The 2016 'dumpster fire' election is coming to an end, but before it does the (swing) states must decide who will occupy the White House for the next four years. For Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton the path to victory is viable, although it was a much wider path last week. The electoral map already favors Democrats, with massive war chest states like New York and California rich in delegates. Add in a Republican nominee who has been highly controversial, and the map looks even less favorable. But Donald Trump has pulled off more with less, so can he squeak out a win come Tuesday?
From Surefire to an Ensuing Fire
Following the release of a 2005 tape that revealed Trump saying damning things about women, and his underperformace at the debates, his poll numbers began to tumble. He lost ground in swing states he once tepidly held. Until last week it wasn't a question of if he would lose, but by how much he would lose. Luckily for Trump, his opponent isn't much better.
The Clinton camp was rocked off its steady track to victory Friday afternoon when James Comey, director of the FBI, announced renewed interest in the Democratic nominee's emails. A separate investigation into former New York Congressman Anthony Weiner revealed classified information may have been improperly handled by the former Secretary of State and her allies. The news sent shock-waves down a seemingly unshakable electoral map. Now, as the vote comes ever nearer, Clinton clings to an aggregate lead of less than two points.
The 'battleground states' have once again become battleground states with Trump and Clinton duking it out in a last ditch effort to sway voters.
Trump Swings Them All
According to the polls, if the the election were held right now, Trump would win every swing state, including Ohio and Florida, and still lose the election. However Clinton's hold in left-leaning states like Virginia and Pennsylvania are hard for Trump to break.
New England See's Red
If Trump can secure Maine or New Hampshire, two states where he trails Clinton in the polls, on top of the true swing states, he wins by 270 votes exactly, edging Clinton out by just two votes.
During primary season, Maine Democrats overwhelmingly supported Bernie Sanders in the caucus, where he secured nearly 65% of the vote to Clinton's 35%. This may appear to be a positive for Trump, as both he and Sanders are 'outsider' candidates who represent a disenfranchised populous. But Trump lost the Republican caucus to Ted Cruz, and in four way polling in the state Trump has a twelve-point deficit to Clinton.
If Trump is to turn any New England state, his best chance is New Hampshire, where he and Senator Sanders won their respective primaries, with Trump winning more than twice the votes of runner up John Kasich, and Sanders crushing Hillary with 60% of the vote from the states Democrats. Head-to-head polls with Clinton put Trump within the margin of error. A recent poll by the New Hampshire Journal even has Trump up one in the state among likely voters.
Rocky Mountain Red
If Trump can't get New Hampshire, his best bet outside of New England is Colorado. The state's Democrats nominated Bernie Sanders in what was another landslide win against Clinton, while Republicans chose not to hold a statewide vote. Instead each Congressional district held individual conventions to nominate a candidate. Cruz walked away with every single delegate from Colorado, with fierce opposition to Trump arising during the process.
Some may say that Trump must win Colorado to win, as no Republican victor in the past century has won without the state. Given the unprecedented nature of this election, and it's candidates, this argument may be rendered invalid.
Head to head polls show Colorado voters going back and forth between, and although she has a slight lead over him, he's within striking distance.
Rust Belt Upset
Another, albeit less likely, alternative for team Trump is to pull off an upset in a blue-leaning rust belt state. Ohio and Indiana are likely to vote red, which leaves only three others.The most ideal would be Pennsylvania, which holds twenty electoral votes, more than any other rust belt state, but also represents the greatest challenge for Trump. Clinton won her party's primary in April by a vote of 55 to 43 against Sanders. Trump swept the remaining Republicans, capturing 56% and all of the states delegates. In head-to-head polls though, Trump has trailed Clinton an average six and a half points since mid-September.
Senator Sanders easily took Minnesota and Wisconsin in the primaries, staunchly beating Clinton with white working class and youth voters. Trump on the other hand had less luck. Marco Rubio won Minnesota, the only state he took in the entire contest. Wisconsinites voted for Cruz in their primary, defeating Trump by thirteen points. In Trump v Clinton polls, he doesn't appear to a have a realistic edge.
This makes the most promising of the Great Lake states Michigan, where Trump beat Cruz by a little over ten points. Current state polling would show the contrary however, with Clinton up over six points. What makes Michigan a semi-toss up are the results of the Democratic primary. Prior to the March 8th primary, not a single poll showed Sanders winning, and it appeared Clinton would clean house. But the Vermont Senator just beat out Clinton by a point, and won Michigan. Clinton's defeat was seen as a major upset, and questioned the credibility or reliability of polls showing her winning. If Trump achieve's the same Sanders-style upset, he can clinch the presidency.
Third Party Spoiler?
The odds of any third party candidate winning any state are slim to none. The system simply isn't designed for them. But for the sake of this article, let's entertain the idea.
The two states most vulnerable to a third party spoiler are New Mexico, where Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson served as a Republican governor between 1995 and 2003, and Utah, where former CIA operative Evan McMullin has appeared as a Mormon hero for the states Republicans. Both candidates are a close 3rd in their respective states. If, and that's a big if, they were to win these states, they would deny anyone 270 electorals, assuming Trump takes all the swing states. They would strip Clinton of New Mexico's five crucial votes to put her over the finish line, while denying Trump Utah's six votes to bring him just short of victory.
Underdog's Unlikely Comeback
Trump has been the underdog against the Democratic nominee since almost the beginning, trailing in the polls consistently. Given the extraordinary circumstances of this election however, anything could happen, and while it's easy to speculate, it's hard to predict the future.
Only time will tell who will become the next President of the United States.