# The Electoral College Vote Three Days Before The Election

Who will win the electoral vote on Tuesday, November 8th?

It is not what you say, but how you say it. For several days now, I’ve been told by some how totally wrong I am in my various analyses of the electoral map. Half the naysayers say “But but FiveThirtyEight says this, so you are wrong” and the other half say “No, no, Sam Wang at Princeton says that, so you are wrong!” But all along, we’ve all three been saying something very similar. The difference in how we say it is, Sam Wang says something like “I’ll eat my shorts if Clinton doesn’t win” and I say “I think Clinton will win, but Trump has a small chance.” But really, we have very similar estimates as to what the situation is. And, that is:

1) Hillary Clinton is more likely to win this election than is Donald Trump.

2) Regardless of the initial probability distribution one might have been imagining, this has changed over time so that the chance of a Trump win has been increasing a bit.

3) A number of states are in play, and broadly speaking, the list of states can not be robustly assigned to either candidate is similar.

I myself have been avoiding making specific probability statements because I think that the necessary assumptions to talk about behavior of the electorate out at the margins are unknown or unreliable.

As you know I developed a model that I used during the primaries, that I’m applying to the electoral college vote, with modifications. In short, the model, as used here, reflects whatever polling data are used to seed it, but modifies the outcome to reflect general patterns of behavior. This, I suspect, removes strange results that the polls sometimes give. But it may also miss strange thing the electorate sometimes does. Which is happening in a particular case, for a particular state? Nobody knows. If we knew that, we wouldn’t need to do the actual voting.

So, here, I’m giving you two separate sets of results, initially. First, as in my previous post, a distillation of what the polls themselves are actually saying, using this approach.

First from the polls only:

As noted in the figure, the polls give Secretary Clinton enough electoral votes to win, barely, with Nevada being exactly split between the two candidates. We’ll look at swing states more closely below, but for now, this is my suggestion for the best guess based on the polls. So, if Clinton takes Nevada, she’ll win by 8 electoral votes.

As I had noted earlier, my model should converge on the polls by this point in time, but since there are so many states within a percentage point either way of the 50%-50% line, my model and the polls tend to differ a bit. Overall, my model is more favorable to Clinton because it give her Florida and Nevada.

At this time, this is my best prediction of what I think will happen on Tuesday, unless there are secret unmeasurable forces having to do with unspoken voting behavior or get out the vote efforts.

This result, my model, is very similar to Sam Wang’s result.

One scary possibility is that Trump is gaining ground on Clinton. Looking at just the polls, there was a gaining of ground going on for a while, but it seemed to stop a few days ago. FiveThirtyEight agrees with that. But, what if all the polls end up being one percent off from what they say now, by the time Tuesday comes around? Can Trump then win?

The following moves all the states over by one point, from my modeled results (which I regard as more reliable than the polls) which, oddly, puts Pennsylvania right in the middle. Trump could win. Or Clinton could win.

It has been said that the Democrats may have a ground game, a GOTV plan, that is much superior to that of the Republicans. A good estimate of how that would change things is to add 2.5% to the Democrat’s votes, effectively for the swing states. In this case, Clinton is shown here to do about as well as anyone expected her to do. Don’t expect this, it will never happen, but this is more or less the maximum limit on where Clinton can go. Notice that Trump still takes Texas and Georgia, but may be a bit weak in Georgia.

Finally, by way of summary, here is a map that shows which states are either recognized by one analysis or another as a tossup, or that move back and forth across analyses or over short times scales or, as in the case of Georgia and Colorado, don’t change their color under those conditions but remain very close in percent distribution to those that do. (Note, for Maine, we are only talking about one electoral vote moving back and forth.) Regardless of which column these states actually end up in, they are states you want to watch to measure the strength of each candidate. Obviously, the eastern time zone states will be the most helpful in this regard early in the evening.

# 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…

# The Electoral College Map One Week Out: Clinton Victory Likely But Not Assured

A couple of weeks ago, it was impossible to find a pundit or poll maven who saw a Trump victory as a possibility. I made the audacious claim at the time that this was incorrect, and I’ve been taking heat from it since then. Much of this widespread misunderstanding is ironically caused by the good work of the folks at FiveThirtyEight and their imitators such as the New York Times, who have been publishing probability statements about the outcome.

If I know for near certain that Mary is going to beat Joe in an election, then I can say something like this:

Probability of winning

Mary: 97%
Joe: 3%

But, it is quite possible that I can say that with the following as my estimate for the vote distribution in in this race:

Mary: 50%
Joe: 50%

(Rounded off to the nearest percent. Not rounded, the values are Mary: 50.1%, Joe: 49.9%.)

So, statements like “Clinton has a 75.6% chance of winning, Trump has a 24.2% chance” can go along with an estimate of the popular vote of 49:44.5, and electoral vote estimate of 310.2:226.4 (those numbers are taken right off the FiveThirtyEight site at the moment I’m writing this, Monday AM).

This, in combination with a lot of happy arm waving during a period of about five days, when many very strong Clinton numbers were coming out of Poll Land, has resulted in widespread incredulity over any suggestion that Trump may win.

Let’s have a look at some sobering facts. The following are major source projections of the outcome of the race, giving only Clinton and Trump’s certain numbers. These are the states that those making the projections are putting in the strong Blue or the strong Red column.

