The Electoral College Map Five Days Out: Most Likely Trump Scenario is a Tie

The most likely way for Hillary Clinton to not win the presidency may be a tie between Secretary Clinton and Donald Trump. This is because, when one looks at the data a number of ways, and makes various adjustments, Clinton wins, often just barely, most of the time, except in what appears to be the worst case scenario. That scenario is Clinton losing most of what are called "Battleground States" -- but for the most part, only those that are truly in contention, so it is quite possible -- but retaining her "firewall" states, the states she really can not possibly lose. That puts Clinton 3 points ahead of the 270 required to win. But then, in this scenario, the most likely bluish state to switch to red, New Hampshire, goes for Trump. When that happens, the Electoral College Vote becomes 269-269, and the Electoral College becomes the Electoral College Prank.

What happens then? The House attempts to decide who will win. If that happens, each state gets one vote (or zero, if they can't decide). Even if the Democrats win the house back from the Republicans this election, Republicans will theoretically decide the outcome, because Democrats are concentrated in the more popular states. On a state-by-state basis, most states are Republican.

That does not mean that the Republicans will vote for Trump automatically. They have to chose among the top three Electoral candidates (while the Senate, meanwhile, choses among the top TWO VP candidates). Who knows what will happen?

You might think this is unlikely. Until I did my analysis this morning, I thought it was possible, but unlikely. I now realize that the chances of an electoral tie are pretty darn good. (And by pretty darn good, I do mean probably less than one in ten, but that's still pretty darn good for something that has only happened once before.)

Let's look at all the numbers.

As you know I have a model. I mentioned weeks ago that near the end of the election season, my model would converge on the polls, because it is calibrated to the polls, but only uses the better and more recent polling data. Today, I decided to use the final adjusted polling estimate provided by FiveThirtyEight, because, a) they are good at adjusting and evaluating polling data, and b) there is now enough information to use polling data from pretty much any state. Still, there are some weak states, and there are other uncertainties, so feeding polling data into my model provides a semi-independent look across the states (it is quite possible for the polls to put a state in one column but my model to reverse that).

(Note: my model does not use polling data from Utah or Hawaii, because those states are too different from all the other states.)

So, here I'm going to use two separate sets of results, polls and my model. My model's multiple R-squared value is really high (0.9838) and the polling results and model results are almost identical, but not quite. Given the strength of my model during the primaries, I trust it more than the polling data. Also, my model foretold many things that the polls finally caught up with, over the last several days, such as the weakness of North Carolina as a Clinton state. Well, not many things, but that one thing and maybe a few other things.

This is what the current polls say about Clinton's chances in the race. If we take all the polls, and assign every state where Clinton beats Trump to Clinton, we get this:


As noted on the map (made using 270 to win's excellent tool), Clinton, according to the best available analysis of current polls, would win by only 3 electoral votes. I've seen this coming for some time, and despite lots of arm waving saying it is not true, this is the most current, scientific, likely most accurate estimate.

The weakest state among the blue states on this map is New Hampshire. Look closely at New Hampshire on election night. If this map is shaping up as indicated here, AND New Hampshire looks weak, like maybe a Trump win, then we may well have the ultimate election night hangover on Wednesday. An electoral tie.

All the nay sayers out there (you know who you are) who have been telling me that my model must be wrong, because the polls show Clinton doing much better than my model, etc. etc., take heed now. That map, above, was from your precious polls. The following map is from my model, and it has a somewhat more secure win for Hillary Clinton.


I'm giving Florida and Nevada to Clinton, and New Hampshire is more secure. Frankly I think the most likely scenario is either one of the above two maps, or something in between, and that's pretty much what is going to happen on election night. A trivial and incorrect way to calculate the likelihood of a tie is to look at all the different combinations (moving NH, NV, and FL around) but that is dumb, so I'm not going to do it. The extremes are probably less likely than the other combinations.

One prediction comes out of this that is rock solid. Tuesday night and Wednesday morning are going to be nail biters.

But wait, there's more. Let's have another look at the map, but applying the uncertainty in my model, in order to get one possible Election Night Bingo Card version. This map shows what states to watch, because they are the ones right in the middle between the two candidates.


By the way, recent information out of Florida seemed very very positive with respect to that state. But that is only one study, using a methodology and a set of data never before used, in a highly dynamic and changing system, in an untrustworthy state. Comment such as "Yeah, but Florida is in the bag for Clinton" will be frowned upon.

Here's the same deal, but based on polls instead of my model:


Now, lets try some Magical Thinking. From Trump's perspective, consider that the polls have been shifting by about one percentage point towards Trump or away from Clinton per week over the last few weeks. So, let's move one percentage point from Clinton to Trump across all the polls and see what we get.

We get this, the Map from Hell, in which Trump does not win, but the rest of us lose anyway.


The second Magical Thinking scenario involves the idea that Clinton, and the Democrats have a real ground game going, and Trump does not. In this scenario, we move 2.5% from Trump to Clinton across the board to reflect this political reality. This may be the case, but it could also be, as noted, wishful magical thinking. And, it looks like this:


A lot of people have been talking about a Clinton Landslide, but this is the best you are likely to get. And, if you want to call this a landslide, feel free, but it isn't and you would be wrong.

