Who will win the 2016 US presidential election? (update)

Increasingly, I’m finding the electoral vote logic compelling[1]. There’s a nice, clear presentation of that logic in a recent Washington Post piece: “If Clinton wins Florida and carries the 19 states (plus D.C.) that have voted for the Democratic presidential nominee in each of the last six elections, she will be the 45th president. It’s that simple”[2]. Well, I wouldn’t want to use the word “simple” in the same breadth as “presidential election,” but, yeah, that would do the trick. Two questions arise here: (i) Are any of the six-time D states likely to defect? and (ii) how probable is a D win in Florida?

Let’s start with (i). The most likely defectors are Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. The Cook Political Report tells us that both of these states have a “lean D” status[3]. Federal legislative positions that are rated as lean D end up going D 87.7% of the time[4]. (Presidential elections are too rare to supply useful date, I suppose.) Note that the WaPo arithmetic doesn’t
presuppose that the Ds will win either Colorado or Virginia, both of which are also listed as lean D.

What about (ii)? How likely is it that Florida will be blue this fall? CPR also lists it as lean D. The WaPo piece points to a poll referred to in Politico article, which has HRC up 13 percentage points on Mr. Trump. But once you run it down, you see that the poll was based on 604 voters, not enough to get very excited about[5].

More important, perhaps, are the demographics of the state: Registered Democrats = 40%, registered Republicans = 35%, and registered for neither = 25%. Hispanics make up about 20% of the state’s population[6], and Mr. Trump’s problems with hispanics don’t deserve a footnote. All of this information, however, has to be taken with a grain of salt: Hispanics skew younger, and many younger folks can’t vote (under 18) or don’t vote (enter your favorite joke about millennials here). Interestingly, 15% of Florida are vets or serving military, and Mr. Trump is reported to poll well with this group[7][8].

Oversimplifying (a lot), I’d like to say that Mr. Trump can’t win without Florida, so his odds of winning the presidency can’t be higher than his odds of winning Florida. And at the moment, I don’t think his odds of winning Florida are higher than 30% (though that number will likely change a lot as more data becomes available.) Furthermore, while winning Florida is a necessary condition, it is not a sufficient condition of victory. He could, for example, win Florida but lose Ohio (where he also lost the primary contest). Ergo, Mr. Trump’s odds of winning should be *less* than 30%. Let’s call it 29% just to be safe.

[1] https://www.gjopen.com/comments/comments/229516

[2] https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2016/05/02/republicans-have-a-massive-electoral-map-problem-that-has-nothing-to-do-with-donald-trump/

[3] http://cookpolitical.com/presidential/charts/scorecard

[4] http://cookpolitical.com/about/accuracy

[5] http://static.politico.com/00/fd/3b66ba454039b21f6797f039096e/april28-lge-600-final-slides.pdf – But it is worth noting that the source of the poll was Associated Industries of Florida, which appears to be a business friendly body not known for a bias toward the Ds. Politco reports, however, that AIF “teamed with Democratic strategist Steve Vancore for the poll.” See http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/florida/2016/05/8598048/florida-poll-republican-brand-damage-bolsters-clinton

[6] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demographics_of_Florida

[7] http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/why-troops-and-vets-are-voting-for-trump/article/2584171

[8] http://www.militarytimes.com/story/military/election/2016/03/14/military-times-election-survey-donald-trump-bernie-sanders/81767560/

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