If you’re in the business like me, or if you just are unusually interested in this most interesting of presidential elections, I recommend that you bookmark the website 270towin.com.
The website is a brilliant interactive resource centered on the Electoral College map. You, yourself, can play pundit and click on individual states in various combinations, turning them from toss-up to red to blue.
One of the things that 270towin.com will do for you is to bring in to focus just how daunting the electoral map is for Republican candidates.
The map that comes up when you first go to the site is the “2016 Toss-Up” map. It shows the Democrats starting with 217 electoral votes to the GOP’s 191. That means that to win the election, the Republican candidate must gain 79 electoral votes while the Democrat must gain only 53.
According to the map, the Dems have 17 states locked up, the GOP has 23 states it can count on leaving exactly 10 that are in play.
If you play with the map, clicking on tan undecided states to turn them either red or blue, you can play around with 85 possible combinations to give the Democrat the win, 72 combinations to give the Republican the win and 15 combinations that would result in an Electoral College tie – sending the election to the House of Representatives.
If Donald Trump hopes to win, very nearly all of those possible combinations include re-taking Florida and Ohio. Of the 79 electoral votes that Donald Trump must pick up, 47 of them are in those two states. It is true this season as it is every season, the Republican cannot win without Ohio and has very little shot without Florida.
But the Democrats have their must-win states, too. Assuming that the Republican wins Ohio and Florida, Pennsylvania becomes do or die for the Democrat.
In that scenario, absent the 20 Electoral College votes from Pennsylvania, there are essentially no plausible combinations that work for the Democrat.
Pennsylvania has gone for the Democratic candidate since the 1992 contest between George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton. But it was Clinton confidante James Carville who said “Pennsylvania is Philadelphia and Pittsburgh with Alabama in between.”
The fact that Donald Trump has strong working-class voter strength, and the fact that his eventual nomination really became solidly inevitable with his blowout primary victory in Pennsylvania in April, and the switching of the Keystone State from blue to red becomes plausible. Maybe not yet likely, but plausible. The fact that 270towin.com shows the state as a toss-up is significant.
What all of this means is that the national polls are largely for our amusement and that of the pundits. The fact that Trump is slightly ahead or Hillary is slightly ahead is largely meaningless.
An American presidential election is not a national horserace. It is 50 discrete contests in 50 sovereign states.
Of those 50 contests, the overall outcome depends on about ten of them.
One hundred fifty nine days remain until the election. Have fun with 270towin.com.