And, finally, your election night watch list. This map shows as blue every state that remained blue in all of the above analyses, and as red every state that remained red in all of the above analyses. The unknown state are, therefore, states that have either moved back and forth depending on how you look at the data, or what are within a short distance, either by polling or by my model, of those states. This is actually a pretty robust list. I don't expect any state not brown on this map to move, and some of the brown ones won't either (Colorado will be Clinton, Georgia will be Trump). But, if things are wonkier and wackier than our imaginations even now let us allow, who knows...


More like this

Except that Maine can split it's electoral votes. Trump is slightly favored in Maine's second district, right now. In those elections in which Trump wins New Hampshire, he's pretty likely to win the Maine second as well.

Keep an eye on that second district.

I will be incorporating that into my next analysis. If that split just now showing up, but that my model does not register, holds, then that will require a new watch map!


By Dora the Explorer (not verified) on 03 Nov 2016 #permalink


He has many good points, goals, and ideas for this country. If all else is to fail in his presidency, he will at least fix the economy. He went from rags to riches, and will do the same thing for America.

By Dora the Explorer (not verified) on 03 Nov 2016 #permalink

"All else is to fail in Trump's presidency and he will at least fuck up the economy. He went from rags to riches by cheating and stealing, and will do the same thing for America."

By Brainstorms (not verified) on 03 Nov 2016 #permalink

Yep: rags to riches. I wished my dad could given me a multi-million dollar loan when I was starting out.

If Trump is elected he will have a really large thiefdom to operate within.

There is only one candidate in the US election under investigation by the FBI, and it is not Trump. Therefore, I do not think the word "thiefdom" means what Rich Bly thinks it means. Clinton actually has two FBI investigations in the same year now; wonder what that says about American citizens as a whole, that so many are still voting for an actual criminal?

Kevin is obviously someone who thinks that "If you're not being investigated, you're as honest as they come."

So, according to Kevin, until Bernie Madoff was under investigation, he was not a criminal for most of his financial career.

Which must mean that Kevin subscribes to the morals of "You're innocent.. unless you get caught."

And since Kevin is not alone thinking like this, "wonder what that says about American citizens as a whole, that so many are still voting for an actual criminal, Trump?" (Business cheat, rapist, perjurer, sexual harasser, tax thief, guilty of disobeying court orders, ... The list goes on & on & on & on.)

By Brainstorms (not verified) on 03 Nov 2016 #permalink

FBI investigations

Well, for one thing, you don't always know when someone is being investigated by the FBI. For another thing the FBI has been looking at Trump.

By Obstreperous A… (not verified) on 03 Nov 2016 #permalink

Dora the Explorer , 4 bankruptcy + failed trump university ! Does that sound good economy for this sexual predator , moron ??

By Zakir H . (not verified) on 03 Nov 2016 #permalink

And if Evan McMullin takes Utah?

By James Pevey (not verified) on 03 Nov 2016 #permalink

Dear America,

Please knock it the f*** off already and seek help when you've sobered up.

Your friend,
The World

And if Evan McMullin takes Utah?

That only matters if neither Hilary nor Trump win at least 270 EVs. In that case, it still goes to the House, but as one of the top three finishers, McMullin would be eligible to receive votes in the House. That is unlikely to matter much, because I would be surprised if any House delegation other than Utah went for him.

In practice, though, I think that if Trump is strong enough to keep Hillary below 270 EV he will be strong enough to take Utah. If Trump is underperforming in the rest of the country, then McMullin has a shot at those six EVs.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 04 Nov 2016 #permalink

Pretty nervy of a Trumpkin to use the handle of "Dora the Explorer", since der Drumpfenfuhrer's take on the real Dora is that as a brownish girl, she should be deported (sure, she was born here, but birthright citizenship should be repealed by his order) and certainly shouldn't aspire to be a judge when she grows up, as Hispanics can't be allowed to sit in judgment of white men. But he would be dating her in ten years.

Apparently Trump only waits until about age 13 or so...

By Brainstorms (not verified) on 04 Nov 2016 #permalink

Only once or twice in the last 16 presidential elections has a 53% or more portion of Catholics voted for the losing candidate (1968 and possibly 1952).

The latest IBD/TIPP poll shows Catholic support of Trump at 54%, with Clinton at only 38%.

This is a good sign for Catholic Trump supporters like me.

By See Noevo (not verified) on 04 Nov 2016 #permalink

You gamble in the stock market using the same (faulty) logic, do you SN?

By Brainstorms (not verified) on 04 Nov 2016 #permalink

As of this point in the 2008 election cycle, a white male candidate had been elected in 55 of the previous 55 elections. Do I need to remind people like SN what the result was that year? (Rhetorical question.)

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 04 Nov 2016 #permalink

"Remind"... Well, that requires a mind a priori, doesn’t it? There's no reminding those who don't think in the first place...

By Brainstorms (not verified) on 04 Nov 2016 #permalink