Number-crunching the nail-biter states in 2016

One of the most important jobs in a national campaign is targeting – where do you allocate your resources?  This is where's nifty election tool really comes in handy.  Once you start playing with it, one thing becomes clear: the Electoral College Blue Wall of the Democrats isn't a wall at all.  Even with their creeping demographic advantage, in 2016, it's a façade.

Yesterday I ran a simulation adjusting only the black and non-college white (NCW) demographic groups from the 2012 results, adjusted for demographic change.  Evening out both of their turnout percentages back to historical averages, 60%; lowering the black Democrat vote to 90%; and increasing the NCW Republican vote from 62% to 66% gives you Iowa, Ohio, Florida, and Virginia – 272 electoral votes.

Maybe a four-point jump in the NCW Republican vote is too ambitious.  How about just a two-point increase in the total white vote, college and non-college?  If you also decrease the black Democrat vote from the absurdly high 93% down to a realistic 89%, you also pick up Pennsylvania and New Hampshire, for a total of 296 electoral votes.

So if I'm plotting my general election strategy, I want to hold on to my percentages in the Hispanic and Asian/other categories and concentrate on the white voters of, first, Iowa, Ohio, Florida, and Virginia.  Second-tier targets are Pennsylvania and New Hampshire.

This is not what I was expecting.  I thought Michigan and Wisconsin would be in the top tier of targets, but they trail the six states listed above.  According to the 538 tool, Pennsylvania is a better bet than either of them.

But these are mechanical, plug-in-the-numbers analyses.  A starting point for the discussion – no more.  The particular political circumstances in each state, and within each demographic group of a state, need to be brought into play.  This is called political skill, and it requires more than algorithms and regression analyses.  In 2000, Karl Rove saw an opportunity for five electoral votes in West Virginia and put significant resources into the campaign there.  His bet paid off, and with West Virginia, Bush 2 eked out a win.

I like to believe that none of this is necessary.  If I've got this election figured correctly, the Democrats will be reduced almost entirely to their coastal enclaves.  All this game-planning of the electoral college is unnecessary.  But that would be foolish.  Prepare for a close election.

The Democrats are in a pickle, in my opinion.  They can't run for a third Obama term – that's suicidal.  But they can't turn their backs on him, either.  Al Gore faced the same dilemma in 2000, and he never did figure it out.

So, blessed with a candidate who is neither liked nor trusted by the American people, the Democrats sally forth.  Their issues are shopworn and stale.  With Hillary, there is no hope of change.

They've got nothing.  They're like a lawyer arguing a case when the facts and the law are both against him.  You pound the table.  Been there, done that.

Pounding the Republican candidate is all that's left.  The Red Queen (aka the Gray Lady) will lead the charge, and the Hive will follow.  The attacks will come in swarms.  I think it gets ugly, but they have no other option.  The stakes are very high.

Fire must be fought with fire.  The Republican candidate doesn't want to be pulling the trigger, though.  Hillary is a woman, and attacking her is someone else's job.  Fortunately, we have an excellent template to model our efforts on.  The Swift Boat Veterans for Truth took out Kerry.  We need a reincarnation.

In the coming months, various political entrepreneurs will be soliciting donations to attack Hillary.  Some will be worth supporting.  If you want bang for your political buck, that's where you put your money.

Fritz Pettyjohn is a former Alaska state legislator and a co-founder of the Balanced Budget Amendment Task Force.  He blogs on a daily basis at

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