Author’s note: This piece originally appeared on National Review, July 12, 2016. Some of the polling data has changed slightly but the general theme still holds.
It was during the 1992 presidential election that the famous phrase “It’s the economy, stupid” hit the airwaves. That simple message, displayed on the desk of James Carville, Bill Clinton’s campaign manager, helped Carville maintain the message discipline that subsequently delivered Bill Clinton to the White House.
Twenty-four years later, “It’s the Electoral College, stupid” is the operational message guiding Hillary Clinton’s historic quest to become Madame President. Although this math-based message is too politically crass for desktop display, the reality is that math trumps message, and math trumps Trump. Let’s do some electoral math for a dose of this reality.
According to the Real Clear Politics (RCP) electoral map, Mrs. Clinton is only 60 electoral votes shy of the magic 270 needed to win the White House. Currently, RCP awards her a whopping 210 votes compared with Trump’s 164.
Clinton’s 210 votes are derived from eight solid Clinton “dark blue” states totaling 119 votes. In addition, she’s predicted to win 35 votes from three royal blue “likely Clinton” states, and 56 votes derived from seven light-blue “leans Clinton” states.
Given that Clinton needs to win only 60 out of the 164 remaining electoral votes within 13 toss-up states, her internal campaign slogan must surely be “It’s the statistics, stupid,” reflecting the overwhelming statistical odds in her favor.
Worse for Republicans, Clinton could lose a major battleground state such as Florida, with its 29 electoral votes, and still reach 270. For example, she could cobble together 62 votes from the following five states where RCP poll averages show her in the lead; Michigan (16), Ohio (18), North Carolina (15), Colorado (9), and New Hampshire (4).
Alternatively, all she needs is 62 votes from Florida (29), Pennsylvania (20), and Virginia (13), and she has made history. This three-state victory is entirely possible considering that Clinton is also leading in the RCP poll averages in Virginia by 4 percentage points, in Florida by 3.7 points, and in Pennsylvania by 2.3 points.
Proof that Republicans are following Trump off a cliff are two traditional red states that appear on RCP’s list of 13 toss-ups. Georgia, with 16 electoral votes, has consistently gone red for the last five presidential elections; and Arizona, with 11 electoral votes, has faithfully landed in the red column nine out of the last ten presidential elections, with 1996 the only exception.
To prove how precisely Team Clinton is playing the Electoral College math game, one need only look at the eight states where her campaign spent $26 million on the airwaves in June. Those states were Colorado, Florida, Iowa, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Nevada, Ohio, and Virginia.
All eight are included on RCP’s list of 13 toss-up states, and their electoral-vote total is a nice round 100. By the way, during June, the Trump campaign spent absolutely nothing — as in zero – so Team Clinton had the airwaves in battleground states all to themselves.
Most significant about Clinton’s June ad buy were two RCP toss-up states, Pennsylvania and Michigan, that Clinton bypassed. Those two electorally heavy Rust Belt states populated with disgruntled white male voters are part of Trump’s winning formula. But they are of no great concern to Clinton, and here is why. Historically, Michigan, with its 16 votes, and Pennsylvania, with 20, have been won by every Democratic presidential candidate since 1992. Internally, Team Clinton knows that they don’t have to waste precious June resources on old-faithful voters. However, if Clinton is spending heavily in either state in September, take that as a sign that Trump is making inroads.
Since Clinton needs to win only 60 out of a possible 164 toss-up votes, the following data explains why she is likely to win double that number and possibly even more: According to the respected Pew Research Center’s survey of registered voters, Clinton is winning women by a margin of 59 to 35 percent. By comparison, in 2012, Obama won women by 55 to 44 percent over Romney. In 2008, Obama won women by a margin of 56 to 43 percent over John McCain.
Now, here is some good news for Trump. He is winning men by six points, 49 to 43 percent. But Romney won men by seven points, 52 to 45 percent.
More good news for the brash businessman, the overall white vote is in Trump’s favor 51 to 42 percent, a comfortable nine-point margin. But Romney won whites by 20 points, 59 to 39 percent over Obama.
It is no surprise that Trump is losing Hispanic voters to Clinton by a margin of 66 to 24 percent. But what is surprising is that Romney actually did worse, losing Hispanic voters to Obama by 71 to 27 percent.
African-American voters are totally in lockstep for Clinton, 91 to 7 percent. Shockingly, Obama did only slightly better, winning this voter block 93 percent to Romney’s 6.
Younger voters ages 18 to 29 are choosing Clinton over Trump by 60 to 30 percent.
Voters ages 30 to 49 are also in the Clinton camp, 52 to 39 percent.
Older voters ages 50 to 64 are with Clinton, too, but by a smaller margin of 49 to 46 percent.
The 65+ crowd is the only group that Trump is winning, and by three points, 49 to 46 percent.
In part, all this demographic data help explain why the Electoral College is so slanted toward Clinton.
Sure, “It’s the economy stupid” will always have some relevance, but with national demographic shifts toward active younger voters, female power, and a more racially diverse population, “It’s the Electoral College, stupid” is the Clinton campaign’s favorite slogan and the mantra of every Democratic presidential candidate for decades to come.
Could George W. Bush be the last Republican president? Some of us have been asking that question in recent years. It’s a question that scares me now more than ever.