The 2016 General Election Decision Game Day Thread!

The election of 1836 was a fairly bonkers affair. You can read some things I wrote about it here. It’s a fascinating, little known chapter in our country’s history. For those uninterested, in 1836 Andrew Jackson, at the end of two terms, fully endorsed Martin Van Buren, his vice president. He did so in a couple of letters to newspapers. This may not sound like much, but presidents didn’t campaign back then. People read newspapers. It was a big deal, and Jackson’s endorsement help sweep Van Buren to victory.

I bring up 1836 for one reason. That election represented the last time a sitting, popular, healthy two-term president campaigned openly for the successor from his same party…until 2016. Think about it, all the two termers since–Grant, Wilson, Eisenhower, Reagan, Clinton, GW Bush…all had something that kept them to some extent at arms length from the the campaign trail for the person running to succeed them from the same party.

Late in 2014 I began to notice something interesting: we hadn’t had the second term scandal yet from the Obama White House. By the summer of 2015, it still hadn’t arrived. This was weird, because I don’t think I’ve lived during a presidency that didn’t have some reasonably serious, distracting scandal in its second term. I started to realize that we had a chance to see something rarer than Halley’s Comet: a two term, popular president in vigorous health campaigning openly and robustly for his successor.

I think that’s the original reason I was drawn to Hillary Clinton. I figured in 2015 that it’d either be her or Joe Biden getting the nomination in 2016, and in a tough election year for Democrats, I figured the only chance they’d have to hold the White House would be the campaign trail skills of Barack Obama.

Yessirree, you should totally listen to me, because I was pretty sure in 2015 that we’d be on the eve of electing Rand Paul over Joe Biden. That’s how much I know about this stuff.

Oh, and yeah, this stuff is going to be long, but come on. It’s not like you’re gonna sleep much or get much done at work today. You want something to read. I’m giving it to you!

Next: 2015, and how we got here.

So how’d we get here?

Flash back. It’s 2015, and I’m thinking that it’s going to be fairly likely that Republicans take back the White House. Rand Paul looked formidable. Jeb Bush looked like a man with a backing and organization. Marco Rubio loomed as a young candidate who could put momentum together. And Scott Walker seemed like a guy who might enjoy early success that could swing into something bigger.

I didn’t discount the other candidates, other than the jokey one, Donald Trump. He ran in 2012 for a hot minute, getting out once his numbers started to decline. I expected that to happen in December of 2015. I expected him to fold after running strong in February. And then in March it dawned on me: holy shit, this guy’s going to win. And I’ll admit it, I got giddy for a bit…and then realized that a significant number of his followers weren’t economically anxious at all, but something much more odious.

On the Clinton side, I figured it’d come down to her and Biden in a slugfest, but then here comes Bernie Sanders. I’ll always wonder what would have happened if Sanders had set his campaign infrastructure up from the beginning along the lines of Obama '08, but in the end I’ll always believe it was the disruption of going from a protest candidacy to legitimate candidacy to movement candidacy within a few months sealed Sanders’fate.

Now, there are a lot of key moments to this campaign. We’ve noted a lot of them, from the conventions to letters from Jim Comey to awful videotape. One thing that I fear may be lost to history is something I want to bring up before swinging to a state-by-state thing, and then a “What to watch for” bit.

Donald Trump was pretty clearly going to be the Republican nominee after the primaries on April 19 and 26. Clinton and Sanders, meanwhile, remained locked in a fight until the first week of June. In other words, for about 6 weeks, Trump had the space all to himself. He could attack Clinton with impugnity and try to throw chaos into the Democratic race. He could start fundraising as the presumptive nominee, and begin building a ground game and campaign infrastructure. Instead, he posted pictures of himself with a taco bowl. He went off message, gloating his win and generally doing nothing productive. His campaign raised no money in May. They built no campaign. It was an absurd way to run a campaign, and the fact that he fell so far behind in building a ground game infrastructure may have repercussions today.

OK, part 3! You’re still here. Maybe.

So let’s go state by state, and I’ll at least offer up where I think we stand today.

Keep in mind: these are the musings of a guy who thought this could be Rand Paul versus Joe Biden. Just sayin’.

Also, I’m not going to go alphabetically. I think in terms of election maps. I’m starting in the northeast, and we’ll sweep down the coast, turn inland, and hit the west coast.


Maine: Looks comfortable for Clinton to pick up 3 EV in this state that splits its electoral votes. The vote from Maine’s CD-2 is going to be close, but I’d say it slightly leans Clinton’s way.

