People in my line of work try to be careful about predictions, because, you know, the future comes eventually, and you might be wrong. When I do make predictions, I’m always careful to add the conditions—if this, assuming that.
So let’s not call this a prediction, but an observation: I hereby observe that it is entirely possible that this election could—could—be a blowout. A humiliation. A decapitation. A world-historical debacle for one party. And I bet you can guess which one.
This observation is occasioned by the appearance this week of the first full-blown general-election Electoral College forecast, from frontloadingHQ.com. The folks at FHQ looked at polls and recent electoral history and voting trends to take a stab at what the Electoral College might look like on the night of Nov. 8 if things don’t change much from today. And if you’re a fan of the candidate who’s a person of color—orange—it isn’t pretty.
They have it at Clinton 358, Trump 180. And if anything, they’re being a little conservative.
How could the spread be that big, when in most polls she’s still only a few points ahead? Or sometimes more than a few—a Bloomberg poll that dropped Tuesday evening has Clinton up 12 points, 49-37. A staggering 63 percent of women say that they could never vote for him. And whatever the popular margin ends up at, the college is remorseless, my friend. You just have to win a state. You win Ohio by 1 point or 20, you get the 18 electoral votes. And Clinton is projected to win nearly every big state.
Let’s go back in time first for some context about how thorough a thumping this would be. In the 1980s, of course, Republicans thrashed Democrats, who were at sea. Ronald Reagan’s first election, for example, was 489-49. But then came the culture wars of the 1990s. We started dividing up into camps, and wins of that size weren’t possible anymore. But even so, Bill Clinton ran up huge Electoral College numbers, much bigger than his vote margins: In 1996, for example, he beat Bob Dole by eight points but clobbered him in the electoral vote by 379-159.
Then came the era of the red-blue divide. George W. Bush 271-with-an-asterisk, Al Gore 267. Bush 286, John Kerry 251. That’s how it looked things were going to stay for a while, but then the financial collapse happened, John McCain picked Sarah Palin to run with him, lots of people were feeling hopey-changey, and Barack Obama won big in 2008, 365-173. He retreated in 2012, but 332-206 was still a big win, and Mitt Romney showed the limits of the present-day Republican Party. He won only one of the seven main swing states (North Carolina) and flamed out in the states Republicans always talk big about, just like they do now (Pennsylvania and Michigan).
So here we sit. In my experience, it’s been thought by insiders that Obama’s 2008 numbers aren’t replicable, that the Democratic advantage probably rests naturally around the 70 to 100 vote range.
But this could be epic.
FHQ gives Clinton all of Obama’s 2012 states plus North Carolina (which he won in 2008) and… drum roll… Arizona. Now, Arizona last went Democratic in 1996, and that was the first time it had done so since 1948. But don’t laugh. Clinton leads, by a point, in RCP average. That’s just two polls, so who knows. But Latino turnout will presumably be through the roof.
Let’s have more fun. Here’s where I think it’s possible the FHQ might be selling Clinton a little short. Think Georgia sounds crazy? Yeah, it kinda does. But Trump is up there by only four. I spoke Tuesday with a Democratic operative in the state who was spinning me to some extent, sure, but who sounded pretty bullish as he described the state GOP’s internal divisions and the fact that about 40 percent of the electorate is going to be non-white. That 40 percent is mostly African American, and Clinton’s going to win 85 or 90 percent of that 40 percent, so do the math—she’d need less than 30 percent of the white vote to win the state. Still sound crazy?
Let’s climb farther out the limb. How about Utah? One earlier poll from Utah actually showed Clinton slightly ahead; another came out yesterday showing a tied race.
And if that’s not crazy enough for you, contemplate Kansas. I said Kansas. Kansas hasn’t gone Democratic since I think 1236 (okay, 1936). A poll last week showed Clinton ahead there. Not by one. By seven. And if these states fall, it will mean Trump has had a total meltdown, and who knows what else is falling.
Now I don’t truly expect Clinton to win Utah or Kansas. But the mere existence of these polls is a joyous thing. And unless either Trump or “events” (i.e., the FBI) really change the direction of this thing, they’re going to keep coming. Tied in Missouri! Trump up only five in South Carolina! Gary Johnson pulls ahead of Trump in New Mexico, Colorado!
Okay, it’s all great fun, but what does it matter? Lord knows, as Dubya showed us, you’re as much the president with his 271 electoral votes as you are with Reagan’s 489. But still, it does matter. Two points.
One: It’s psychologically devastating for a party to lose a state it’s supposed to win. If, say, Clinton actually carried Georgia, it would wound the GOP badly and lead to loads of stories about how even the solid South is now slipping out of the ossified party’s geriatric hands. It wouldn’t be the same as, for example, Obama’s winning Indiana in 2008, which everyone knew was a fluke. Clinton winning Georgia wouldn’t be a fluke.
Two: It’s what the man himself deserves. There’s one word Trump hates more than any other in the English language, and it’s not “Mexican” or “Muslim.” It’s “loser.” How sweet it would be for him to have to live out his remaining years as a history-making loser. To a “girl,” no less! FHQ, from your spreadsheets to God’s ears.