Poll states the obvious – this campaign is a dogfight

Here we go. The Vancouver Sun is trumpeting a poll on the front page that shows the NDP with a 10-point lead.

I could probably drive a truck through the methodology of this poll. But that’s not the point.

The point is: of course the NDP can win! That is an eternal truth of BC politics.

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It’s a dogfight this time.

In February, I addressed the BC Liberal provincial council where all of the campaigners were in town for a pre-election briefing. I said there what I say now: the NDP get 40% of the vote before they get out of bed in the morning. Or 39% anyway. They are always lurking in the shadows.

In 10 of the last 11 BC elections, the NDP have hit the 39% threshold. They won an election with 39% in 1996. In the past three elections, it hasn’t been enough as the BC Liberals have finished about 4-points ahead each time. But we know they can win. I respect that and I respect them. They are tough adversaries.

An NDP friend of mine told me last fall that the only time he believed the NDP could win was when he talked to me! The NDP seemed down in the dumps. The set-up for the election is reversed this time – the underdog became the overdog and vice versa. Conventional wisdom is a powerful thing and most observers felt the BC Liberals were cruising to victory in 2017. I have never felt that this was going to be easy. My nickname “Eeyore” is borne from hard-luck lessons on the campaign trail over the years.

So, 10-point lead? My advice to BC Liberal followers and other interested voters is to believe this snapshot could be real, midway through the campaign.

What does this mean? The BC Liberals have led a lonely crusade to expose the NDP platform dare, which is to promise everything to everyone without the means to pay for it, and hoping they won’t get caught. Now, you would think the media and general scrutiny would increase, and in recent days, the NDP has been marked up a bit with more scrutiny about the role of the Steelworkers and nagging questions about how to pay for eliminating  Medical Services Premiums. I also believe that voters see the NDP’s flashy, dashy promise to eliminate Lower Mainland bridge tolls as unrealistic – “how are they going to pay for it” and “nothing comes for free” are voiced by voters at the doors and in focus groups.

With two weeks out to election day – and four days until the start of Advance Polls – it is clear that the stakes have been raised in this election.

The next two weeks will be vigorous. There is a lot on the line. We should always campaign like we are ten points behind.

I feel good about a lot of things in this campaign. The response at the doors is good. Morale is positive. We have a great team of candidates and they are working hard. My view is that the Premier has out-performed John Horgan at the radio debate and on the nightly news.   The BC Liberals have a strong core of seats and a resilient voter base. We’ve been here before and fought through it.

For those who believe BC is on the right track, take the Mainstreet poll as a serious wake-up call. Of course the NDP can win. Could election night be a 10-point NDP margin? 15-points in the Lower Mainland as this poll suggests? (I cannot resist point out that the poll does not reveal the number of interviews with key multicultural communities). I do not take these poll numbers literally, but I do not discount the potential of an NDP victory.  John Horgan’s sensitive hands are dangerously close to the reins of the economy.

In 2013, while we knew where we were at, we snuck up on the NDP, media, and conventional wisdom and had an election night surprise.

In 2017, its eyes wide open. There will be no sneaky NDP win. The NDP can only win now if it is an an out-in-the-open fully considered decision. The overdog and underdog have now converged. It’s simply now a dogfight … and that’s fine with me. An out-in-the open fight over BC’s economic future and what it will mean to BC families.

 

Trump can win, but Hillary will win (not!)

UPDATE, The Morning After:

After laying out all the reasons why Trump could win (for months and months), I blatantly ignored that evidence and confidently predicted (below) a decisive Clinton victory.  The power of conventional wisdom and the ‘echo chamber’ was never greater than the past week in US election politics, only to be overcome by the voters who ultimately decide.  For a matter of minutes, each voter is in charge – in the privacy of the voting booth. Each voter is equal – a single mother in Michigan or retiree in Pennsylvania has the same weight as a Hollywood celebrity or Wall Street trader.  And the voters have proved, again, that they are very much in charge.

ORIGINAL POST:

Can Trump win?  That’s the question on everyone’s mind.