New Hampshire looks fairly close, but maybe not as close as it looked on Friday. I think this will be a tight race, but Clinton takes it by 3-5 points, based completely on Clinton ground game.

Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey: All very safely Clinton states.

Pennsylvania: Both campaigns have spent a lot of time in Pennsylvania, which is partly that PA is within single digits, but also because of the lack of Early Voting. All of PA’s vote comes today. I think Pennsylvania remains the football that Republican Charlie Brown constantly has snatched away. Philly and its suburbs and exurbs will deliver the state to Clinton by 4-7 points. I think.

Delaware, Maryland, and DC: all comfortably Clinton.

West Virginia: Like a Pink Floyd song, they are Comfortably Trump (I promise not to do that anymore.)

Virginia: OK, there was some polling noise last week in Virginia, but that seems to have subsided. Virginia should go for Clinton by 4-8 points. But that’s not what I want to talk about. If you’ve read this far, I’m going to give you a nugget that might actually be me making a smart observation. (Reserve the right to shrug and say “Or not” later tonight.) Virginia doesn’t have early voting like other states…but it has a provision where if you can show that your job or some other valid reasons makes it a hardship to vote on election day, they’re really lenient about allowing you to early vote. (It’s much more relaxed than Michigan, Pennsylvania, or New Hampshire’s requirements.)

Dave Wasserman reported that 10,800 people in Fairfax County voted absentee on those relaxed provisions on November 5th, the last day of that. That’s nice. It was a record. It’s a Democratic stronghold. But now get this: 6,676 people voted absentee in Prince William County. Significance? In 2000, Prince William County was about 250,000 people, and 75% white. In 2016, it is 450,000, and 47% white, and is 22% Hispanic. If you want a sign of nationwide Hispanic vote surge, Prince William County Virginia is the best exemplar of that, maybe as much as anything in Florida or Nevada. Mark that down if that surge happens today, and remember where you read it first.

OK, let’s move down the coast.

North Carolina: You tell me. This is, to use a Dan Ratherism, tighter than a tick. I have literally no idea how this shakes out. The difference in NC could be 25,000 votes or fewer. If Clinton wins, it’ll be her GOTV that does it. If Trump wins, it’ll be his groundgame (which is very present in this state).

South Carolina: Solidly Trump

Georgia: If Pennsylvania is the Republican football being held by Lucy, Georgia is the same for Democrats. It just seems like we’re still a cycle away. Just like we said in 2012. And 2008. This should go for Trump, maybe by 2-3 points.

Florida: Like North Carolina, this is also incredibly close, and also a state where both campaigns have ground game. I think Clinton ends up winning it, but I would hardly be surprised if Trump won too. Very close, maybe a 1 point win either way.

Let’s go inland:

Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, Kentucky, Tennessee, Indiana: All solidly Trump.

Ohio: Yeugh. Saturday, I’d have said this was all Trump. But Early voting in Franklin and Cuyahoga caught up to 2012 levels on Sunday. This is also a state where I think Clinton has a far superior ground game to Trump. I think that it inches it closer. In the end, I think Trump takes it here…but if you want my upset special for Team Hillary, this would be it.

Michigan: This is the state where the primary wounds dealt to Clinton have stuck. It’ll be very close here, but she’s probably got a better ground game, and that may be enough to win it. Michigan is going to be painful to watch, though. All their voting is today, and the areas where Clinton will do best will report results late. We may not have a call in Michigan until 11 pm. I think that call will end up being Clinton by 3-5.

Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois: all should be solidly Clinton.

Iowa: A great quote I saw about Iowa is that it is Minnesota without the Twin Cities and Duluth, or Wisconsin without Madison/Milwaukee. It should go Trump, but not by the 7 points in the Selzer poll. Probably more like 2-4.

Missouri: Comfortably Trump. No longer a bellwether or swing state.

Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Idaho: All easily Trump, by 20. I think Trump also barely carries the allocated elector from Nebraska’s CD 2 (Omaha).

Texas: Here’s a fun one. Trump will win it, but if the margins are fewer than 8 points, that ought to give Reince sleepless nights for months.

New Mexico: Will be Clinton, probably by 5-7.

Colorado: Man. So many people are confident in CO being Clinton, but its the one state besides Michigan that worries me. I think she’s got it, but it may be a 4-6 point win that takes a while on the call.

