David M Rothschild on Posted on

PredictWise officially switched the headline chart for the first time in over a year from the Republican nomination to the winner of the general election for president. A few thoughts on this shift in the election: (1) The Republican nomination is now over; Donald Trump is going to win. I am relieved that I ¬†always had him with a non-zero probability of victory! (2) The Democratic nomination was never really in doubt for Hillary Clinton (hence it was never the headline chart on PredictWise). She dipped a little below 70% in September when Joe Biden was still in the hunt. After Biden left she never dipped below 80%. But, that is yesterday’s news, today we need to focus on the general election.

Trump is trailing models of where the generic Republican should be at the start of the election. I made this point yesterday in the Monkey Cage, as well as previously in PredictWise. He is going to start out at about 30% to win the election where the generic Republican versus the generic Democrat should be about 47% (or you could say Clinton is going to start out at about 70% to win the election where the generic Democrat versus the generic Republican should be about 53%). Of course, he is not the generic Republican and Clinton is not the generic Democrat.

The 70%/30% data comes from aggregating prediction market data. This time in 2008 and 2012 the Democratic nominee was about 60%, so 70% is a pretty strong opening number. But, it is certainly not insurmountable. The reason is pretty simple, there just are not that many swing states and Trump could, probably will not, but could win them.

I have just six states between 20% and 80% going into the election: North Carolina, Florida, Ohio, Nevada, Virginia, and Pennsylvania. Let us start from the Republican side. The next most likely states are Montana, Georgia, Missouri, Arizona, and Indiana. These are all possible in a landslide, they range from 4% to 7%, but can you really picture Clinton taking Georgia from Trump? Now let us venture over the to Democratic side: Iowa, Wisconsin, Colorado, and New Hampshire are all between 10% to 20% for Trump. These are very tough, but possible. Past that you have Minnesota, New Mexico, and Michigan at between 3% and 8% for Trump – all highly unlikely. This is all academic though, because we know that if Trump challenges in Iowa, Wisconsin, Colorado, and New Hampshire, he has already swept through the six swing states and that is where all the action is going to be.

For Trump to win he needs to hold everything he is expected to win, win North Carolina and Florida, and at least three of four of the other six swing states (or Ohio and Pennsylvania). If he takes North Carolina and Florida he has 235 electoral votes and Ohio has 18, Nevada 6, Virginia 13, and Pennsylvania 20; he needs to reach 269 or get 34 electoral votes. This is an uphill battle for sure. North Carolina is going to have a big gubernatorial election with the recent anti-anti discrimination laws (was the right use of a double negative?); I currently have the Republican governor at just below 50% for reelection. Florida is leaning Democratic for their open senate seat, vacated by Marco Rubio. Ohio has popular Republican John Kasich as governor, where will he be in all of this? But, Nevada, Virginia, and Pennsylvania are decidedly more liberal. With senate races in Nevada and Pennsylvania both pushing hard towards the Democrats for an open and Republican seat respectively, and the Democratic governor of Virginia greatly expanding voting rights in his state.

Democratic supporters are right to rejoice that this match-up is much more advantageous to them the generic match-up would expect. But, be careful what you wish for; you could lose. There is a 30% likelihood of President Trump.