A lot of Hillaryites in the media are spreading the message that Hillary as the next President is inevitable.
Their analysis goes something like this:
On Nov. 8, 2016, Clinton will start — start — with a minimum 247 of the 270 electoral votes she needs to win. If you give her Colorado and Virginia — which many political strategists would, given the Hispanic population in one and the rising influence of the northern-centered population in the other — she’ll start with 269. That means Clinton doesn’t need Ohio or Florida. She just needs one small state like Iowa, Nevada or New Hampshire to put her over the edge. And because she’s got a boatload of money and no viable primary challenger, she’ll have plenty of time and resources to lock up at least one of those states.
It sounds convincing until its assumptions are put under a microscope. And Nate Silver of Five Thirty Eight has.
Nowadays, of course, it’s become common to hear talk about the “blue wall” — the set of 18 states that, along with the District of Columbia, have voted for the Democrat in each of the most recent six presidential elections, from 1992 through 2012. Together, they represent 242 electoral votes. Many pundits, ignoring the lessons of history, claim the “blue wall” or some close variation of it puts the Democratic nominee (likely Hillary Clinton) at a substantial advantage for 2016.
The error that these commentators are making is in attributing the Democrats’ recent run of success to the Electoral College. In fact, the Electoral College has been a minor factor, if it’s helped Democrats at all, and one probably best ignored until the late stages of a close presidential race.
So when commentators talk about the Democrats’ “blue wall,” all they’re really pointing out is that Democrats have had a pretty good run in presidential elections lately. And they have, if you conveniently draw the line at 1992 (it doesn’t sound so impressive to instead say Democrats have won five of the 12 elections since 1968). During that time, Democrats have won four elections pretty clearly, lost one narrowly and essentially tied the sixth. This has been evident from the popular vote, however. The one time the Electoral College really mattered — that was 2000, of course — it hurt the Democrats.
A quick statistical rundown of the past few elections and how the popular vote would have affected the Electoral College shows
A 3.9-point Romney victory represents a 7.8-point swing from the actual result. So if the swing were distributed uniformly, Obama would have lost every state that he won by 7.8 percentage points or less. That means he’d have lost three “blue wall” states — Minnesota, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — along with Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, Ohio and Virginia.
So, for those pundits who are predicting Queen Hillary’s coronation in 2016:
But for now? The Electoral College just isn’t worth worrying about much. If you see analysts talking about the “blue wall,” all they’re really saying is that Democrats have won a bunch of presidential elections lately — an obvious fact that probably doesn’t have much predictive power for what will happen this time around.
I’m not saying Clinton is doomed. Rather, I think the “fundamentals” point toward her chances being about 50-50, and I wouldn’t argue vigorously if you claimed the chances were more like 60-40 in one or the other direction. But Clinton is no sort of lock, and if she loses the popular vote by even a few percentage points, the “blue wall” will seem as archaic as talk of a permanent Republican majority.