offset this by building a large firewall in Vegas and keeping in close in Reno, two areas where almost 90 percent of the state’s population residents reside, with the vast majority living in Las Vegas. And build the firewall they did.

Thanks to a huge increase in Hispanic turnout, Democrats enjoy a larger lead in Clark County this year (72,000 votes) than they did in 2012 when they lead by just under 70,000.

In the swing county of Washoe, Democrats lead in votes cast by around 1,000 votes. After early voting four years ago, they trailed Republicans by 900 votes.

Let’s put it this way, based on these numbers and the fact that John Ralston, Nevada political guru who was spot on with his projections in 2008, 2010, and 2012, says it is all but game over for Trump in the Silver State, it’s safe to say Clinton has it well in hand.

Winner: Clinton

New Hampshire

In the interest of time, and the fact this post is already long as hell, I will just say that even though New Hampshire has an independent streak and it’s the state that started Trump’s path to the nomination, doesn’t change the fact this is a state that has leaned blue in recent years.

John Kerry won it in his 2004 loss to Bush, and Obama won it convincingly twice, including over Mitt Romney, who was governor in the state next door.

The polls here showed a narrowing gap over the last two weeks, inducing two with Trump leading by a small margin. But the overwhelming majority of the polls this year have shown Clinton in the lead, including a University of New Hampshire survey released this week that had her leading by 11, and PPP poll release a week ago with her up by five.

New Hampshire should be closer than the six point gap that separated President Obama and Mitt Romney four years ago, but Clinton still has a clear advantage.

Winner: Clinton

Final 2016 Map

final-2016-map

Here is to hoping. God help us all if I, and the polls, and the election forecasters are wrong.

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