The path to victory for Hillary Clinton looked all but certain right before the first results started trickling in. In an epic display of crow-eating failure, the pollsters and statisticians had a painful lesson in how to re-cork champagne as the night wore on. If you’re a Clinton fan, you’ve got to be asking why Virginia was on Santa’s nice list, while the other swing states got sacks of coal?
The 1% solution.
Clinton had multiple avenues to victory, based on favorable polling in swing states like Florida, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania. In the end, more than enough Electoral College votes to win tipped to Trump by less than 1%. In what seems to be a replay of the 2000 protest vote for Ralph Nader, Clinton’s loss could have been completely avoided were it not for the 3rd party candidates.
Take Florida, where she lost by just under 130,000 votes. That could have easily been made up by just half of the 268,000 votes cast for Gary Johnson and Jill Stein. Same story in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin. In fact, the Jill Stein vote of 30,900 in Wisconsin was more than enough to turn the state blue. In Michigan, it’s even slimmer, where Jill Stein got 4 times the votes needed to turn the state blue.
When all the pro-Clinton projections were made, had the models correctly included the 3rd-party candidates? At least in these swing states, Johnson took 3% of the vote, with Stein taking up another 0.9%.
And had news coverage adequately made the effects of these votes clear to the electorate? Doubtful.
What about the protest of not voting?
Just hours after the election was called, there is scant data about how many voters stayed home out of protest. NPR interviewed a few couples yesterday, and one ardent Republican stayed home rather than vote. If that’s any indication it may be that the protest vote was a zero-sum gain for both Clinton and Trump.
Was Virginia going blue just a fluke?
Doubtful. Clinton won handily by 5% with a margin of over 180,000 votes, much greater than the votes cast for Johnson and Stein combined. The pundits can speculate all they want in the days to come but Trump certainly can’t blame the loss of this state in protest votes. The same can be said for the swing state of North Carolina, which went to Trump by a 4% margin.
Who would be President if Clinton had taken some 1% swing states?
Right now there are 44 Electoral College votes still too close to call, leaving Clinton 218 votes to Trump’s 276. If we give her Minnesota and half of New Hampshire, and give Alaska, Arizona, and Michigan to Trump, the split is 230 – 308. The states where Clinton lost by 1% account for 75 votes, so if she had taken any three, Clinton would be President-Elect.
If you’re a Clinton fan, that has to sting, especially considering that she is currently leading in the popular vote by 138,000.
Dear Santa: Please bring me a popular vote in four years?
There are four other times in history that the popular winner lost the Electoral College. Andrew Jackson in 1824, Samuel Tilden in 1876, Benjamin Harrison in 1888, and Al Gore in 2000. Hillary Clinton looks to make number 5.
Obviously the winners love the win no matter how it happens, but these Popular/Electoral splits only serve to divide the electorate. Given how polarized this nation already is, this election really needed a mandate instead of a feeble limp across a blurry finish line.
Just to put it in starker perspective, over 10% of our Presidents have now lost the popular vote. It might be time for us, as a nation, to reconsider the merits of the Electoral College.