Yes he can – he has a pathway.  But I’m betting that Hillary Clinton will be the 45th President of the United States and it won’t be that close.  In fact, I have put my money where my mouth is by betting $5 through BC Lottery Corporation’s online election pool (expires at 4pm Tuesday).

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45th and 42nd Presidents of the USA

First, a few starting points to consider when watching the results:

  1. It takes 270 electoral votes to win.  Just because a candidate wins the popular vote doesn’t mean they win the electoral college.  Clinton gaining a higher popular vote in Texas or running up the margin in California is meaningless in terms of electoral votes.  She needs to win states.
  2. There has been a lot of early voting in places like Florida, where early turnout was much higher than 2012 and mostly before the FBI bombshell.  That mitigates late-campaign swings to some extent.
  3. The electoral map is always in a state of flux.  In 1960, the GOP won California and Washington and the Democrats won Texas and most of the South.  This election, we will see some states switch allegiances (in both directions) compared to recent elections.
  4. No candidate in recent memory has been as much of a disruptor as Donald Trump.  He is using social media as blunt-force trauma compared to Hillary Clinton’s better-resourced, data-driven approach.  Trump has ‘macro-targeted’ and his winning scenario is moving non-university degree white voters en masse.
  5. How many times have we been surprised lately?  Justin Trudeau’s majority, NDP in Alberta, Jeremy Corbyn as UK Labour leader (twice), David Cameron’s majority then Brexit, the rise of Bernie, and the rise of Trump.  The people will make up their own mind, thank you very much.  Many voters simply don’t cooperate with polls.  Will ‘cranky won’t says’ make the difference?  That would be good for Trump.

The best available information

Obama’s campaign manager Jim Messina says the Democrats have run 63,000 simulations every night since Obama’s first run for president.  The data available to the Democrats and the GOP is the product of hundreds of millions, if not, billions of dollars of investment.  The public polls may be indicative but, obviously, not wholly reliable.  This is why we mere mortals often get surprised.

Let’s take a look at the work of those trying to figure this out.

> Nate Silver 538 “Odds in HRC’s favour”

Nate Silver’s 538 website has closely tracked public polls.  He puts the odds at 71.9% Clinton, who he predicts will win about 302 electoral votes.  The New York Times ‘Upshot’ has Clinton’s odds at 84%.

In Silver’s winding road to victory graphic, Clinton crosses 270 in New Hampshire and pads the margin with Nevada, North Carolina, Florida, and the Maine 2nd district.

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> Real Clear Politics “Uncomfortably Close”

Real Clear Politics has Clinton at 203, Trump at 164, and Toss-Ups at 171.  When pushed into a “No Toss Ups” map, RCP has the margin at an incredibly close 272-266.

Huh?  Isn’t Clinton supposed to be further ahead?  RCP has Trump edging Clinton in Ohio, Florida, North Carolina, Iowa, and Arizona.  New Hampshire is in RCP’s Clinton column but has been flipping and flopping all week like a halibut sun bathing on a Boston Whaler.

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Here is the most recent State polling data on Real Clear Politics:

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> USC/LA Times Poll “The Outlier”

This nightly tracking poll (via online panel) has been a consistent outlier for months.   If Trump wins, they are geniuses – they have been about 4-5 points to Trump’s favour consistently compared to most pollsters.  This poll does provide a view of campaign momentum.  The RNC convention (7/25), subsequent self-induced Trump collapse (8/12), Clinton health scare (9/17), Billy Bush tape (10/17), and post FBI surge (today).

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Trump’s pathway

Building on my blog post last week (“Can Hillary lose? Not easily“), here are my revised prognostications going into Tuesday night.

