Friday, November 04, 2016


I didn't think I was going to write about politics any more, but I can't resist looking at the interactive Electoral Map to see how things might work out.  Not that I have much to add to what you can hear elsewhere. And anyway, it's who gets the votes that matters--the rest is chatter.

Looking at the map, it's clear Trump is in trouble (or if you'd rather, Clinton is in good shape).  Not that he can't win if the vote is close, but the path is narrow.  There are about ten swing states and he's got to take most of them.  Hillary simply starts out with too many near-certain Electoral votes.  Sure, Trump starts with a little over half the 270 votes needs, but Clinton starts with over three-quarters.

So what are the swing states?  Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia.  Okay, if Trump wins a surprise state, like Wisconsin or Michigan, it means things are looking good for him.  But if he loses an easy winner, like Georgia, it means it's probably over.

Of these states, the ones in Eastern Standard Time will tell us early (especially if you live on the West Coast) what to expect.  First, Trump needs to win Florida, Ohio and probably North Carolina to have a chance.  Mind you, if he wins these states, he still might lose, but losing any one of them means the night is almost certainly over. (And with Florida a toss-up at best, you can see why the odds are against him.)

If he wins these three states, he'd still probably need to win three or four of the other swing states.  The big question is Pennsylvania.  The answer is probably Hillary wins--the GOP keeps hoping to take this state, but there are always too many votes in Philadelphia to overcome.  If Trump could somehow take it, he'd be looking pretty good--even if he didn't take North Carolina he'd have a fair chance.

But let's assume he loses Pennsylvania.  Can he take Virginia?  It used to be solidly red, but now seems reliably blue.  So let's give that to Hillary, too.

So what would Trump then need?  The states left are Arizona, Colorado, Iowa, Nevada and New Hampshire (plus one potential vote in a split Maine).  He'd have to take four of them--Arizona would be a must with 11 electoral votes, and then any other three (though he could lose New Hampshire, the least populous, and Nevada and tie).  The odds of him winning three of these states is decent, but only so-so for winning four or more.  (It's tricky to figure the odds since if he overperforms, it can happen everywhere, and if he underperforms, he could lose them all).

Some have discussed the possibility of McMullin winning Utah (or even less likely, Johnson taking New Mexico).  If that happens, it would be possible that neither Clinton nor Trump would get a majority of Electoral votes, and everything would be up for grabs.  I'd say there is less than a 1% chance of this, but it sure would be fun.


Anonymous Lawrence King said...

It's much less than 1%, in my opinion. McMullin may well win Utah; FiveThirtyEight gives him an 11% chance, but I think it's slightly higher. But Hillary's chance of getting 270 or higher are extremely high, in my opinion. (Although FiveThirtyEight has shown her numbers plummet recently; they once gave her an 85% chance of winning the eleciton, but now she's down to 66.2%.

But let's suppose it does happen: the major candidates each finish in the high 260s, and McMullin picks up Utah's 6 votes. The Republican-controlled House must choose from the top three vote-getters. If every elector votes as instructed by his state, that means they can pick from Clinton, Trump, and McMullin. They won't pick Clinton. But would they pick Trump, who has insulted and opposed the institutional Republican Party over and over? Or would they pick McMullin? I could see Ryan touting McMullin as a "compromise"; he's fully acceptable to Reagan conservatives, and Democrats would prefer him to Trump.

But there are a bunch of wrinkles.

1. Evan McMullin changed his running mate after getting on the ballot. But that won't matter, because while the House is picking the President from the top three vote-getters, the Senate is picking the VP from the top two. So only Pence and Kaine are options. The process begins in December, and the lame-duck Senate would surely pick Pence.

2. I suspect that at least 20% of House Republicans (i.e., 10% of the whole chamber) are die-hard NeverTrumpers, but another 20% are hardcore Trump supporters. The Twelfth Amendment says that they need an actual majority to elect someone! (Counting each state as a unit.) Who will give in first?

3. The process begins in December, with the lame-duck Congress choosing the president. If they haven't picked someone by January 3, the new Congress is sworn in and they continue the process. If the process is still running on January 20, then the new Vice-President (Pence) becomes "acting president" until the House finally picks someone.

