Tag Archives: Electoral College

Arizona’s Importance

By Jim Ellis

Does Arizona hold the key in the Trump-Biden election?

Oct. 9, 2020 — Now moving quickly toward Election Week, it is becoming apparent that the ultimate bellwether state for the 2020 presidential election is the Grand Canyon State of Arizona. Formerly a rock solid Republican political domain, the state has been trending toward the political center in recent elections, most particularly 2018.

Coming into the closing weeks of this year’s presidential campaign, it appears that Arizona may be this election’s “tell.” While it’s possible mathematically for President Trump to win in the Electoral College without Arizona, realistically doing so may be a bridge too far.

The principal reason is Arizona has 11 electoral votes, and the idea that Trump could replace it with taking Wisconsin or Minnesota, for example, fails because those states each have 10 votes. Therefore, losing Arizona would lead to him either falling into a tie, or losing the national electoral vote count, 270-268.

The latter electoral vote margin occurs if he also drops the 2nd Congressional District of Nebraska, a state that is one of a pair to split their electoral votes. The most recent public NE-2 poll, from Siena College/New York Times (Aug. 25-27; 420 NE-2 likely voters, live interview), finds the president trailing former vice president Joe Biden in the Omaha metro district, 41-48 percent.

The Trump math also fails without Arizona even if he carries Pennsylvania as his lone Great Lakes State. Losing Arizona, Michigan, and Wisconsin from his 2016 state coalition map, along with NE-2, would also yield a 270-268 Biden victory.

Earlier this week, the Data Orbital polling firm headquartered in Phoenix and is the most prolific survey research firm in testing the Arizona electorate from statewide through local offices, released their latest presidential and US Senate numbers. Their poll (Oct. 3-5; 550 likely Arizona voters, live interview) is the first Arizona survey taken wholly after both the first presidential debate and President Trump being hospitalized for COVID-19.

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The Scenario: There’s an Electoral College Tie in the Presidential
Election; What Happens Next?

By Jim Ellis

Sept. 23, 2020 — As we move closer to Election Day, various scenarios are being discussed and theorized about who will win the presidential race and which states will fall to what candidate. A little-mentioned outcome, which is a mathematical possibility, is an Electoral College tie.

A deadlock would occur if each candidate received 269 electoral votes. Based upon the 2016 result, which saw President Trump receiving 306 electoral votes to Hillary Clinton’s 232, a tie would occur if the incumbent were to lose exactly 37 electoral votes from his previous performance.

The easiest way for that to occur is if President Trump and former vice president Joe Biden were to build the same coalition of states with the exception of Pennsylvania, Michigan and the 2nd District of Nebraska going from the Republican to Democratic column. In this instance, the two 2020 candidates, Trump and Biden, would have 269 electoral votes apiece.

If this were to happen, how is a tie in the Electoral College resolved? The answer: in the House of Representatives. The difference between the vote for president and a regular House vote is that individual members do not have his or her own vote for president. Rather, each state delegation has one vote.

Therefore, California, for example, with its 53 House members gets one vote for president. Conversely, the at-large states with one House member, such as Alaska, Delaware, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont, and Wyoming, would also each get one vote. So the vote for president skews toward the small states and rural regions.

Interestingly though, the Democrats control the House majority with 232 members and one Democratic vacancy to 198 Republican seats with one Libertarian sitting in what is typically a Republican seat and three GOP vacancies. Yet, if partisanship holds, the Republicans would win a presidential election vote 26 to 23 with one state, Pennsylvania, in a 9-9 split delegation. Assuming that the Keystone delegation would fail to agree on a candidate, the state would not be able to cast its vote.

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The Maine Event

By Jim Ellis

Maine Congressional Districts

May 20, 2020 — The small state of Maine, with its two congressional districts, is going to attract a great deal of political attention between now and the election. Not only is the Pine Tree State one of the firewalls for Republican Senate majority hopes, the domain, one of two places that splits its electoral votes, will likely play a major role in determining the presidential election outcome, as well.

Maine and Nebraska divide their electoral votes such that the winning statewide candidate earns two electoral votes, while the victor in each congressional district is awarded one EV for as many districts as they carry. Maine, as mentioned, has two districts, and Nebraska three.