The pathway for Trump to win 270 electoral college votes is not easy.  It would look something like this:

  1. Win all of Romney’s states (206).  Right now, he is forecasted to do that but has been vulnerable in North Carolina (15) and Arizona (11).  He seems to be pulling away in Arizona but NC is a toss up.  Utah is another wildcard where independent Evan McMullin has been in shouting distance of Trump.
  2. Consolidate consistent leads in Obama states (24).  Trump has been leading for a while in two states where Obama triumphed in 2012 – Ohio (18) and Iowa (6).  Now he’s up to 230 total votes with steps #1 and #2.
  3. Win Florida (29).  It would be very, very hard for Trump to win the White House without this state.  The polls are close.  Running total: 259.
  4. Find (11) votes from the following: New Hampshire (4), Maine 2nd district (1), and Nevada (6).  That’s 270 right there in Steps 1-4.  This is very similar to the RCP map above that has Trump at 266 – it’s just missing New Hampshire.
  5. Hail Mary scenario – If Trump’s carpet bombing of previously considered safe Democrat states succeeds, it changes the calculation: Pennsylvania (20) and Colorado (9) could add to or replace Florida’s 29 votes; Michigan (16) or Wisconsin (11) would replace or add to the smaller states in #4 above.  This would be white voters (college education or less) turning out “big time”.  This scenario is a tall order, indeed.

My prediction

I have unreliable data like the rest of you.  So this comes down to a gut feeling. Trump will not win all of the Romney states.  I believe he will lose North Carolina due to my perception of Clinton’s organizational advantage.  I’m shaky on that prediction, but I’m going with it.

Further, I believe Clinton will win Florida due to early voting and organization.  Nevada should also be in Clinton’s column.

Therefore, Trump has 191 Romney votes, plus gains in Ohio (18) and Iowa (6), and I will throw in New Hampshire (4) for a total of 219 votes to Clinton’s 319.  My sense is that the FBI-induced fever that plagued Clinton over the past week broke over the weekend.  Her campaign’s inherent strengths and Trump’s weakness with non-white voters will be a deciding factor in close races.  It will take an uprising in states where there is a higher proportion of white voters to elect Trump, IMHO. I’m betting the surprise on election night will be the size of Hillary Clinton’s margin of electoral votes, not a Trump win.

On Election night, channel flip over to Global TV’s BC1 news channel.  I will be speaking to results with Global’s Keith Baldrey throughout the evening.

The Rosedeer Prediction Map:

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How Utah could elect Trump-Kaine to the White House

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Presidential Wildcard?

Have you ever heard of Evan McMullin?  He’s an independent candidate for president running in Utah and he has a chance of winning the state.  Mormons are not huge fans of Donald Trump.  Top Mormon-Republicans Mitt Romney and former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman have openly opposed Trump.

The 40-year old McMullin is a former Republican staffer and former CIA operative. Born and raised in Utah, and a BYU graduate, he can certainly make the claim that he’s a home-grown, Mormon candidate. He likes to say that he was fighting terrorists while Donald Trump was judging beauty pageants.

The latest controversy in Utah is that a white-nationalist group has sent robocall messages into Utah attacking McMullin saying he has a lesbian mother and “two mommies”.  He’s firing back at the RNC and Utah Republicans for supporting these types of attacks (which the RNC has disavowed).  The GOP does, however, see him as a hurdle they need to overcome.

Utah only has 6 electoral votes, so why is it important?

In a very close election, McMullin’s victory in Utah could deny Trump a majority in the electoral college.

Today, RealClearPolitics “no toss up” map forecasts 273 votes for Clinton/Kaine and 265 for Trump/Pence (the inclusion of VP candidates in this discussion is important, further down).

Based on the map below, if Colorado swings to Trump, he would have 274 votes to Clinton’s 264.  However, if Utah goes with McMullin instead of Trump, then it would be: Trump/Pence 268, Clinton/Kaine 264, and McMullin 6. No candidate would reach the magic number of 270 required.

Map: RealClearPolitics “no toss up” forecast (November 2)

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No majority?  Then what happens?

This is where it gets really interesting under the 12th Amendment.  The House of Representatives then elects the president and the only candidates eligible are those that received electoral colleges votes: Trump, Clinton, and McMullin in this scenario.

But it’s not a one member, one vote scenario.  Rather, each state’s delegation receives one vote.  California = Vermont in terms of voting strength.  Crazy rules but they’re stuck with them.

