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The 2016 Projection
The time has finally come for the analysts to shut up and let the American people take the spotlight. After today the polls are meaningless. It doesn't matter if a website projects a candidate winning a state if people that support that person don't get off their couch and make the trip to the ballot box. No matter what you expect to happen on election day after listening to people like me all year, you have the real power now. Don't like the predictions? Go vote and change them. Agree with the predictions? Go vote or they won't happen. In the end, no one will remember the analysis, they'll remember the outcome.

cand_2016_clinton_2xPresident Elect's official projection of the 2016 Electoral College vote pitting Democrat Hillary Clinton against Republican challenger Donald Trump shows that the United States will be electing its first female president, and the first spouse of a former president to be elected.

President Elect projects that Clinton will win 301 electoral votes and Trump will win 237. However, I'm not even close to 100% confident in my selections! I said something similar in 2012, but that year was different. Then, the national polls and the state polls seem to have a disconnect. That's not the issue here. In 2016, it's simply just an extremely close race, in the polls at least. There are a lot of toss-up states where one candidate is literally within a point or two of the other. True, my projections have never fully relied on polls (and I am going against them with a couple of these picks). I also take into account things like a state's voting tendencies. But even that wasn't much help since most of the states giving me fits were ones that have flipped sides over the years.

So with the polls so close, two historically unpopular candidates, and past results being less than helpful, everything here is really just one man's opinion on where things stand. And since I don't cop out and just leave toss-ups on the map, here is my thinking on the closest states.

These first four states are absolute toss-ups. These could easily all go in a different direction and I would not be surprised in the least.

Florida: It seems like it always comes down to this, doesn't it? Both sides have indications that things are going well for them in the state. Which doesn't help anything at all! My original thinking was that Florida would eventually go along with Ohio as it usually does. But as we've gotten closer to November that never happened. Clinton has consistently stayed right with Trump for months now. I think if the state was going to go red we would have seen a bigger lead for him by now.
North Carolina: This state went for Obama in 2008 and Romney in 2012. This election it has stayed within a point or two of even for months now. However, in the past week Trump's numbers have started climbing. It looks like he may be building momentum at the exact right moment.
New Hampshire: The state is fiercely independent when it comes to politics, and once again they may play an important part. Clinton looked like she had it tied up for awhile, but a few weeks ago Trump clawed his way back into the race. Unlike NC, though, I think it will be too little too late.
Nevada: Another state that prides itself on not being tied to any side, Nevada is a tough one to figure out. Both candidates have taken turns leading it, and Trump appears to have it now.

The candidates might pull off an upset in a couple of other states.

Colorado: This state is one the Republicans could add back to their column every election eventually. I expect it to stay in the blue column this year, but some recent polls have been closer than anticipated.
Maine: I have resisted all year saying that Trump was going to be able to steal an electoral vote in Maine. I really did not think it would happen. But after looking into it more and more, I think there is a slightly better than even chance he does. Obama won the whole state by 16% in 2004 and 15% in 2012. Kerry won by 12% in 2004. Clinton is at around 5% in the polls right now. Maine's second congressional district was closer than the state vote in all those years. If Clinton has lost that much support in the state overall, how much must she have lost in the more conservative district?
Arizona: Trump's lead here has been smaller than previous GOP candidates. If Clinton can take this state she's in for a huge night.

Finally, there are several states that some analysts are saying could shock everyone.

Wisconsin & Minnesota: Trump did surprisingly win the kid vote in one of these states, but I don't see much chance of him getting anything else.
Utah: At this point, the biggest thing to watch for here is whether or not Clinton can come in second place. Evan McMullin's numbers have been impressive, but as election day has approached Trump's numbers have solidified.
Georgia: Clinton is doing well in this southern state, but not enough to get within striking distance.
Michigan: This was the state I thought Trump would build his campaign off of, rallying blue-collar workers away from their traditional Democratic voting tendencies. And to be fair he has done that in small measure. The rust belt states are not falling in line behind Clinton as much as they did with other Democrats. But they're also not doing so in the numbers Trump needs, except maybe in...
Pennsylvania: If there is a shock to be had on election day, this might be it. The polls here have been closer than I would have ever guessed throughout the election season, and they appear to be closing further. If Trump pulls off a win in Pennsylvania, I would say all our assumptions about several other states might be off too. But as close as it could be, I don't think it will happen.

That last point is worth expounding on. Trump is a very different candidate than we have seen in a very long time. And he is getting massive support at his events, in numbers we just don't see at Clinton stops. And not just from traditional Republican voters either. Besides the union-type workers mentioned above, he's also polling well (for a Republican) among black voters. It's possible we're all underestimating his support. Or it's just as likely Democratic voters aren't happy enough with Clinton to make a big deal about her but are worried enough about Trump to go out and vote. And let's not forget the Republican voters he has turned off.

Which brings up two last interesting outcomes to watch for:

Trump does seem to have enthusiastic support, much more so than Clinton. If they come out in strong enough numbers in red states while also keeping things relatively closer than usual in blue states, we could be in for a popular vote winning loser again.
If Trump can pull just Florida and New Hampshire to his side, he'd win by a single vote. But if he also loses Maine's single vote we'd have a 269-269 tie.

This election could go in any of many different directions. It could be a big Trump win or a Clinton blowout or anywhere in between. After the final results are in, someone will say "see, I told you this was what was going to happen". Ignore them. Even a stopped clock is right twice a day. No one can predict with certainty what will happen this year.

Thanks for following along this election season! Be sure to visit on election night for my quadrennial live blog of the results. I'll be keeping track of the results (on a map in a much more useful manner than you'll see on your TV), answering your questions, and trying to figure out exactly what is going on with the numbers coming in!


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