Tuesday, November 8, 2016

The Big Day, the 2016 Presidential Election

Today is the day. Millions of Americans will cast their ballots to select their next president. After two years of polling, debate and drama it has all come down to this. I am not sure anyone in 2014 could have foreseen how this race would shake out, but here we are. Pundits and journalists have gone on and on about how unpredictable this election cycle has been but as we enter voting day I am sure I am hardly alone in anxiously awaiting the results.

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump will be competing to win the electoral college. As a brief explanation, each state is allotted a certain number of votes based upon its population/size of its congressional delegation. The smallest states, Wyoming, and Alaska, for example, have 3 electoral votes and California is the largest with 55. A presidential candidate wins the state by receiving the most votes across the state. A candidate does not need to win the most votes nation-wide to become president.

In the final moments the election has tightened. This is normal. How much it has tightened is a matter of conjecture. It is widely assumed that Donald Trump is behind, which most polling supports. However, as was shown in the last Canadian federal election polls can be inaccurate and how polls play out on a local level can be unclear. This is because getting out the vote (GOTV) is a critical component. It has been said that the Trump campaign has very little ground game. He won the nomination through a mass appeal to voters who were often disengaged from the process. The grassroots support then is suspect. He is unlikely to have rooms full of old church ladies who made calls for George H. W. Bush doing the same for him. An exceptional ground game is what won the presidency for Obama in 2008 and 2012.

The Clinton campaign has a stronger campaign but a dangerous problem. Her voters are not enthusiastic about her candidacy. They fear a Trump victory and that is driving many of them, but for some it is hard to be excited about Hillary Clinton.

That all said, Five Thirty-Eight, a blog that got its start tracking elections, gives Clinton 2/3 odds of winning the election. There is no doubt that her path to victory is clearer, but it is hardly inevitable. One thing I worry about is that Trump voters may be reluctant to express their support to pollsters given the negative associations he has. The 'silent majority' phenomena may be at play, or the Bradley Effect. The American public may be less willing to accept a woman president than they let on.

For those watching at home, there are fourteen swing states to watch for. In order of their polls closing: Florida, Georgia, Virginia, North Carolina, Ohio, Maine, Michigan, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Iowa, Nevada. Some of these are closer than others, but given the unpredictability it is wiser to keep the list wide. For information on all the polls there is RealClearPolitics.

One of my biggest concerns going into this election is the obsession with the presidential race. A third of the Senate, all of the House of Representatives and number of governorships are up for grabs. I haven't heard anything on these races. I have no doubt that a number of odious candidates are sneaking by with help of the distraction Clinton and Trump have provided. In the fallout of the election, assuming no crisis ensues, attention will likely turn to the new Senators, Congressmen and Governors who America has to deal with.

This presidential election does not reflect the Americans I know and I am sure the overwhelming majority will be glad to have it behind them. I hope a high turnout and lack of issues ensures that the election ends with a clear winner. Best of luck, America, make good choices.

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