 Source Clinton Trump CNN 200 157 NBC 182 71 NPR 190 98 538 187 154 AP 213 106 ABC 197 157

Here is a map I produced, using my model, providing my estimate of these numbers:

You will notice that my numbers are higher than the major outlets for both candidates. I guess I have more certainty in my model than they do. But, I imagine you do as well, dear reader, because those of you who have kindly commented here or on Facebook have generally been saying that you think certain states will a certain wahy, for sure. States like Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Wisconsin, even Minnesota are given less certainly in those mainstream models than most of us seem to think.

In all cases, of course, neither candidate has the requisite minimum of 270 electoral votes, so in theory, either candidate can lose. “No, wait, that’s not true,” you say. “Clinton has way more votes to start with than Trump, so that’s just not true.”

And you may be right, but not for any good reason. It is totally possible for one candidate to have a base set of states, states that can not be lost, that totals to more electoral votes than another candidate, but for the remaining states to lean towards the second, smaller-base candidate. This is especially true in a heterogenous environment, like this one.

However, in this case, it does happen to be true that the remaining states tend to fall out in a way that favors Clinton on average, but not in all cases.

I’ve descried my model many times. It is calibrated with polling data that is most recent and from the highest quality sources. The presumed outcome in some states, based on that polling data, is the dependent variable in a multi-variable regression analysis where the independent variables are the ethnic breakdown of each state, and the relative Romney vote for each state in that election, to indicate Republican vs. Democratic trend. For the first time, because of a LOT of recent polling, and in a few cases using FiveThityEight’s estimate to stand in for some mediocre polling, I have used most of the states rather than fewer than half. One would think that this would simply spit back out the same polling numbers others have used, but it does not, because of the ethnic and Republicanosity factors, and some of the results are a bit surprising. For example, my model is not that happy about North Carolina voting for Clinton, and it is not that happy about Iowa voting for Trump.

Nor does my model have to be happy. The whole point of doing this model is to include a perspective that, while linked to polling, glosses over low quality or old polls (by not using them) and is not slave to a state-by-state analysis of polls, but rather, heeds lager scale and more general trends that we know are reasonable. The fact that my model puts the same states near the 50%-50% line as the polls do suggests (unsurprisingly) that we are all on the same page, but the fact that some details are different … well, that’s why they invented popcorn.

Anyway, having said that, I have a projection for the entire country based on my model, which I offer in competition (but subject to change before election day) against all the other models. Here it is:

There are a few things to notice here. First, as discussed elsewhere, there is no Clinton Landslide. This is mainly because Democrats can’t have landslides, because there are so many Yahoo states like Kansas and Oklahoma, and much of the deep south. Another thing to note is that I’ve left off three states. Much to my surprise, New Hampshire is not predictable. I thought it was going to fall out blue this year. Many people will complain about North Carolina not being blue, but face it: nobody had North Carolina as certain. Only one of the above cited (in the table) predictions has North Carolina leaning blue, the others all say nothing. Notice that Ohio is uncertain.

These three states leave a mere 37 electoral votes off the table, and give Clinton a resounding win with 310 Electoral votes.

But what if the Democrats end up putting into effect the greatest ever Get Out The Vote scheme, besting even those done by Obama? “Not likely,” you say? “Because people were more excited about Obama than Clinton,” you say?

You may be wrong. First, people are excited about Clinton. But people have more ways to comfortably be openly opposed to a woman than they have ways to comfortably be openly opposed to a black man. That, and the GOP hate machine has been running longer on Clinton than on Obama. So, yes, this will effect overall feelings but it does not effect the ground game, which is being run, on the ground, by people who don’t really care about those messages. They are busy being excited Democrats.

Another reason you might be wrong for thinking that is that the Clinton GOTV effort will be better than the Obama GOTV effort, all else being equal, because it is not based on excitement, but rather, methodology, data, and professional strategy. And, these things get better every election. So, it is quite possible that the Democrats will outperform the the Republicans in relation to the polls.

After consulting my advisors, I decided that a two point advantage could be given to the Democrats if they do the best they can do on the ground to trounce the Republicans. When we re-calculate on this basis, we get this map:

Sorry, Democrats, you don’t get Texas. But you do get Georgia and all the swing states! And a respectable win. Almost, but not quite, an arguable mandate. What you’ve got here, really, is a map of future wildlife refuge takeovers. And, a respectable Electoral College win.

But what if it goes the other way, the same amount? What if the monster under the bed (more accusations about email?) comes out. And at the same time, what if there is a real turnout among angry white males, energized by a victory in Idaho? What if men who are really worried about someone taking away their guns and locker room talk make their move?

There’s a map for that:

Ruh roh.

In this case, Trump wins. Trump wins by taking the swing states, all of them.

Notice that if all this happens, BUT Clinton takes Pennsylvania, OR, North Carolina OR Ohio, OR Florida, Trump loses. The chance of the map shown here being realized is very small. But possible.

Also, remember, that somewhere between this Trump win map and the smallest possible victory for Clinton (270) is that one odd combination where each candidate gets 269 votes, and the Electoral College ends the day having selected no one as president. In that case, the House of Representatives decides, and the way that is done, in combination with the way the numbers are (even if the Democrats actually take the House) is such that a Republican majority will prevail in that decision.

That would be the Republican Party’s last chance to stop Trump. But, will they allow a woman to be president as the only alternative that will be open to them?

Of course not. They’ll select the nuclear option, elect trump, and anyone who is still guessing at their motivations will know what the Republican Party is really all about. Ending civilization, because civilization can not exist without taxes and regulation.