The internet is groaning with maps of the US that paint a heap of states Democratic blue, another pile Republican red and the remainder in any colour but blue or red. This last category are the ones that are tough to call: these are the swing states whose US Electoral College votes decide presidential elections.
Politico reckons there are 11 states that will determine the next POTUS. 270towin.com has identified nine where this election is likely to be won or lost. The Washington Examiner picked eight target states but distinguished itself with a deep dive, identifying 13 key counties across its chosen states.
One state on everybody's list is Florida, the nation's third most populous (after California and Texas) with a correspondingly large number of electoral votes: 29. Importantly, Florida does not split its electoral votes so the winner will get all 29. Until very recently, most polls had Trump and Clinton tied in Florida, but after after Trump's disastrous week, Clinton looks to have pulled ahead, now leading Trump 48% to 42%. The Democratic nominee is spending two days in Florida this week, no doubt hoping to consolidate that lead, with events including a brewery tour, a rally, and a health care centre visit.
Back in 2014 Myra Adams came up with this formula in a post on the National Review: 1992 -1988 - Florida = 270 Democratic White House.
What does this mean? 1992 is shorthand for 10 states that have been Democratic blue in every presidential election since 1992. Together these 10 (California, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Michigan, New Jersey, Maryland, Connecticut, Maine, Vermont and Delaware) have 152 electoral votes. 1988 stands for the nine states won by by the Democratic presidential nominee since, yep, 1988. The nine (New York, Washington, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Oregon, Hawaii, Rhode Island and Washington D.C.) control 90 electoral votes. Add together the two totals and you get 242 electoral votes. Adams went on:
The 1992 and 1988 numbers are likely to stand in 2016 as they have for the last 24 to 28 years. That is unless a cataclysmic event or series of events dramatically changes voting behavior in states where the Democratic nominee for president has triumphed since 1988 or 1992. And as we know, in politics, anything is possible. The third element in the equation is Florida, whose 29 electoral votes, added to the 242 total, would bring the Democratic nominee to 271 electoral votes, just over the 270 needed for White House victory.
Adams was writing before anyone dreamed Donald Trump would be the Republican presidential candidate this year. With policies ('Build that Wall') that seem purpose built to turn away Hispanics, who account for 24% of Florida's population and 14.9% of registered voters, Democratic Party hopes that Clinton will get over the line seem reasonable. Except Trump has also done well in Florida, famously beating the state's own Marco Rubio in the Republican primary. In this Politico analysis David Bernstein suggests the Dems shouldn't get too cocky:
In 2012, according to exit polls, Hispanics made up a larger percentage of the state’s vote than in previous years, and Obama won a higher percentage of them—60 percent—than any Democrat had before. That translated into a 285,600-vote advantage (20 percent) among Hispanic voters for Obama over Romney in the state, which Obama carried by just 73,000 votes overall.
The big question is: Can Clinton sustain that kind of historic lead? All Trump would have to do is roll back the Democratic advantage to 2008 levels, instead of 2012 levels, to reverse the tide. All else being equal, a return to 2008’s numbers—when Hispanics were 14 percent of the vote, and Obama won them by a 15 percent margin rather than 20 percent—would mean Democrats losing 109,200 votes off their advantage. And that could turn Obama’s 73,000-vote Florida victory into a 36,000-vote defeat.
While many have been encouraged by Trump's recent slump in the polls, and think it heralds the beginning of the collapse, not all are quite so sure. Here's Richard Seymour writing for Al Jazeera this week:
Currently, even amid the Clinton bounce, Trump is competitive in swing states such as Florida, Ohio, Iowa, and even Pennsylvania, where a rise in racism and economic insecurity could give Trump a way in. All of these states went to Obama in 2012, yet they are within a fingernail's reach of being taken by Trump.
Perhaps we shouldn't write off Trump in the Sunshine State just yet.
Photo courtesy of Flickr user Bob B Brown