It’s no secret that Donald Trump’s path to 270 electoral votes is much tougher than Hillary Clinton’s. Simply nailing down Pennsylvania and one of Florida, North Carolina or Ohio would effectively block Trump’s route to the White House.
However, there’s one caveat hardly anyone seems to be considering, and it could just be pivotal. Trump doesn’t need a path to 270, just to 269 – and there’s a realistic set of states that can get him there.
A 269-269 tie would result in an electoral college deadlock, at which point the House of Representatives would pick the next president, while the Senate would choose the next vice president.
Let’s make two assumptions: one, that the House will still belong to the GOP after the election (a near certainty), and that two, that GOP House would make Trump president should they get the opportunity (yes, I know it’s 2016, but surely, surely they would).
Anyway, enough wonky politics and what-ifs, and into the mathematics.
Since Clinton’s route is so easy, it’s much more revealing to focus solely on how Trump could defeat her – well, tie it up. Providing nothing bizarre happens and The Donald keeps Texas, Georgia and Arizona (a state that’s in true toss-up territory but would likely go Trump’s way should he win the other states needed for this avenue) in the red column, he would have 191 electoral votes.
Iowa, the Hawkeye State, will perhaps be Trump’s easiest state to win that Romney failed to. Polls have consistently shown the GOP nominee leading and, although he has slipped, the slight movement back toward him late on should be enough to win here. That’s 197.
Head eastwards to the Buckeye State of Ohio and Trump has 18 electoral votes that have trended his way, narrowly, for a while. Despite not securing the support of the state’s Republican governor, John Kasich, he has eked out a small edge of around one or two points over Clinton. Flipping this Obama-won state seems more likely than not. That’s 215.
Down to the Panhandle and the Sunshine State of Florida. The prize? A mighty 29 electoral votes in the increasingly diverse state. A notorious election-decider, Florida has swayed back and forth intriguingly during this election cycle.
Both Trump and Clinton secured thumping wins in their respective primaries, and are now neck-and-neck in the polls seven days out. A recent New York Times/Siena College poll gave Trump a four-point lead, while an NBC/WSJ/Marist poll put Clinton one point up. If the FBI bombshell does indeed harm Clinton, Trump may reap the rewards. That’s 244.
North Carolina was won by Romney in 2012 by two percent, but it’s a state that Trump is having significant difficulty with. The early voting has given off blurry signals but the polling has hinted at a Clinton win (as of November 1, she has a 3.3-point advantage according to RealClearPolitics.
A big turnout for Trump on Election Day, and the Tar Heel State has a large number of independents which will likely determine it, and he, like Romney, could tip the Cinton-leaning scales post-early voting. Humour me and make this assumption, and that’s 259.
These scoops would still put Trump 10 short of the tie, taking his quest to Colorado, the 420 blaz… Centennial State, where nine more votes are up for grabs. The Clinton camp thought Colorado was in the bag months back and pulled advertising, allowing Trump to drastically close the gap.
A calamitous early-to-mid October arrested Democrat concerns but the state isn’t a guarantee, with a CBS/YouGov poll putting Clinton just three points up in the sparsely-polled state. Recent Remington Research findings have her one point ahead, although this pollster is Republican aligned. Meanwhile, a Quinnipiac poll conducted more than a fortnight ago had Clinton’s lead at eight. In short, the polling is a mess, but points toward a small to medium HRC win, yet with limited confidence.
Ballots are already being mailed in and Trump has also been pressing hard recently there. Colorado is a tough task, but it looks far more viable than the Pennsylvania and Wisconsin paths being touted by talking heads. If he does complete the heist then that’s 268. One short.
They do things differently up in the Pine Tree State of Maine (and Nebraska too, for that matter). While two electoral votes are available for a statewide win, one additional vote is given to the winner of the state’s 1st and 2nd congressional districts. The limited polling indicates Trump is a good bet for the latter. Things have been volatile and his prospects are nowhere near as bright as in September, where he enjoyed double-digit leads, but it definitely looks doable. And if he does, that’s 269 and likely the presidency.
Fail that, and Nevada’s six electoral votes could nudge him north of 270.
It’s a thin, treacherous tightrope and one Trump has a greater chance of falling off than walking across, but it offers a glimmer of hope that the proposed Rust Belt strategy doesn’t seem to. Barring a big polling error, foreseeable in these Brexit times of course, in Pennsylvania or Michigan (which missed Bernie Sanders’ primary win by 20 points), that route looks blocked for Trump.
Anyway, back to the original premise: the idea that 269 being enough for Trump could make all the difference. It’d be bizarre, wacky, unprecedented and bonkers. But has there been a more bizarre, wacky, unprecedented and bonkers election than 2016?