Arizona: I think this will end up Trump, but if you wanted to make a case that it could be well past 1 am on the east coast before this is called, I wouldn’t doubt you. If we’re seeing a Hispanic poll surge elsewhere in the country, this could be within a point either way.

Nevada: I’ll defer to Jon Ralston and say that Clinton probably has this, by 4-6 points.

California, Oregon, Washington, Hawaii: All comfortably Clinton, but she loses one elector in Washington State, unless they reconvene a convention and show that yahoo to the door. Either way, it shouldn’t matter.

Alaska: Should go Trump, but will be the first election in a while where the Democrat was within single digits.

OK, last bit. What to watch for.

As a preamble, we never really have a way to see what ground game does. We think it’s important, right? I mean, it sure seems like it should be. But I’m becoming a dork who has to deal with measurables, and it’s tough to figure out a way to compute measurables for whether ground game helps, and to what extent. For instance, we think that ground game earned Barack 1-2% above his polling numbers in 2012. Romney’s “Project Orca” didn’t fire well on election day in 2012, but he still had a robust ground game. In 2016, we’ll get a much better picture, because except for a few states like North Carolina or Florida, Clinton’s infrastructure and organization is way ahead of Trump.


During the day, Votecastr is likely to give you heartburn and sadness. I’d say that your best bet is to look for reports from actual county election officials on turnout. If things are going well for Clinton, you’ll see big turnout. If turnout seems really bleah, that’s going to be good for Trump. Even so, be careful here. Turnout varies throughout days. Lots of what we’ll see is gonna be anecdote. Use your judgment. Be credulous, but hopeful.

Once the returns come in, there’s a couple of things to know: Early vote in states that do it will post right away. They start counting that during the day today. Based on that, Look at Florida and North Carolina and Ohio, where there was tremendous amounts of early voting.

Especially in Florida and North Carolina, what’s really important is to see how that Early Voting margin kicks. Both states had huge percentages of NPA (“No Party Affiliation”) voters. In Florida, lots of those are Latinx voters. But hey, maybe they’re the “Shy” Trump voter too? That’s something to watch closely.

Also watch New Hampshire and Pennsylvania very closely. These are two states where the polls will close early on, and all the vote is in election day voting. If there’s a clear sign of ground game effect, you’ll start to see it here. Clinton has tons more organization on the ground in these two states than Trump.

Watch two counties in Michigan. Macomb is a blue-collar white county. They’re going to vote for Trump, but the extent will be interesting. If Clinton can keep the margins within 12-15 points here, then we turn to the other county: Oakland. It’s also white and affluent, but resembles a county like Fairfax in Virginia. Educated, tends Democrat, in other words. If she’s up there by 5-8, that’s abou her target there.

Obviously, watch Franklin County (Columbus), Hamilton County (Cincinnati), and Cuyahoga County (Cleveland). Hamilton tends to be the most purplish of those, but if she’s up 12 or more in Franklin, 20 or more in Cuyahoga, and 5-8 in Hamilton, that state may be close.

OK, finally this map is really important, and keep it in mind: poll closings!


Me for the next 18-24 hours

If the networks are following the same rules as during primary season, they’ll start reporting results when polls close.

In states like Florida that straddle a time zone, they’ll report results but not call the races until all polls close in each respective state.

When the network says “Too early to call” that means that they think they have a good idea of a projection, but are waiting for actual votes to corroborate it.

When the networks say “Too close to call”, that means what it sounds like. That state is close and bears watching through the night.

A good way to start the thread, thanks triggercut.

Here’s my sentimental ramble about elections:

I love elections. There is something about the democratic process that combines the political idealist and numbers nerd in me and has me thinking about little else a week out. I naturally watch all of the Australian federal elections (and state ones too as they are on different days/years), and have alot of good memories being with my family and watching the results on election night.

My family, parents especially, are significantly more conservative than me yet there is something about election day that brings people together. The gracious winner, the gracious loser, and for at least one night you don’t think about the policy implications of your candidate losing the election since you see the smiles on the faces of your loved ones and have grand thoughts about the ‘will of the people’ having spoken.

Australia has a tradition as well called ‘democracy sausages’ where after voting it’s considered patriotic to buy a sausage from a local group doing fundraising (e.g. girl guides, a small local charity). I have always lived in affluent white areas, thereby the seats always go to the conservative party, but democracy sausages are a way to feel a connection with my fellow conservative countrymen and countrywomen as I vote.

