The WILDCATTERS' Handicapping Sheet for Tuesday

‘Long ago, in Kentucky, I, a boy, stood...’ —Robert Penn Warren, ‘Tell Me A Story’

It is 6:30 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. In 24 hours, the first polls close on the 2016 American national elections. So, over here at Wildcatter’s Stables, we’ve decided to go in search of what John Adams called that “good old humor,” and get back to the basics of data, expert guesses, and outcomes for tomorrow night. To whomever wins the presidency, we say congratulations. For folks who like to handicap, well, being from horse country, we’ve decided that everyone could use a tip sheet to get through tomorrow.

It has been a trying and demanding year for many people. The parties and the candidates have been each at the others’ throats. Indeed, the anger and angst must have gone aerosol, especially once the prognosticators start getting into it -- Nate Silver will definitely need a vacation come Wednesday.

So, below, we’ve pulled together all the low-hanging fruit indicators of the critical states in tomorrow’s presidential sweepstakes race. We then mixed those data and guesses with our own peculiar judgment to fuel the Little Smart Pill Machine as it picks tomorrow’s winners and losers.

Remember, this is an exhibition, not a competition. Please, no wagering.

Never mind. Bet. Bet like your life depended on it.

In order to set this forecast, we’re starting with the following assumptions. First, as indicated by the map below, we start Trump at 197 electoral votes and Clinton at 224 electoral votes. These are votes considered in the bag, not in play. Please note, we’ve taken Georgia (16) and Arizona (11) off the table for Clinton, even though we think there is reason to think Democrats might still come to play in those states. We also assume that Maine and Nebraska will not split their votes, or, at worst, they will offset if they do split. So, we are treating them as whole.

This leaves seven states: Ohio (18), Michigan (16), Pennsylvania (20), Florida (29), New Hampshire (4), Nevada (6), North Carolina (15), and Colorado (9).

We concentrate our analysis on information about these states, including recent presidential voting history, and also the size of the Anglo white electorate.

Then, we pony up the polling trend data and forecast model pick from multiple sources (Pollster, 538, RCP, 270toWin), including the trend-line for one candidate or the other dominating the win. In this manner, we account for potential volatility in the electorates. We toss in expert assessments (Larry Sabato, Charlie Cook), and also the futures market prediction from PredictWise.

And, just to give you bit of extra information, we include tomorrow’s weather conditions, and the recount trigger for each state.

Tell me a story. In this century, and moment, of mania, Tell me a story. Make it a story of great distances, and starlight. The name of the story will be Time, But you must not pronounce its name. Tell me a story of deep delight.—Robert Penn Warren, ‘Tell Me A Story’

Let’s begin the story with Ohio, the state that Donald Trump must win. No Republican has taken the presidency without Ohio, and Trump look sure to win the Buckeye State. The Democratic turnout operation might not be as much on its game as in 2012, when Obama surprised pundits and left Karl Rove and his math completely flummoxed by a Romney defeat. As you can see below, every forecast runs to Trump’s advantage except the 270toWin forecast. Add +18 electors to Trump.

  • Ohio Last Voted Republican for President: 1988 (2-R, 4-D since 1992) Vote in 2012/2008: Obama +3.0, Obama +4.6 Anglo White Electorate: 83.3% Pollster Trend Estimate: +0.9 Trump (22 days ahead) 538 Forecast: Trump 67.2% (10 days ahead) RealClear Average: +3.5 Trump 270toWin Forecast: Tossup Sabato Crystal Ball: Leans Trump Cook Report: Leans Trump PredictWise: Leans Trump Weather: Fair Track Conditions: 0.25% margin to recount WILDCATTER’S PICK: TRUMP

With the addition of Ohio, Trump goes to 215 votes. Now, of the remaining 99 electoral votes, Trump needs 55, Clinton needs 46 (47 if the faithless Washington elector follows through and votes for someone else). The next best bets for Trump look to be Florida and North Carolina. These are southern states, but states being recast by demographic, economic, and social change. Obama proved competitive in both. In North Carolina minority voter participation might be off—based on early voting data—but the potential nonwhite electorate is large. If it turns out on election day, it could prove decisive. Florida’s early voting might well indicate that the die is cast for Clinton, especially given higher than expected Hispanic turnout.

