For a year and a half they told us that Trump could not win. But they weren’t talking about the popular vote.
An election is the ultimate numbers game. No matter how much the punditocracy talks about intangibles such as “momentum” and various bits of anecdotal evidence, in the end, it comes down to one simple question: can the candidate can get the votes? More specifically: can the candidate get the votes in the right states to win a majority in the Electoral College?
With Donald Trump poised to capture the Republican nomination, we hear a lot about intangibles, but there has been very little analysis of the numbers. And the more we dig into the numbers, the less likely it seems that Mr. Trump can actually win the general election in November.
But there are other numbers that should be even more troubling to supporters of Mr. Trump, and some of them have nothing to do with him, or with his merits or demerits as a candidate.
Let’s start with the Electoral College, which is how presidents are actually elected in the United States. Any Republican nominee would start out in a disadvantaged position in this all-important category.
To explain: there are 18 states, plus the District of Columbia, which have voted for Democratic presidential candidates in every single election since 1988. These states combine for 242 of the 270 electoral votes required to win the election. Republicans, conversely, have won only 13 states in each of the last six elections, and these states combine for just 101 electoral votes. Even if we add in 10 more states that may have voted Democratic once or twice during that span, but could now be considered solidly Republican, the GOP only gets to a starting position of 191 electors.
These starting positions mean that a Republican nominee either has to win nearly all of the swing states, or pick off one or more states that haven’t gone to the GOP since 1988 or earlier. A Democrat merely has to hold the states that have gone into the blue column over the last six elections and add Florida, or some combination of two or more swing states, perhaps Ohio and Virginia. The red team simply has a harder path to victory than the blue team does.
Certainly, there are a number of “blue states” which have been closer than others. It is by no means guaranteed that Pennsylvania or Wisconsin, with their combined 30 electoral votes, will always end up in the Democratic column, despite the fact that Pennsylvania has done so for six elections in a row and Wisconsin for seven. Both states were very close in 2000 and 2004, and neither state went to Barack Obama by landslide margins in 2012, though he did win each by more than five percentage points.
It is rightly said that nobody should ever say “never” in politics. Many liberals believed it impossible that Ronald Reagan or George W. Bush could be elected president, and they were wrong. Clearly, a significant segment of the electorate is angry and frustrated, and Mr. Trump’s message of shaking up the system has a certain appeal, particularly among white working-class Americans who feel they haven’t gotten a fair shake in a very long time.
But here’s the bottom line: there just aren’t enough “angry white men” out there to put Donald Trump in the White House. Unless he can reverse his horrible numbers among Latinos and women of all colors, and perform better than Republicans typically do among numerous other key demographics, Mr. Trump’s chances of victory in November can be rated unlikely at best.
Well, Trump didn’t do it their way. But he still won Florida. And North Carolina. And Pennsylvania, Iowa, Ohio, Wisconsin and Michigan.
They kept telling us that Trump was the most beatable candidate that ever ran for President, but nobody could beat him. If the Democrats had chosen to lose with grace and dignity, this wouldn’t be nearly as much fun.
OT: Is anybody else still watching Good Behavior with Michelle Dockery? It started off fun and funny, but now it’s just tawdry and depressing.