Yes, Trump Can Win (Plus Some Strange Scenarios)

A week ago, Democrats seemed to be starting their victory lap amidst talk of a landslide electoral victory. But, all that was clearly premature as the race now seems to be tightening significantly. While it may be an uphill climb, the fact remains that there are definitely paths to victory for Trump. I’d like to use this time to discuss the current state of the race, the most likely path to a Trump victory, and some strange scenarios which could occur.

Trump’s Most Likely Path to Victory
Let’s start out with the current state of the race (based on my latest projections). Note: I’ll be using the 270 to Win customizable map for all of the following scenarios.

Clinton definitely has the upper hand right now with 322 electoral votes either solidly blue or leaning blue, while Trump only has 216. For starters, Trump must win all the states that are leaning his way—he cannot afford to lose any of these to Clinton. So let’s move all of the states leaning Trump to solid Trump.

 Next, Trump will need to win all of the tossups states that are leaning slightly towards Clinton. This includes Nevada, Florida, and North Carolina.

We now have Clinton with 272 electoral votes and Trump with 266, so Trump still needs to pick up one more state. Based on my projections, his best chance would be to win New Hampshire, which has shown some considerable tightening in recent polls.

This would put Trump at 270 electoral votes and Clinton at 268. Again, this is a difficult path as it would require him to win pretty much every tossup, plus take away a state that is leaning pretty heavily towards Clinton. There are, of course, other possible paths to victory, but I think the one I’ve laid out above is the most likely scenario.

Other, More Unlikely Scenarios
Though unlikely, there is a slight chance of an electoral tie. For this to happen, the map would look almost exactly like the one above showing Trump’s most likely path to victory. Since Trump has a two electoral vote edge in this scenario, Clinton would have to take away one electoral vote. To do this, she’d either need to win both congressional districts in Maine or one of them in Nebraska (Maine and Nebraska are the only two states, which allocate some of their electoral votes to the winners of their congressional districts). Both of these are definite possibilities. Maine is typically a blue state, so it wouldn’t be a big surprise to see her win all of Maine. And there has been a lot of speculation that Clinton could win Nebraska’s second congressional district, which includes the city of Omaha. So, let’s see what it would look like if Clinton won one vote in Nebraska.

The result would be a 269 to 269 tie.

There is one other strange scenario, where one candidate gets the majority of electoral votes, but does not reach 270. Again, the map looks similar to Trump’s most likely path to victory. In this scenario, Utah is won by Evan McMullin, an Independent candidate, who has been surging in Utah polls. The state typically votes Republican, but the large Mormon population has been disgusted by Trump’s anti-immigrant policies and his other moral failings. McMullin, a Mormon himself, has therefore become a viable alternative to two poor choices. The latest poll by Dan Jones and Associates shows Clinton with 24%, Trump with 32%, and McMullin with 30%, a virtual dead heat.

A win by McMullin would result in Clinton having a majority of the votes, without reaching 270.

Both of the above scenarios would result in the election being decided by the Republican-led House of Representatives. The House would choose between the three candidates with the most electoral votes. In the event of an electoral tie, only Trump and Clinton would be eligible. In the event of a McMullin win in Utah, he would also be eligible. What happens in the house would be pure speculation. Much of the GOP “establishment” are not fans of Trump, so would they risk angering their base by not voting for him? Would they push their weight behind the “safer” candidacy of Hillary Clinton? Or, in an amazing turn of events, could they decide to vote for McMullin, giving him the presidency with a tiny minority of the popular vote and only six electoral votes? In this crazy electoral cycle, it seems that anything is possible. We will find out next week!

Ken Flerlage, November 3, 2016

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