These districts came into play both in 2008 and 2016, when Barack Obama carried the 2nd District of Nebraska against John McCain in the former year, and Donald Trump took the 2nd District of Maine opposite Hillary Clinton in 2016. While neither CD became a factor in determining each of those elections, these CDs breaking differently than their state in a tight national election could result in the Electoral College ending in a tie.

The 48 other states and the District of Columbia use the winner-take-all system. Any state could divide their electoral votes like Maine and Nebraska, but those are the only two who choose the split vote method.

In the current presidential election scenarios, whether or not President Trump again carries ME-2 could determine if he is re-elected. Under one scenario, former vice president Joe Biden could win the national race even if he failed to carry Wisconsin so long as he takes the 2nd District of Maine and 2nd District of Nebraska. Doing so, along with winning the other swing states that touch a Great Lake, meaning Michigan and Pennsylvania, he would secure exactly 270 electoral votes, the bare minimum to claim national victory.

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Nevada: A Target?

By Jim Ellis

May 8, 2020 — The Silver State of Nevada, with six Electoral College votes, has been regarded as a swing state in most 21st Century presidential elections, but in projecting the 2020 vote, it is routinely considered as a place destined to land in the Democratic column. But, could Nevada ultimately be in play for President Trump?

With a general election electoral vote map looking ever closer as we move toward November, introducing a new target could drastically change the eventual outcome or at least the campaign focus and strategy.

A new ALG Research poll (April 27-30; 76 likely Nevada general election voters) reports findings that are consistent with virtually all of the 2016 Nevada general election surveys. Last week, the firm found former vice president Joe Biden leading President Trump with a 49-45 percent spread. Such a margin and preference percentages fall into the same realm as all 31 polls conducted in Nevada from May through the November 2016 election.

When ‘16 ended, Hillary Clinton carried the state, but her margin was only 2.4 percentage points, meaning a 27,000-vote spread of more than 1.12 million ballots cast. And, consistent with the large number of polls that concluded a close race within the 40s would be the actual result, Clinton defeated Trump, 47.9 – 45.4 percent, validating the plethora of research conducted over the final five-plus months of that election cycle.

Four years ago, 13 different pollsters conducted the almost three dozen surveys, and in no instance did either Trump or Clinton ever reach the 50 percent plateau. On the other end of the spectrum, in just three instances did one of the candidates dip below 40 percent. Therefore, in 28 of the 31 studies logged within the 2016 Real Clear Politics polling archives, both candidates fell within the 40s, meaning this result occurred over 90 percent of the time. In terms of range, the span stretched from Clinton plus-7 to Trump plus-6, but the average between the two was only 2.7 percent, which is almost exactly the actual final total. This obviously suggests a competitive political battlefield.

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Sanders Out;
Focus Now on Trump-Biden

By Jim Ellis

Sen. Bernie Sanders

April 9, 2020 — Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) suspended his presidential campaign yesterday, therefore making former vice president Joe Biden the Democratic Party’s unofficial nominee. Biden, still 766-bound delegate votes away from clinching a first-ballot victory is now unencumbered in his bid to become the party standard bearer. It is likely that he will secure the 1,991 bound first-ballot delegate votes once the June 2 primary — now featuring 10 states — is held.

Sen. Sanders conceded that he could not overcome Biden’s strong lead but stopped short of endorsing him, though it is clear that he eventually will, and called for the Democratic Party to pull together in order to defeat President Trump.

How will a Trump-Biden general election campaign unfold? Very likely, the race will come down to what happens in about 10 states. In 2016, President Trump defeated Hillary Clinton with an Electoral College margin of 306-232, giving him a 36-vote cushion against Biden. This is a relatively substantial margin, but when remembering that three critical states containing 46 electoral votes came down to an aggregate vote spread of just over 77,000 votes, such a gap could quickly dissipate.

To win again, President Trump must keep intact five states that he carried as part of his 2016 coalition, three of which are giving signs of moving closer to the political center since the last election, and two that are always in the swing category. Arizona, Texas, and Georgia are must-wins for the Trump campaign, but these states are no longer locks for the Republican nominee. Though they should still remain part of the 2020 Trump coalition, they cannot be taken for granted.

Florida and North Carolina are always swing states, and any Republican presidential nominee must carry them in order to win the national election. The Democrats, because they win most of the other big states, can claim a national victory without Florida and North Carolina but a Republican cannot.

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