If we give both to Trump (add +44 electoral votes), the Republican nominee is sitting at 259 votes, and Hillary can only afford to lose either Colorado, or Nevada and New Hampshire. Any other combination and she becomes the Henry Clay of the 21st century, and Donald Trump becomes the first private citizen elected president. If Hillary Clinton takes both states (add +44 electoral votes), then any one remaining state assures her victory – even without Pennsylvania or Michigan.

If they split, with Clinton taking Florida (add +29 electoral votes), then Clinton still must take either Michigan or Pennsylvania, or the Nevada/New Hampshire/Colorado trifecta. Reverse the split, with Clinton taking the Tar Heel state (add +15 electoral votes), and Clinton must take any combination of the four remaining states – and so too must Trump!

Our bet is that the voter suppression effect in North Carolina is real, and that the surge in Latino votes in Florida is even more real. So we’re going with a split and giving Clinton +29 from Florida and Trump +15 from North Carolina.

  • North Carolina Last Voted Republican for President: 2008 (5-R, 1-D since 1992) Vote in 2012/2008: Romney +2.0, Obama +0.4 Anglo White Electorate: 70.1% Pollster Trend Estimate: +1.9 Clinton (18 months ahead) 538 Forecast: Trump 50.5% (6 days ahead) RealClear Average: +1.7 Trump 270toWin Forecast: Tossup Sabato Crystal Ball: Leans Clinton Cook Report: Tossup PredictWise: Leans Clinton Weather: Fair Track Conditions: 0.5% margin to recount WILDCATTER’S PICK: TRUMP
  • Florida Last Voted Republican for President: 2000 (3-R, 3-D since 1992) Vote in 2012/2008: Obama +0.9, Obama +2.8 Anglo White Electorate: 63.3% Pollster Trend Estimate: +1.7 Clinton (11 months ahead) 538 Forecast: Trump 50.8% (6 days ahead) RealClear Average: Clinton +1.0 270toWin Forecast: Tossup Sabato Crystal Ball: Leans Clinton Cook Report: Tossup PredictWise: Leans Clinton Weather: Fair / possible afternoon showers in south Dade Track Conditions: 0.5% margin to recount (select) WILDCATTER’S PICK: CLINTON

So, let’s go to Michigan. The GOP hasn’t won any electors here in nearly two generations. But this is the heart of the industrial downturn. The white electorate is large. And as much as Clinton consistently polls ahead, she’s never consistently polled with the same commanding leads as in Pennsylvania or Wisconsin – but she’s also never trailed in the Pollster trend or in the 538 forecast. If she wins Michigan, she wins the election, given our other assumed conditions. Every indicator says so.

But let’s assume she loses, just for a moment. That’s +18 electoral votes to Trump, for 248 total. What’s left?

  • Michigan Last Voted Republican for President: 1988 (0-R, 6-D since 1992) Vote in 2012/2008: Obama +9.5, Obama +16.4 Anglo White Electorate: 79.4% Pollster Trend Estimate: +6.2 Clinton (>18 months ahead) 538 Forecast: Clinton 77.4% (never trailed) RealClear Average: +4.7 Clinton 270toWin Forecast: Likely Clinton Sabato Crystal Ball: Leans Clinton Cook Report: Leans Clinton PredictWise: Solid Clinton Weather: Fair/ possible rain Track Conditions: Vote-difference formula for recount WILDCATTER’S PICK: CLINTON, BUT WATCH OUT FOR THE MUD NEAR THE RAIL

What remains is a murderer’s row for a GOP candidate. Of Nevada, Colorado, Pennsylvania, and New Hampshire, only Nevada and New Hampshire hold out hope for success – unless something radically unforeseen happens in Pennsylvania. If Clinton takes Pennsylvania, as we think she will, she wins the presidency even without Michigan. That’s +20 to Clinton and 273 electoral votes.