4. But here's the really dangerous thing. If we get a split like this on election day in November, everyone will be talking about this scenario until the electors vote on December 14. But the electors can do whatever they want! Most electors will stick with their choices, but it would only take seven "faithless electors" defecting to give some candidates more votes than McMullin. Then the House would have to choose between Clinton, Trump, and the beneficiary of this electoral defection! If Ryan were to publicly support the McMullin scenario before December 14, I can imagine a gang of seven Democratic electors defecting from Clinton to vote for a likeable Democrat -- say, Biden -- gambling that if Ryan is forced to back Trump, Clinton, or Biden, he may end up choosing Biden!

1:08 AM, November 04, 2016  
Blogger ColumbusGuy said...

Where is the top three vote getters idea? I thought it was wide open. Not that I've ever looked at it before, not even in 2000 when we were emailing fools, but it looks to me like nominations for the Nobel Peace Prize, from which they choose from among the top five, assuming no one takes the cake the first time.

3:42 AM, November 04, 2016  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I often wondered why nobody went after potential "faithless electors" in 2000 since one vote would have swung the election to Gore. Instead all of the focus was on the chads in FL. I even knew lawyers who went down to work on the Florida recount effort and when I asked years later about the faithless elector gambit, they sort of shrugged and said nobody would have tried such a gambit. Was there ever a discussion anywhere of this? (Yes I am too lazy google up the research).

I bring this up because several commentators have brought up getting electors to potentially change their votes in a variety of scenarios this year and wonder why that would be a strategy in 16 and wouldn't have been in 2000. NEG

4:20 AM, November 04, 2016  
Anonymous Denver Guy said...

My hope is that Clinton gets less than 300 electoral votes, and the Republicans hold the Senate. Even Democratic leaning pollsters find only 2 solid pick ups by the Dems (IL and WI, two states that went Dem in the Republican wave 6 years ago). Dems need a net of 4 pick ups. I think Toomey in PA is at great risk, but the power of incumbancy is great. This probably saves Ayotte in NH as well. Burr and Blunt, in NC and MO respectively, are also in tight races. IN should have been easy for Republicans to hold, but Evan Bayh, who left politics in disgust with the "system," has become the savior for Dem hopes, running almost like an incumbant.

But then there is Nevada, where disgust over the legacy of "Dirty Harry" Reid puts Joe Heck in good position to flip the state red. A far cry from even 6 months ago when Dem take over was consider a sure bet, with plans to take FL and AZ as well. Reps had a chance to take the second Senate seat in Colorado, but our self-immolating state party managed to pick a good person, strong conservative, who is absolutely unknown throughout the state (Daryl Glenn) who will lose to the feckless Bennett.

Question for the panel - if Hillary wins next week, and the Republicans hold the Senate, will Obama and the lame duck Senate agree to approve Garland for the S.Ct? I think so. 1) it would be good for the country not to start the next Presidency with a raucus S.Ct. nomination fight. 2) The Republicans won't do any better with a Hillary nomination, and 3) The Democrats won't get anyone much better than Garland through the Republican Senate. But then this is war, after all, and pols clearly are not making logical choices these days.

8:50 AM, November 04, 2016  
Blogger LAGuy said...

I question if the Dems, even in minority, can't get someone through if Garland is rejected. All they'd need is a defection or two, and there could be a lot of pressure put on the Republicans.

9:51 AM, November 04, 2016  
Anonymous Lawrence King said...

CG, the rule about "top three" (for president) and "top two" (for VP) was established in the 12th Amendment.

This amendment is still valid, except for the specific dates, which were changed in the 20th Amendment.

Before the 20th Amendment, the new president took over in March, and the new Congress in December (13 months after the election). The 20th Amendment moved them both to January, and reversed their sequence, so that now it is the new Congress (not the lame-duck Congress) that officially counts the ballots.

Oops, I made one error in my earlier post. The lame-duck Congress won't be involved. The popular election occurs on November 8, the electors cast their votes on December 14, and then the new Congress is sworn in on January 3. Since 1936, the tradition has been for this new Congress to officially count the electors' ballots. I don't know whether the Constitution unambiguously says this job can't be done in December by the lame-duck Congress, but it hasn't been done that way since the 20th Amendment passed. So the McMullin scenario would involve the new Congress only, not the lame-duck one.

However, the final sentence of the 20th Amendment Section 3 might include a loophole that lets Columbus Guy be elected: if neither the House nor the Senate picks someone by January 20, Congress can pick just about anyone to be "Acting President" until they get around to finally settling the matter.

12:29 PM, November 04, 2016  

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