Tuesday, November 8, 2016

The Paths to 270 - What To Watch on Election Night

The day is here. Now we get to see if all the speculation and data crunching we all went through actually gave us an accurate picture of the eventual outcome. As you watch the election results this evening, the real question is "When will we know who will win?"

That's difficult to say for certain, but at least you can get a sense of what results will give us an indication of what is going to happen as the night goes on.  I've tried to lay out here what I think are the most likely scenarios based on our forecast, and when we'll start to see indications of whether or not it's going to go the way we think it's going to go.

The table below lays out the Electoral College landscape based on the state win probabilities generated by the latest run of Tom Holbrook's and my election forecast model.  It presents what our model suggests are the most likely paths that either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump will need to take in order to get to the to the 270 Electoral Votes necessary to win the presidency.  Things have not changed significantly since my last post, so Trump's challenge remains significant.

The states are arranged in order of the probability that the model predicts that they will be won by Secretary Clinton.  Based on these results, it is easy to see that Donald Trump's path to 270 is a little more challenging than that for Hillary Clinton.  The model suggests that Colorado is the key tipping point state, the state that will put either candidate over the top in the Electoral College.  The good news for Hillary Clinton is that the model suggests she has an 85.2% probability of winning that state.  The model suggests that if she can win there, she can win the White House even while losing I'm calling The Key Six battleground states of Florida, Iowa, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, and Virginia.

For Trump, however, his options are a bit more limited. Not only does he need to win all the states that the model projects he will win but also six states the model suggests will be won by Secretary Clinton.  If Trump loses just one of these states, his chances of winning become substantially more difficult.  To win the election, then, he would have to pick off states that the model suggests are more firmly in Clinton's column.

States to Watch, and When

7:00 PM EST

Polls in New Hampshire, and Virginia close at this time, and they may give us an early indication of how the night will go. We've got Virginia at a 91% probability of being won by Clinton. If it is close and drags long into the night it will suggest that the model may have significantly underestimated Donald Trump's level of support and could spell real trouble for Hillary Clinton.  

New Hampshire is an interesting piece of the puzzle.  We give Clinton a 91.6% probability of winning the state (and we've never had a state prediction be wrong when its probability has been over 90%), but recent polls there suggested that it might be closer than it had been earlier.  If it turns out the model is wrong and Trump actually wins New Hampshire, it could also open up more opportunity for him to win.  Without New Hampshire, Clinton would need to not only win Colorado but another state in the gray zone, while not losing any of the other states we are considering to be likely in her column.

On the flip side, Georgia could also be an early indication.  We give Trump an 87.6% chance of winning there, but it had been discussed a few weeks ago as creeping in Clinton's direction.  It doesn't look like Clinton will pull off an upset there, but like Virginia, if it ends up being too close to call for very long tonight, then it may suggest that Clinton may have an even larger victory than we are expecting.

7:30 PM EST

When the polls close in North Carolina and Ohio, we should get a very good indication of what Trump's chances of winning will be.  We have both of them in Clinton's column, but only marginally so. According to our model, these are two of the states from The Key Six in the gray zone that Trump has the greatest chance of picking off.  If he can pick up BOTH of them, his chance of winning go up significantly.  Look to see if they are early calls in either direction.  I don't expect them to be, but if they are, it's really good news for whoever it is for. Trump has a slight edge in the Ohio polling average we use for our model, but Ohio's history and Clinton's lead in the national polls keep it ever so slightly in her column for us. So it, for us, is truly a tossup.

8:00 PM EST

Polls in all the of the counties in Florida will close at this time, as do Pennsylvania and and Michigan.  Without Florida, it's hard to see how Trump gets across the finish line unless he wins both Michigan and Pennsylvania.  We've got Clinton winning all three, but Florida is expected to be close as it always is.  Trump hit Michigan and Pennsylvania hard at the end, and polls have been tightening in both states, moreso in Michigan. Don't expect Florida to be called early.  But if Michigan and Pennsylvania do, they will most likely be called for Clinton and that is very bad news for Trump because it will likely mean that his "Rust Belt" strategy will fail, in which case he will NEED Florida.

9:00 PM EST

Colorado and Wisconsin will be key at this time. We've got Wisconsin firmly in Clinton's column at 93.9%, but it could be Trump's last gasp at a Rust Belt Strategy, especially if he loses Florida.  But he's winning in Wisconsin, he's probably also got Florida in hand as well.  Colorado is the bigger question.  As we pointed out, it's the tipping point: the key state that gets Clinton to 270.  That, of course, assumes that she gets all the other states we give her a higher probability of winning, especially Michigan and New Hampshire.  If we're still waiting to see what Colorado will do, that's probably good news for Trump.

Arizona could also be a sleeper here as well. We've got it in Trump's column, with a 79.6% probability of him winning there. But it's gotten some attention for being a red state that Clinton could win. I don't expect that to happen, but look to see what happens here. If it takes a while for a call to be made here, that could be an indication of a Clinton landslide. Even so, we'll probably see indications of that being true even before then, especially if Georgia goes her way earlier in the evening.

10:00 PM EST

Iowa and Nevada are the last of The Key Six to close. We've got Clinton winning both, but Iowa is the one that is the most in doubt. Trump had the slight edge in the polling average there but, like Ohio, our model gives the edge to Clinton due to the history and national poll variable. A bigger issue will be Nevada.  It's possible that we'll already know by the time the polls close in Nevada if Trump can get to 270, but if not, it could be key.

Clinton Clinton Win
Probability
Trump
State Electoral
Votes
Cumulative
EV
Cumulative
EV
Electoral
Votes
State
DC 3 3 100%
Vermont 3 6 100%
Hawaii 4 10 100%
Massachusetts 11 21 100%
California 55 76 100%
New York 29 105 100%
Maryland 10 115 100%
Rhode Island 4 119 100%
Illinois 20 139 100%
New Jersey 14 153 100%
Connecticut 7 160 100%
Delaware 3 163 100%
Washington 12 175 99.9%
Maine 4 179 99.8%
Oregon 7 186 99.6%
Michigan 16 202 97.7%
New Mexico 5 207 97.1%
Minnesota 10 217 96.9%
Wisconsin 10 227 93.9%
Pennsylvania 20 247 92.6%
New Hampshire 4 251 91.6%
Virginia 13 264 91.0%
Colorado 9 273 85.2% 274 9 Colorado
Nevada 6 279 76.1% 265 6 Nevada
Florida 29 308 69.7% 259 29 Florida
Ohio 18 326 56.5% 230 18 Ohio
Iowa 6 332 54.1% 212 6 Iowa
North Carolina 15 347 51.2% 206 15 North Carolina
  20.4% 191 11 Arizona
  12.4% 180 16 Georgia
  4.1% 164 10 Missouri
  2.1% 154 11 South Carolina
  0.5% 143 9 Indiana
  0.3% 134 38 Texas
  0.1% 96 6 Mississippi
  0.1% 90 3 Alaska
  0.1% 87 11 Tennessee
  0.0% 76 8 Louisiana
  0.0% 65 3 Montana
  0.0% 65 6 Kansas
  0.0% 59 3 South Dakota
  0.0% 56 6 Arkansas
  0.0% 50 9 Alabama
  0.0% 41 8 Kentucky
  0.0% 33 3 North Dakota
  0.0% 30 4 Nebraska
  0.0% 25 5 West Virginia
  0.0% 20 6 Utah
  0.0% 14 7 Oklahoma
  0.0% 7 4 Idaho
  0.0% 3 3 Wyoming

1 comment: