Battleground States

By Webster, John | The Spokesman-Review (Spokane, WA), November 6, 2016 | Go to article overview

Battleground States


Webster, John, The Spokesman-Review (Spokane, WA)


DECISION 2016 | POLLING

United the states may be, but only in name. When Americans elect a president, they do so state by state. And states differ.

Consider, for example, predictably liberal Washington and its predictably conservative neighbor, Idaho.

According to the respected political statistician Nate Silver, there is a 99.5 percent chance that Idaho's four electoral votes will go to Donald Trump, and a 97.2 percent chance that Washington's 12 electoral votes will go to Hillary Clinton.

Similarly clear-cut predictions exist for many of the 50 states. Experts like Silver track how states voted in the past. They make averages of high-quality poll results. They monitor trends and look for evidence of errors. Finally, they examine a state's demographic composition, noting the impact of groups such as racial minorities, people with advanced degrees and the devoutly religious.

Clinton is expected to do well among African-Americans, Hispanics, women and college-educated whites. This gives her an advantage in population centers on the West and East coasts and around the Great Lakes. Trump is expected to do well among the conservative whites of the Southern Bible Belt and up through the sparsely populated plains.

It's in the closely divided battleground states where the campaigns try to find what strategists call "a path" - a combination of state-by-state wins that will carry the candidate across the finish line with the required 270 electoral votes.

What makes a state a battleground? First, a history of inconsistent outcomes. Second, change in demographics or the economy. For example: the Southwest's growing Hispanic population; the arrival of young, high-tech workers in booming Virginia suburbs; the economic despair in coal mining and Rust Belt states where union jobs have waned.

Clinton could combine solid-blue states and some battleground states to win. With victories in Florida, Pennsylvania and Virginia, she might be president; ditto, if she wins Pennsylvania, Virginia, Wisconsin, Colorado and Nevada.

Trump's smaller base of solid support means a win in population- rich Florida is nearly essential to his chances; on top of Florida, he might win with Pennsylvania, Ohio and North Carolina, or with Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin and Nevada.

Combinations like these have been calculated by analysts at the New York Times Upshot blog, which recently estimated that Clinton had 693 paths to victory while Trump had 315.

As the election drew near and the race tightened, Silver still forecast a narrow Clinton victory. But all forecasts, he warned, can prove wrong - even though his, in 2008 and 2012, proved accurate.

FLORIDA

29 ELECTORAL VOTES 50%

CLINTON 49%

TRUMP 46%

DATE: NOV. 3 POLL

In 2000, the whole election came down to Florida. Lawyers squabbled over ballot designs, hanging chads and obstacles for some who wanted to vote. …

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