With a Week to Go, Here’s the State of the Race

If you are a Democrat who follows Nate Silver’s analysis of the presidential race, then it might be bed-wetting time. Here is what he tweeted the other day:

Yesterday Silver wrote this:

The fact is, though, that the data we’ve gotten during the past few days is consistent with a reasonably competitive race…

But at this point, the election is a long way from being in the bag for Clinton. Both FiveThirtyEight’s models and betting markets give Trump about a 1 in 4 chance of winning the election, about the same chance as the Chicago Cubs have of winning the World Series.

I’m old enough to remember when Silver was a data guy and wouldn’t have been betting much on a 1 in 4 chance. He might have also drawn a distinction between the odds of an underdog pulling out a win in a baseball game vs a presidential candidate turning an election around with only one week to go. In other words, the two things don’t really have much in common, so dream on, Cubs fans!

But this is always what the media does when an election is getting close to the finish line. It keeps the troops revved up and clicking on links. So let’s take a step back and look at the big picture.

It’s true that in the last week or so the presidential race has tightened a bit according to the poll aggregates. Here’s what TPM’s graph looks like:

What you’ll notice is that Clinton isn’t losing ground, Trump is gaining. What we’re seeing is actually not that surprising. As Silver wrote, “the margin is closing because Trump is gaining ground from undecided voters and third-party candidates, rather than Clinton losing support.” Clinton continues to solidify her coalition and some of Trump’s is returning to him as the election draws near.

But we all know that the popular vote doesn’t decide elections. That happens with the electoral college based on state results. If Silver’s dire predictions were to come true and Trump actually ran the board with that 1 in 4 chance, I thought it would be interesting to look at the worst case scenario based on states where the race is close right now. Here’s what I came up with:


Click the map to create your own at 270toWin.com

In a dream scenario for Trump in which he wins Flordia, North Carolina, Ohio, Iowa and Nevada, he would still fall short of 270 electoral votes. Let me be very clear, that map above is not going to happen. Even the conservative RCP no toss-up map (which allocates states based on who is currently ahead) has Clinton with 304 electoral votes.

By the way, in Silver’s tweet up top he was simply playing mind games. The outcome of the scenario he proposed would pretty much be an electoral college tie. But his own model shows Clinton leading in both Pennsylvania and New Hampshire by 5 points. So it’s not going to happen.

Perhaps when the “no drama” guy and RCP are on the same page, it’s worth listening to them. Here’s what David Plouffe tweeted over the weekend when the rest of the world was freaking out about the effect of the Comey letter.

If you need something to worry about, you always have the state of Senate races for that.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly. Follow her on Twitter @Smartypants60 .