Trump’s Likeliest Path to Victory May Be an Electoral College Tie

Opinions abound on whether Trump will be competitive with Clinton when the votes are cast this November: most prognosticators believe Clinton will win by quite comfortable margin, but I’m not so sure. Regardless of that, however, it’s interesting to look at scenarios for a close election to see how Donald Trump might be able to overcome the massive Republican disadvantage in the electoral college.

What’s most intriguing at the moment is that one of Trump’s easiest and most plausible paths to catching Clinton is currently an electoral college tie. First, let’s look at the current “toss-up” map via 270towin:

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Now, most of these states are not actually toss-ups: most of them, in fact, lean in Clinton’s direction at this moment. So right up front any path to victory for Trump is improbable. But let’s consider which states he is likeliest to be able to snatch away given the current polling averages. The RealClearPolitics averages for these states are as follows, in order of closeness:

Colorado: Clinton +8
Wisconsin: Clinton +5.6
Virginia: Clinton +5.3
Pennsylvania: Clinton +4
New Hampshire: Clinton +3.7
North Carolina: Clinton +2
Ohio: Clinton +0.8
Iowa: Clinton +0.5
Florida: Trump +0.3
Nevada: Trump +2

Let’s for the sake of argument give Clinton the four states in which she is currently the strongest by polling average: CO, WI, VA and PA. Let’s then grant Trump every state closer than that. Yes, running the table in NH, NC, OH, IA, FL and NV would be an extraordinary feat for him, but it’s actually one of his most plausible path given the current averages. That scenario gives us a 269-269 electoral college tie:

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It’s not entirely unthinkable if circumstances like a terror attack or economic calamity push the dial in Trump’s direction by a few points. In that case, the election goes to the state delegations of the House of Representatives, where Republicans would almost certainly have the advantage and put Trump over the top. That would be the case even if Democrats actually won the House (almost impossible in the event of a Trump tie) because the GOP would still likely control the state delegations.

Electoral college ties are always somewhat far-fetched scenarios in the modern era. But this year it may be Trump’s best shot.

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David Atkins

David Atkins is a writer, activist, and research professional living in Santa Barbara. He is a contributor to the Washington Monthly’s “Political Animal” and president of the Pollux Group, a qualitative research firm.