Could Donald Trump Carry the Electoral College and Become President?

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tags: election 2016, Electoral College, Trump

Ronald L. Feinman is the author of Assassinations, Threats, and the American Presidency: From Andrew Jackson to Barack Obama (Rowman Littlefield Publishers, August 2015).

The question of whether real estate mogul Donald Trump will be the Republican Presidential nominee is yet to be determined, but the assumption is that Trump, if nominated, would lose the election in a landslide, taking the Republican Party down with him.

Some observers think he would lose so badly, that he could be one of the worst defeated Presidential nominees in American history, but that requires an analysis, state by state, of the likelihood of a total disaster. If one does that, it is clear that Trump would NOT be defeated by a political “earthquake,” and under the “right” circumstances, such as a major economic collapse, or a major terrorist attack such as September 11, could conceivably win the Presidency, as horrible as that thought is. But assuming no earthshaking event, here is one historian and political pundit’s view on the election.

If we examine the nation section by section, it seems clear that Trump would have little chance of winning the New England states or the Middle Atlantic States, with the exception of, in a major shock, the state of New York. Trump, being a native New Yorker who has played a major role in New York matters, despite his being controversial, COULD win the Empire State and its 29 electoral votes. He would be likely to win upstate and Long Island, but the issue is could he overcome the New York City Democratic stronghold? Let’s assume he wins New York. The rest of the Northeast would be unlikely to go to Trump. So figure one Northeastern state by a close margin and 29 electoral votes.

When we reach the Southern states, it is possible to imagine that Trump would win South Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana, Tennessee, West Virginia, and Kentucky, which would give him a total of 62 electoral votes. Virginia, North Carolina, and Georgia would be harder to win for Trump, due to their growing Latino population and would be likely to go to Hillary Clinton. On the other hand, Texas would be easier for Trump to win, although the Latino population is growing, but not enough to stop the Republican nominee, so if Trump won Texas, he would have 38 more electoral votes. Florida is much more of a battleground, but seems likely to go to the Democrats once again. So figure nine Southern and Border states in the Trump column and 100 electoral votes, and Hillary Clinton would carry two states, North Carolina, and Georgia, won by Mitt Romney in 2012, along with Virginia and Florida, won by Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012.

Now to the Midwest, where Trump could win Indiana and Missouri for certain, but unlikely to win the upper Midwestern states of Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota, or Illinois. Ohio would be a battleground, but seems likely to go Democratic once again, with Iowa also staying “Blue.” But gaining Indiana and Missouri would add 21 electoral votes to Trump, and a total of two states in the Midwest, and close races can be expected in many of the other states in the area. And in the Great Plains states, it seems possible to believe that all five of them—North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, and Oklahoma—would go to Trump, adding 24 electoral votes to the total. So in the broad midsection of the nation, we could see a total of seven states added to Trump’s total and 45 electoral votes.

As we move to the Mountain West, it seems rational to say that Trump would win Arizona, Utah, Idaho, Montana and Wyoming, while losing Colorado, New Mexico, and Nevada, but with the five states mentioned, it would add 27 electoral votes to Trump, as would Alaska with its 3 electoral votes, making a grand total in the Mountain West of 30 electoral votes in the Trump column. But Trump would have no chance of carrying the Pacific Coast states, which would remain “Blue”—California, Oregon, Washington State and Hawaii.

Overall, Trump COULD win 23 states to the Democrats’ 27. The electoral vote total would be 334-204 in Hillary Clinton’s favor. The only gains for the Democrats would be North Carolina and Georgia, and the only loss would be New York. That means 31 electoral votes gained and 29 lost, so Clinton would win two more electoral votes than Barack Obama did in 2012, when the final totals were 332-206.

So Donald Trump would lose the Presidency, but would not be “wiped out” in the Electoral College, actually make it similar to what Mitt Romney gained in 2012, and better than John McCain did in 2008. And Trump would only carry “Red” states, with the exception of New York being the one unusual case due to Trump being a lifetime resident of the state. Of course, that would be a major slap in the face of Hillary Clinton on her way to the Presidency, and it is likely that the popular vote would be very close in the Empire State. The popular vote percentage would likely be 53-47 nationally, with the fact that the larger states in population would be primarily Democratic, except for New York and Texas. So all the “swing” states would continue as “Blue” and North Carolina and Georgia would be added to the status of “swing” states.

Were Ted Cruz to end up as the Republican Presidential nominee, the math would be different in a negative way, as Cruz would NOT carry New York, but everything else would be the same as this pundit projects, so that would mean an Electoral College vote of 363-175, a more substantial victory for Hillary Clinton, basically two-thirds of the electoral votes, similar to Barack Obama in 2008, and Bill Clinton in 1992 and 1996.

And if Governor John Kasich were to be the nominee, again the math would be different, with Kasich winning Ohio, his home state, but losing New York, changing the math to 345-193 for Hillary Clinton. So one “swing” state would go “Red” for its “favorite son.”

To sum up: Trump would do the best, followed by Kasich and Cruz, with Trump and Kasich winning 23 states and Cruz 22 states. However, IF Trump were to run as an independent third party candidate, or if some conservative Republican were to run against Trump on an independent third party line, then the situation would be even more disastrous for the GOP, and would insure that the Democrats would win by an even bigger margin of electoral votes. With a third party on the Right, it is possible to believe that Hillary Clinton would retain New York, and have a good chance of gaining Indiana, Missouri, Arizona, and Montana at the least, adding 64 electoral votes to her total of 334, making the number at least 398, with a total of 32 states. This would leave the Republicans and an independent candidate dividing just 140 electoral votes and 18 states.

So expect a somewhat competitive race, but no chance of Trump winning 270 electoral votes, unless there is a catastrophic event. The same would apply to Kasich and Cruz. The dominance of the Democrats over the Electoral College would be solidified, and last into the long term future, as long as the Republican Party does not reform its image of being racist, nativist, misogynist, homophobic, xenophobic, and anti environment. And the likelihood of the dissolution of the Republican Party as we know it is highly likely, if Trump is in the race, either as the GOP nominee or as an independent third party candidate, or someone else runs as his opponent on an independent line.

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