  • Pennsylvania Last Voted Republican for President: 1988 (0-R, 6-D since 1992) Vote in 2012/2008: Obama +5.4, Obama +10.4 Anglo White Electorate: 81.9% Pollster Trend Estimate: +5.2 Clinton (>18 months ahead) 538 Forecast: Clinton 74.1% (never trailed) RealClear Average: +2.4 Clinton 270toWin Forecast: Leans Clinton Sabato Crystal Ball: Leans Clinton Cook Report: Leans Clinton PredictWise: Solid Clinton Weather: Fair Track Conditions: 0.5% margin to recount WILDCATTER’S PICK: CLINTON
  • Colorado Last Voted Republican for President: 2004(3-R, 3-D since 1992) Vote in 2012/2008: Obama +5.4, Obama +9.0 Anglo White Electorate: 76.7% Pollster Trend Estimate: +4.9 Clinton (11 months ahead) 538 Forecast: Clinton 72.0% (never trailed) RealClear Average: +2.9 Clinton 270toWin Forecast: Likely Clinton Sabato Crystal Ball: Likely Clinton Cook Report: Leans Clinton PredictWise: Solid Clinton Weather: Fair / possible inclement weather Track Conditions: 0.5% margin to recount WILDCATTER’S PICK: CLINTON IN A LAUGHER
  • New Hampshire Last Voted Republican for President: 2000 (1-R, 5-D since 1992) Vote in 2012/2008: Obama +5.6, Obama +9.6 Anglo White Electorate: 93.9% Pollster Trend Estimate: +3.2 Clinton (18 months ahead) 538 Forecast: Clinton 64.0% (98 days ahead) RealClear Average: +0.6 Clinton 270toWin Forecast: Tossup Sabato Crystal Ball: Leans Clinton Cook Report: Leans Clinton PredictWise: Leans Clinton Weather: Fair Track Conditions: Vote-difference formula for recount WILDCATTER’S PICK: TRUMP (THOUGH AT LEAST ONE OF US—YOU CAN GUESS WHICH ONE—THINKS CLINTON WILL PREVAIL)
  • Nevada Last Voted Republican for President: 2004 (2-R, 4-D since 1992) Vote in 2012/2008: Obama +6.7, Obama +12.4 Anglo White Electorate: 61.3% Pollster Trend Estimate: +2.1 Clinton (45 days ahead) 538 Forecast: Clinton 50.6% (70 days ahead) RealClear Average: +2.2 Trump 270toWin Forecast: Tossup Sabato Crystal Ball: Leans Clinton Cook Report: Leans Clinton PredictWise: Solid Clinton Weather: Fair Track Conditions: Any candidate can demand a recount; no threshold margin. WILDCATTER’S PICK: CLINTON, BECAUSE GROUND GAME MATTERS

In the end, out best guess, based on the data, is that Clinton takes 304 electoral college votes to 234, losing New Hampshire, North Carolina, and Ohio in the process. The loss of any one other megastate (Florida, or possibly Michigan) cannot be discounted but is not as likely. A 332 electoral vote Clinton win is well within the parameters described here as well.

Finally, assume that we’ve inserted an obligatory bet-hedging statement about how upsets happen – the Wildcatters always bet the quinella. If Donald Trump pulls off this populist, anti-elitist divisive campaign upset, we direct you to other words of our fellow Kentuckian, Robert Penn Warren, this time from All The King’s Men:

  • “After a great blow, or crisis, after the first shock and then after the nerves have stopped screaming and twitching, you settle down to the new condition of things and feel that all possibility of change has been used up. You adjust yourself, and are sure that the new equilibrium is for eternity. . . But if anything is certain it is that no story is ever over, for the story which we think is over is only a chapter in a story which will not be over, and it isn't the game that is over, it is just an inning, and that game has a lot more than nine innings. When the game stops it will be called on account of darkness. But it is a long day.”

Get us out of here Percy.

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