The  Republicans will most likely have a majority in more states than the Democrats .  Representatives can vote for any of the three candidates so it’s highly likely Trump would become president, even if Hillary won more electoral votes (but less than 270).

However, the House is only voting for president, not vice-president.  The Senate elects the vice-president.

There is a reasonable likelihood that the Dems could control the Senate.  Or there could be a tie (in which case Vice President Joe Biden would break the tie since he would still be in office).  RealClearPolitics has the Senate at 47 Dem; 46 GOP and seven toss-ups today.  Thus, there could be a split ticket.  Imagine Trump-Kaine.

In a further constitutional fantasy scenario, House Republicans could choose the ‘real’ conservative, McMullin, and catapult him to the presidency.  Highly, highly improbable, but not unconstitutional.

Another possibility: Faithless Electors

Some states do not require their electors (that comprise the electoral college) to vote for the presidential candidate with the highest popular vote in their state.  In practice, they almost always do.  There have been cases of an elector going astray – a Washington Republican voted for Reagan instead of Ford in 1976, a Minnesota Democrat voted for John Edwards instead of John Kerry.  But those stray votes were not material to the outcome.

It is possible that some electors could abandon their candidate and go another way.  The pressure on them would be massive if they did so, and, indeed, very contrary to the wishes of the voters.

In the final analysis, I think Hillary is going to win though it’s getting pretty uncomfortable, and moreso since my last post.

Yet, as Al Gore knows, anything can happen even after the votes are counted.

 

ps.  A fictional account of electoral college machinations was written by US political journalist Jeff Greenfield in his book “The People’s Choice”.  A good read for inveterate political junkies.

Can Hillary lose? Not easily.

For some months I have sounded the alarm bells that Donald Trump could win the presidency in spite of breaking every rule of conventional politics.  Every time I second guess that opinion, he roars back with another lunge to the throat of the Clinton campaign.

Map: RealClearPolitics “no toss ups” map (October 31)

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Today, RealClearPolitics has it at 304 Clinton, 234 Trump.  This is a significant improvement for Trump over last week.  Nate Silver has upped his odds of a Trump win to about 1 in 5. But of course, this is based on polling data – and there is a litany of polling debacles in recent years.

So what does the map need to look like for Hillary to lose

  • Trump needs to hold all Romney states

Mitt Romney had 206 electoral votes (with 270 required to win).  Right now, Clinton is leading in North Carolina and Arizona, where Romney had prevailed.  If Clinton, holds the lead in those states then Trump is almost certainly finished.

  • Trump needs to add 64 electoral votes from Obama states.

Trump has consistently led in Ohio, which Obama won twice.  That’s 18 votes.  He is close in Iowa (6) and, now, RealClearPolitics has a GOP advantage in Florida (29).  There’s 53 new votes combined.  He may pick up one vote in Maine (1) where it’s one of two states that is not a winner-take-all state.  When added to Romney totals, that’s 260.

The final 10 votes are the hardest.

  • The next closest state would be Nevada, which only has 6 votes, but add Colorado (9) and that puts Trump over the top.  Polling shows that both states are within 4 points.
  • Or, one of Pennsylvania, Michigan, Minnesota or Wisconsin.  Polling shows Trump about 6 points off in these states.

It’s not impossible, though it is unlikely. The polling shifts become less and less relevant due to early voting.  Trump leads in Florida but many Floridians have already voted, perhaps locking in a Clinton victory.  Secondly, Clinton has a much stronger ground game. That may make the difference alone.  But Trump supporters have zeal which is a hard thing to measure.  He has defied conventional wisdom and we don’t know how bad (or good) the upcoming week will be for Clinton.  Just when I thought Trump was finished, he continues to haunt this campaign.

Obama campaign manager David Plouffe says not to “fret and wet”, that Hillary has a solid 300 votes, and that there is a 100% chance she will win.  So there’s that.

Table 1: Trump pathway to 270

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Holding Romney states (tall order) plus winning states (and districts) where Trump currently leads in the polls equals 260 votes.

Hillary is in a strong position but it is uncomfortably close.