I started watching US elections since 2004. It wasn’t until the Iraq War (along with reading an unhealthy amount of Chomsky the same year at the end of high school) that I became very interested in US politics, and just like everything else in the world elections feel ‘bigger’ in the US. There are more jurisdictions with which to count numbers, more things on the ballot list, more scandals, more tension, and finally more consequences. Not many here would do the same but I have always positioned study/work so that I can sit down on US election day and watch the numbers stream in, which is about midday - 5pm my time. In 2012 the election actually fell on my honeymoon, and although I wasn’t married to the idea my wife and I watched the election coverage in an overwater bungalow in Bora Bora, Tahiti (lame, I know, my wife still mentions it to people). Seeing Obama win in 2008, after eight long years of GWB, was a great memory as well.

Now, putting aside ideology and my beliefs about the best way to organise an economy, my political philosophy can be summed in the one word of peace. Motivated by my religious beliefs, more than anything else I just want to see people get along and ideally help each other. There is so much poverty, war, and pain in the world right now it’s hard to stay optimistic. This is why I was never enthusiastic about Clinton. Rational, experienced, and knowledgeable no doubt, but she has shown that she has no qualms with military actions that sicken me. Considering that and the crushing disappointment I felt after Bernie came so close yet so far, that it was going to take an opponent like Trump for me to summon the willpower to fully get behind her (not that my support does one dot for a politician in America, mind you, but it’s important to me).

Yet there Trump is, embodying everything I hate about the human race. Greed, ignorance, and selfishness all wrapped up in one aging white man. Seeing him lose tomorrow will be sugar sweet, I just wish the margin was large enough to be a cautionary tale to any other aspiring Trump-likes from picking up the mantle for the next election.

I have enjoyed reading and talking about the election process with you people at Qt3, and I look forward to raising a beer with you all when Clinton wins tomorrow and the Democrats take control of the Senate (knock on wood).

So what’s the importance of Dixville Notch? That it’s the first precinct to report results?

Yeah, there are these three little towns in NH that do midnight voting and report their results. Quaint.

From the other thread I thought maybe it was Timex’s drinking buddies.

Tim, you are a wonderful writer.

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BTW, Clinton’s best odds with Bovada for winning the election were -550, on October 25th. That was also her high water mark with a lot of polling aggregators.

She just returned to -550 on Bovada last night, before midnight.

That’s probably a good sign. (-550 means you have to wager $550 to win $100.)

I’m really cheering for NC today. What a beautiful state I live in, with such hideous political leadership. It’s time to turn this ship around and break out of the political past.

The wife wanted to be one of the first in Virginia to vote for Hillary, so she dragged me out of bed early to be here when the polls open. Note the present tense.

My county has a few hundred polling places - every school plus fire houses and a bunch of other places. Our polling site is the local elementary school. We don’t have a hugely enthusiastic demographic: my little sliver of a neighborhood juts into a big group of older, run-down townhouses which is largely Latino. Typically the wait to vote for a POTUS election is maybe 15 minutes. It’ll be over an hour today.

Fun stuff - the staff has a little bell that they ring (with an accompanying cheer) for first-time voters. It seems to be ringing a LOT.

I’ve always been a political junkie so I’ll be glued to tonight’s election just like all the others since Bush v. Dukakis. Some nice ale and the DVR are at the ready. Got the early voting out of the way 2 weeks ago.

I’ll mourn the idiocy of my state (Texas) tonight, but take encouragement if we can make it close.

Interesting in my household this year is we have inlaws in town from mainland China for the birth of our child a couple weeks ago. This is their first foreign trip so it will be their first taste of an election. I’m interested to hear my father-in-law’s take on the spectacle.

I’m taking a friend who can’t get around much to the polls today in NC.

The cleaning lady here at work is doing work for Hillary, even if she can’t stand her- she wanted Bernie- she was involved in some of the really old Greensboro sit-in protests.

The sad thing is as fired up as white liberals and the minority community are here, the deplorables- I feel they are equally motivated. My hometown is a Trumpist wasteland.

I could see it going either way, and I don’t trust the institutions of state government at all so I’m worried about the count as well. (kinda a reverse rigged- with justification)

Amazing how many folks here are from NC. Hopefully we’re all happy tomorrow morning.

Benchmark tweeting out reports of heavy voting activity and long lines from places like Philly, Cleveland, St. Louis, Richmond, Arlington VA, Madison WI.

All are anecdata, but interesting.

Girlfriend waited a little more than an hour in one of the most reliably liberal districts in the state this morning. Sitting in that same line myself now. Not as long, but still sizeable!