Don’t freak out, but Nate Silver at FiveThirtyEight is saying that the odds of an Electoral College/popular vote split are increasing.
We’ve written about this before, but I wanted to call your attention to it again because the possibility of an Electoral College-popular vote split keeps widening in our forecast. While there’s an outside chance that such a split could benefit Clinton if she wins the exact set of states that form her “firewall,” it’s far more likely to benefit Donald Trump, according to our forecast. Thus, as of early Monday evening, our polls-only model gave Hillary Clinton an 85 percent chance of winning the popular vote but just a 75 percent chance of winning the Electoral College. There’s roughly a 10 percent chance of Trump’s winning the White House while losing the popular vote, in other words.
As an illustration of this, we can compare Clinton’s current margins in our polls-only forecast against President Obama’s performance in 2012. Clinton — despite Trump’s recent improvement in the polls — leads by 4.7 percentage points in the national popular vote, a wider margin than Obama’s 3.9-point victory over Mitt Romney in 2012.
There’s one big qualification: Our model doesn’t account for any sort of ground game advantage for Clinton in the swing states, other than to the extent that advantage is reflected in the polls. That could make a split a bit less likely than our model infers. Still, Trump’s coalition of white voters without college degrees are overrepresented in swing states, especially in the Midwest, while Clinton’s voters are not.
I am sure there’s some kind of formula in the FiveThirtyEight models that accounts for those who have already voted, but I wonder if that makes a difference. Here in Florida early voting has been going on for a week and will run through Sunday. I’ve been getting poll calls and not answering now that I’ve voted (that’s assuming I answered them before I voted).
I am still convinced that Hillary Clinton will win the election, but if she wins by the Electoral College count and loses the popular vote, that’s going to set off the Trump camp onto the “rigged” train. This in spite of the fact that the Republicans were perfectly happy to have their last president get into office via the same route and told the Democrats to “get over it.”