The 2016 Results We Can Already PredictRoundup
tags: 2016 election
Larry J. Sabato is university professor of politics and director of the University of Virginia Center for Politics, which publishes the online, free Crystal Ball politics newsletter every Thursday, and a regular columnist for Politico Magazine. His book on the midterms and upcoming presidential election, The Surge: 2014's Big GOP Win and What It Means for the Next Presidential Election, is now available. Kyle Kondik is managing editor of Sabato’s Crystal Ball, a nonpartisan political newsletter produced by the University of Virginia Center for Politics. He also directs the center’s Washington, D.C., office. Geoffrey Skelley is associate editor at Sabato’s Crystal Ball.
As the country has become more divided and polarized, the number of swing states has steadily shrunk. Even in 2000, when 537 votes in Florida elected a president, just 12 states were decided by five points or less. That number contracted to just four states in 2012.
When Jimmy Carter defeated President Gerald Ford in 1976, every big state was competitive: California, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas, Illinois and Ohio all had at least 25 electoral votes, and each one was decided by less than five points. All told, 20 of 50 states were won by five points or less. This wasn’t unique; an earlier close election, the 1960 match-up between John Kennedy and Richard Nixon, produced razor-thin results in exactly the same number of states, with almost all the mega-states of that day recording tight margins.
We don’t really have elections like 1960 and 1976 anymore. In the current Electoral College battlefield, 40 of 50 states have voted for the same candidate in all four elections since 2000. And, of the 10 exceptions, three were fluky: New Mexico’s pluralities were wafer-thin in both 2000, when it went for Al Gore, and 2004, when George W. Bush took the state. It has now trended mainly Democratic. Indiana and North Carolina, meanwhile, narrowly went for Barack Obama in 2008, in part because Obama’s campaign invested heavily in field operations and advertising in those states while John McCain, out of necessity, neglected them. Overall, Hoosiers are still predominantly Republican and Tar Heels marginally so. That leaves just seven super-swingy states: Colorado, Florida, Nevada, Ohio, and Virginia, all of which backed Bush and Obama twice each, and Iowa and New Hampshire, which have voted Democratic in three of the last four elections.
So it’s no wonder that these special seven states start as the only obvious toss-ups on our first 2016 Electoral Map.
This map feels like déjà vu: It’s effectively the same map we featured for much of the 2012 cycle, and it unmistakably suggests the Democratic nominee should start the election as at least a marginal Electoral College favorite over his or (probably) her Republican rival. However, at the starting gate it is wiser to argue that the next election is basically a 50-50 proposition. ...
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