Monday, November 7, 2016

The Shock Historic Election Forecast 2016:
Clinton, comfortably


SPORTS FANS who weigh the prospects for their favorite teams are often advised to accept the need for the reality of actual competition, often being told something like “the contest isn’t fought on paper, there’s a reason why they play the game.” Presidential elections are no different.

In the final round of pre-election polls, Democrat Hillary Clinton tops Republican Donald Trump across the board, by a little or a lot. The latest poll from Monmouth University gives her a fat 6-point edge among likely voters. A tracking poll from ABC News and The Washington Post finds her ahead by 4 points. Even the new survey by Fox News — always a crap shoot, given Fox’s conservative predisposition — gives Clinton a 4-point bulge.

In the Real Clear Politics four-way average poll (which includes Libertarian Gary Johnson and Green Party candidate Jill Stein), Clinton leads by 2.2 percentage points, and by 2 points head to head against Trump. Bloomberg has Clinton up by 3 points, CBS News has her ahead by 4 points, but the IBD/TIPP tracking poll has Trump in front by 2 points.

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Past is often prologue, but not always. In the 2012 electoral vote count, President Obama beat Mitt Romney like an egg at the hands of a chef, 330-208. I don’t think the margin of victory for Clinton over Trump will be quite that vast — we’ve been advised to expect a close race — but it’ll be big enough.

Forecast: On the basis of a plurality of national and battleground polls; continued strength for Clinton in the Electoral College; an estimated advantage in early votes; runaway support from Latino voters fed up with Trump’s vilifications; the support of women voters sick of Trump’s history of sexual harassment and lack of gender-related social graces; and (grudging?) support from backers of independent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, former secretary of state Hillary Clinton will be elected the 45th president of the United States, with an Electoral College vote total of 308.

Donald Trump, the [x]illionaire attention addict and Republican nominee, will trail with 230. Two hundred and seventy electoral votes are needed to win.

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IN FLORIDA, expect Clinton to be the skin-of-the-teeth beneficiary of a combination of long-term and short-term trends on Election Day.

The strong advantage for Clinton among the state’s early voters; the multi-generational presence of Cuban Americans; the follow-on impact of their children and grandchildren of voting age; the more recent arrival of Puerto Ricans who moved to Florida after prolonged economic downturns on their home island; the long-term edge in Democratic voter registrations over Republicans; the more recent surge in voter registrations among Latinos; and the collective insults of Latinos by Trump from day one of his campaign ... all of it breaks Clinton’s way on Tuesday.

Clinton will — by the slimmest of margins — win Florida and its 29 electoral votes, continuing a pattern of Democratic victory that President Obama set when he won the state, on the strength of late absentee ballots, in 2012.

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Ohio may be another matter entirely: In the Buckeye State, the latest polls indicate a tossup at best, with a plurality of polls breaking strongly for Trump, on a two-way, head-to-head basis, or in combination with Johnson and Stein.

In Nevada: The evolution of the state’s population base — younger, browner, more frequently affiliated with unions connected to the state’s hospitality and casino industries — and a continuation of voting patterns that have returned Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid to office since he was first elected in 1987, strongly point to a continuing Democratic trend, and Clinton winning the state’s 6 electoral votes.

Reid hasn’t just been an idle spectator. John Ralston, a veteran of Nevada politics, observed Sunday in Politico Magazine: “After two years of boosting voter registration among key Democratic demographics, the retiring Senate minority leader has brought turnout among Hispanics in the state to record levels. In doing so, he’s almost surely delivered the state for Hillary Clinton—and possibly with it the presidential race.”

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THE NEW YORK Times’ Upshot forecast map, as a foundational projection point, forecasts a Clinton win with 275 electoral votes. Another Times analysis, an interactive charting the 1,024 paths to victory for either candidate, projects a “most likely outcome” of 322 EV for Clinton. That seems unusually optimistic.

A more likely scenario: I say the Upshot forecast map holds — Clinton 275, Trump 263 — but Clinton also ekes out the narrow win in Florida, gaining the Sunshine State’s 29 electoral votes. Also, in my forecast, Clinton wins New Hampshire’s 4 electoral votes (contrary to the Upshot map, which counts New Hampshire as a state for Trump despite eight of the nine organizations in The Times own survey of pollsters reporting Clinton a prohibitive favorite to win the Granite State).

Clinton 308 EV, Trump 230 EV, GOT*.

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But that’s just me. Time will tell how this all shakes out. There’s a lot to be decided Tuesday, but for a lot of Americans, it’s all over. According to the United States Election Project, more than 42.2 million Americans had already cast their ballots as of Oct. 30 — that's 18.2 percent of the country’s voting-eligible population. They clearly have a lot invested in the outcome.

On Friday, CBS News reported on one group that doesn’t have quite so much at stake yet, but may still be a very reliable barometer of who’ll win on Tuesday.

Last week, the students of Benjamin Franklin Elementary School in Yorktown Heights, N.Y., took part in a mock presidential election, continuing a long tradition. Teachers tallied the votes at day’s end and added them to a spreadsheet.

The winner? It wasn’t even close: Hillary Clinton beat Donald Trump, 52 percent to 43 percent.

Elementary school kids? Don’t be too dismissive of that. The outcome of the Benjamin Franklin mock election has accurately predicted of the outcome of every real presidential election since the school opened ... in 1968.

Not even the pros have been that consistently right.

Image credits: Clinton: Reuters/Brian Snyder.   * Give or take.

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