And finally, for reference…

Table 2: US presidential elections since WWII

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The worst performances of presidential candidates

Since WWII, which US presidential candidates have had the worst results?

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For months, I have sounded the alarm that Trump had a chance to win.  He defied the pundits by storming the GOP nomination and tapping into a rich vein of populist resentment.  He had a bump in the polls following the RNC convention.  He had a terrible August but rebounded following Hillary Clinton’s fainting episode in September.  He stayed surprisingly competitive in Ohio and Florida.  He now seems to have come crashing down. Though I think some wooden stakes should be kept on hand in the event they need to be driven through his political heart.

As Chart 1 shows, there has been a lot of volatility between the Democrats and GOP over time.  However, in the past five elections, the Democrats’s worst showing was 48.3% in 2004.  During that time, the GOP has only been above 48.3% once – in 2004 with George W.

Chart 1: Presidential popular vote (1948-2012)

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The worst presidential candidate results, by popular vote, since WWII have been:

  • 1992 – George HW Bush (37.4%) – vote was split by Ross Perot (18.9%)
  • 1972 – George McGovern (37.5%)
  • 1964 – Barry Goldwater (38.5%)

In fact, they are the only major presidential candidates to have sunk below 40% during that time.

The top showings since WWII are:

  • 1964 – LBJ (61.1%)
  • 1972 – Richard Nixon (60.7%)
  • 1984 – Ronald Reagan (58.8%)

The worst presidential candidate performances, by electoral college votes, have been:

  • 1984 – Walter Mondale (13)
  • 1972 – George McGovern (17)
  • 1980 – Jimmy Carter (49)
  • 1964 – Barry Goldwater (52)

It’s unlikely that Hillary Clinton will be anywhere near the top results but holding the trend line of the last five Democratic showings will secure victory.

Will Trump continue to slide?  Right now, he is tempting history.  He appears well above historic lows in electoral college votes, in part due to GOP strength in the South and rural states, but his ranking on popular vote could become Goldwater-esque.

 

 

Today’s presidential map is not JFK’s

I recently had the opportunity to visit the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library in Boston.  A must-see for any political junkie.  Amidst the exhibits on the 1960 presidential campaign, there was an electoral map of the results.  The differences were striking.  Many states that were red in 1960 are blue today; and vice versa.  As the presidential candidates debate tonight, they will be facing a very different political map than the one that occupied the minds of JFK and Richard Nixon 56 years ago.

  • California was Nixon’s in 1960.  Unfathomable as Republican today.
  • Texas was with JFK and LBJ all the way.  Strongly Republican now for many years.
  • The Deep South was won by the ‘Dixiecrats’, but the fault lines had emerged.
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JFK’s political math followed much different geography than Hillary Clinton’s

I count 23 states that switched colours between that election in 1960 and the most recent election in 2012, which encompassed a majority of the electoral college votes.

The Democrats in 1960 were shaking off segregationist voters, or rather, the segregationists were shaking off them.  George Wallace would emerge in the 1960s as a regional force, breaking the bonds of Southerners to the Democratic Party (and many would become Reagan Democrats in the 1980s).

The Republicans of 1960 had moderating influences.  They wore the mantle of Lincoln while having a sizeable following of Rockefeller Republicans, expressing an east coast, urban sensibility.  Nixon, himself, had a decent civil rights record.  They carried states like Vermont long before Bernie Sanders showed up.

Coalitions change over time.  One might think the party of Kennedy and the party of Obama would follow similar patterns, but they found very different routes to power.  No different in Canada where national parties have re-invented themselves as they have won and lost in regions over the years.  Justin Trudeau forged a new regional coalition in 2015 that had been unattainable for Liberals for many decades.  Brian Mulroney had built a “Quebec-Alberta” bridge in 1984 and 1988 that had seemed so tantalizingly close for Thomas Mulcair and the NDP.

In 2016, Donald Trump’s appeal to working-class white voters has threatened to destabilize Democratic states like Michigan and Pennsylvania, and make the difference in Ohio and Florida, while some have speculated that Hillary Clinton could reclaim  a southern state or two.  A key difference between 1960 and 2016 is that JFK and Nixon had a very wide battleground.  The two largest states – California and Texas – went down to the wire.  Famously, Illinois went Democrat by 9,000 votes, whether those votes were real, or imagined by the Cook County Daley machine.  The political map in the US is more polarized now.

