Recalculating Electoral Votes

Beltway pundits routinely grant Democrats in 2016 an advantage in the Electoral College.  The magic number is 270 electoral votes.

Twenty-four states are almost certain to go Republican: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, West Virginia, and Wyoming, with a combined total of 206* electoral votes.  Any Republican candidate who fails to carry any of those states is going to lose the presidential election anyway.

Where will the 66 electoral votes needed to win the election come?  The last four presidential elections have been relatively close in the popular vote nationally, and in four states not in the twenty-four already noted, the Democrat nominee has actually received a smaller percentage of the popular vote than the nominee received nationally over the last four presidential elections.  These four states are Colorado (48.63%), Florida (49.18%), Ohio (49.28%), and Virginia (48.42%), compared to the average percentage of the popular vote nationally over the last four elections of 49.83%. 

State government in Florida and Ohio is strongly Republican, with increased numbers of Republican states legislators after 2014 in both states.  These states are not just winnable, but probable for any Republican nominee who splits the national popular vote evenly with the Democrat nominee.  Add the 69 electoral votes of Colorado (9 votes), Florida (29 votes), Ohio (18 votes), and Virginia (13 votes) to the 204 electoral votes, and Republicans win the presidential race with 273 electoral votes. 

The Democrat nominee’s percentage of the vote in Iowa (6 electoral votes) and New Hampshire (4 electoral votes) has tracked very closely what the Democrat nominee received nationally in those last four elections, so a Republican nominee with a plurality of the popular vote ought to carry those states as well, which would give the Republican nominee 283 electoral votes.

New Mexico (5 electoral votes) has gone Democrat over the last four presidential elections with a modest 51.71% of the vote.  Wisconsin (10 electoral votes) over the last four presidential elections has given Democrats only 51.64% of the vote.  Nevada (6 electoral votes) has been even more anemically Democrat with an average of 51.44% of the vote.

State government 2014 election results in all three of the above states suggest that Republicans are becoming the dominant political force.  All three Republican governors won re-election by landslides.  Five legislative chambers in those three states were up for re-election (New Mexico’s Senate had an off-year), and Republicans captured the New Mexico House, the Nevada Senate, and the Nevada House.  In Wisconsin, Republicans padded majorities in both legislative chambers.  A Republican nominee running well nationally will carry those three states and the 21 electoral votes of those states, giving the ticket 305 electoral votes.

Although the Democrat presidential nominee in Minnesota has won the state’s 10 electoral votes in the last four elections, it has been with an average of only 51.65% of the vote – virtually the same as neighboring Wisconsin.  Pennsylvania’s 20 electoral votes have gone for the Democrat nominee in the last four presidential elections with a modest 51.85% of the vote.  Michigan’s 16 electoral votes went to the Democrat nominee in the last four presidential elections by a more comfortable 54.47% margin, but Michigan may be in play. 

State election results suggest that Minnesota, where Governor Dayton won re-election with a paltry 50.1% of the vote and Democrats lost the Minnesota House (and would have lost the Minnesota Senate had its members faced voters), is trending Republican.  Michigan Republican governor Snyder won re-election, and his Republican majorities in both houses of the Michigan Legislature increased after state Republicans enacted Right to Work.  In Pennsylvania, Democrats recaptured the governorship, but Republicans padded their majorities in both chambers.  

In all three states, reliably Democrat Big Labor has been the eight-hundred-pound gorilla, but that is changing fast.  Union membership, which means electoral clout, in all three states is dropping like a rock.  Big Labor’s disgust with Obama’s anti-growth policies is making union support for Democrats even more problematic.  If Republicans win those three states, the Electoral College total will reach 351, easily beyond the 270 to win the election.

The Electoral College count is not a big problem for Republicans in 2016.  A good candidate, a united party, and a strong program will win the electoral votes, whatever punditry dreams today.

*corrected from 2014