The Electoral Map in the U.S. Presidential Election

Dr. Louis Perron
blog post louis

When it’s all said and done, a U.S. presidential election is not really a nationwide, but a state-by-state election. Each state has a number of so-called electoral votes according to its population size. Presidential candidates collect these electoral votes with a winner-takes-it-all system. This means that a candidate who wins the plurality of the votes in a state, will get all electoral votes from that state. The candidate who collects a minimum of 270 electoral votes moves to the White House.

If there will be a nationwide wave (as it looks like at the moment), the swing states won’t really matter. The winner would then pretty much run the table. If the race will get closer again, however, it might matter. In that respect, let’s not forget also that there are polls such as the IBD/TIPP, LA Times/USC tracking as well as the Rasmussen Reports, which stubbornly show a much closer race than the other polls. In a scenario of a close popular vote, the electoral map favors Clinton as she has many more ways to the needed 270 electoral votes than Trump. In 2012, Barack Obama won his re-election with 332 electoral votes, while Mitt Romney got 206. Out of the so-called Obama states, Ohio looks the most promising for Trump right now. But even if he were to win Ohio’s 18 electoral votes, he would still be far away from the needed 270. And just for the sake of argument: According to realclearpolitics average, Clinton is now leading in Florida by 3.8%. If Trump were to turn things around there and win the state’s 29 electoral votes, that would still leave him 17 votes short of the needed 270 (in other words: Clinton can win the White House without Florida and Ohio). The Trump campaign had high hopes to pull states such as Michigan or Pennsylvania away from the Democratic column. These states havn’t voted for a Republican presidential candidate since the 1980is and it doesn’t seem to happen this time: Clinton now leads Trump according to the realclearpolitics average by 10% in Michigan and by 6.2% in Pennsylvania. On the other hand, it seems that reliably Republican states such as Arizona and Georgia (and some say even Texas or Utah) are now within reach for Clinton. If that were to happen, it would really mean a landslide victory for Clinton. This is also where the Clinton campaign can flex its muscles and use its financial advantage over Trump. With the well-oiled campaign machine that Clinton has, they can throw in a couple of millions in tv advertising in these states and see if the numbers are moving. Even if they don’t move enough for a win there, it would force the Trump campaign to spend time and money in traditionally Republican states that they should not have to worry about at this point in time. Texas and Utah probably are long shots for Clinton, so more realistically, it is noteworthy that Clinton is in a pretty good position in Nevada (4.2% lead according to realclearpolitics), North Carolina (2.5% lead according to realclearpolitics), and Virginia (8% lead according to realclearpolitics). Virginia is particularly interesting since it wasn’t really a swing state in presidential politics until Barack Obama won it back in 2008 (and then again in 2012). As a general rule of thumb, a reasonably popular Vice Presidential candidate can give his running mate a boost of about 2% in the Vice’s home state. With this in mind, the choice of Tim Kaine from Virginia was a particularly smart move by Hillary Clinton.

On Monday after the election, November 14, I am running a seminar on the lessons learned from the U.S. presidential campaign. It will take place in Zurich and be conducted in German. You can find more information and/or sign up on my website:

Sign up for my newsletter, The Campaign Doctor and get regular insights and takeaways on elections.

As a free gift, get access to my One Hour Exclusive Program on my New Book “Beat the Incumbent: Proven Strategies and Tactics to Win Elections”