Figure 1: 1960 Electoral Map

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The 1960 campaign was virtually tied – JFK with 49.72% and Nixon with 49.55% – and there was no room for third party candidates.  The electoral college was not as close: 303 for JFK and 219 for Nixon. (The other 16 electoral college votes were unpledged delegates in Mississippi and Alabama who ultimately voted for segregationist Senator Harry Byrd as president, even though he did not seek election).

The Republicans were strong in the west and midwest, extending through the middle of the country to Virginia, but for Illinois and Missouri.  They added three New England states and Florida.  The Democrats mainly had Texas and the South, Missouri, Great Lake states of Minnesota, Illinois, and Michigan, and populous east coast states like Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.

Figure 2: 2012 Electoral Map

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By 2012, the map had changed.  A majority of electoral college votes (302) changed hands between those two elections.  With California and Texas switching sides, that’s a change of 93 votes (2012) right there.

In the South in 2012, from Texas to South Carolina, the Republicans picked up 118 electoral college votes whereas they had none in 1960.  But they lost 74 votes on the western seaboard, and 47 between Ohio and Florida for a net loss of 121.

Table 1: State-by-State results, winning presidential campaigns in 1960 and 2012 (switching states in yellow)

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Real Clear Politics calculated that the average of current polling estimates (as of September 26th) has the 2016 electoral college at 272 Clinton, 266 Trump.  Rival strategists will be poring over the map to identify how they can remake it, as history shows it won’t necessarily stay the same.

 

Yes, Trump can still win

One month ago, I put out the question in this blog: “Can Trump still win?”  My answer was ‘yes’, and after a post-RNC/DNC convention nadir for Trump where I questioned my hypothesis (and my sanity), Trump has clawed his way back to contention.  The race appears tighter than it ought to be, yet it is.

Here’s the Real Clear Politics tracking of polls (aggregated):

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You can see that Trump spiked up during the RNC convention then sank immediately after.  In the past few weeks, he has been climbing.

I’ve been watching the USC-LA Times poll, which tracks every night.  It’s been among the most generous of polls to Trump.  Even if there is a skew in the methodology, it shows the same picture – that the race has been volatile.

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The polling junkies can check into Nate Silver’s site and see that he has Trump at a 31% chance to win.  One out of three chance?  Yikes.

Simple Math to get to 270 electoral college votes:

  • Hold Romney states (206)
  • Win Florida (29) and Ohio (18), then Michigan (16) to tie, or Pennsylvania (20) to win
  • Presto! President Trump

Easier said than done, but with two months left in the campaign – a political lifetime – and the debates yet to unfold, one thing can be said for sure: Hillary Clinton has not been able to drive the final wooden stake through the heart of this political vampire.

Any polling can only be viewed as a glimpse in time, and not very trustworthy, but let’s continue to play along.  The latest Washington Post-Survey Monkey poll of over 74,000 Americans across 50 states shows Trump leading in Ohio, neck and neck in Florida and Michigan, and only four points back in Pennsylvania.  That’s the good news for Trump.  The bad news is that Clinton appears competitive in Texas – game over if that happens.  Also, Romney states such as North Carolina and Arizona look shaky for the Republicans.

2012 Electoral College:

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There are many other states that could go different ways than 2012.  Wisconsin and Iowa could go Republican this time.  Georgia could go Democrat.

But it could all go down to the Nebraska 2nd District.  Unlike every other state except Maine, Nebraska apportions its electoral college by congressional district.  The 2nd District in Omaha is the one area of Nebraska that could vote Democrat.  So, if Trump holds Romney states, and wins Ohio, Florida, and Michigan, it might just be a committed group of Cornhuskers that makes it a 270-268 win for Clinton. So, if Hillary can’t drive the wooden stake through the heart of the Donald herself, maybe Warren Buffet can do it for her.  Please.