Politics & Policy

What to Watch for on Election Night

Polling place in Beltsville, Md., 2008 (Reuters file photo: Jonathan Ernst)
Will Tuesday night’s results adhere to historical norms — or will two abnormal candidates shake thing up?

Tuesday evening, after Election Day’s tranquility, new clamors will erupt as analysts with agendas tickle portents and lessons from the torrent of election returns. Herewith some developments to watch.

‐In the 17 elections since World War II, the winner has averaged 385.4 electoral votes, the loser 145.1. In six elections (1952, 1956, 1964, 1972, 1980, 1984), a major-party candidate won fewer than 100. In the seven elections after 1984, no Democrat has received fewer than 111 (Michael Dukakis in 1988) and no Republican fewer than 159 (Bob Dole in 1996). Measure Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump accordingly.

‐Republican nominees’ popular-vote totals this century are: 2000 (Bush) 50,455,156; 2004 (Bush) 62,040,610; 2008 (McCain) 59,934,814; 2012 (Romney) 60,932,152. Measure Trump’s total accordingly, bearing in mind that there are 10 million more eligible voters in 2016 than in 2012 and nearly 20 million more than in 2008.

‐In 2012, Romney’s totals in ten swing states were: Texas 4,569,843 (57 percent); Florida 4,163,447 (49 percent); Pennsylvania 2,680,434 (47 percent); Ohio 2,661,407 (48 percent); Michigan 2,115,256 (45 percent); Virginia 1,822,522 (47 percent); Arizona 1,233,654 (54 percent); Colorado 1,185,243 (46 percent); Nevada 463,567 (46 percent); New Hampshire 329,918 (47 percent). Use these numbers to measure Trump’s success at enlarging the Republican electorate.

‐In 1976, when Jimmy Carter narrowly defeated President Gerald Ford, 20 states were won by five points or less; in 2012, just four were. In 1976, Ford won California and Illinois with 49.3 percent and 50.1 percent, respectively. Carter won Texas with 51.1 percent. Tuesday will show how much has changed in four decades.

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‐In nine consecutive elections (1980–2012), Florida has been more Republican than the nation. Is it still?

‐In 1976, a majority of House seats were won by ten points or less. In 2012, most were won by at least 20 points. Watch Tuesday night for further evidence of the extent to which representatives now pick their voters rather than voters picking representatives. And for how many incumbents are defeated by an electorate supposedly seething against “insiders.”

Tuesday will show how much has changed in four decades.

‐The “blue wall” consists of 18 states and the District of Columbia (totaling 242 electoral votes) that have voted Democratic in at least six consecutive elections: California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin. Will Trump, who vowed to expand the battlefield, carry any of these?

‐The Republicans’ ”red wall” (in at least six consecutive elections) consists of 13 states with 102 electoral votes: Alabama, Alaska, Idaho, Kansas, Mississippi, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Wyoming. Will Clinton come close to carrying Texas? Will she lose any age cohort there other than voters over 65?

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‐Will Trump’s louche lifestyle cost him culturally conservative Utah, which last voted Democratic in 1964, and which since then has voted Republican by an average of 36.1 points?

‐The only Democrat to carry Arizona since 1948 was Bill Clinton in 1996. If his wife duplicates that feat, will this be because the state’s Mormon community recoiled from Trump?

‐In 1984, when Ronald Reagan carried 49 states, under-30 voters were the most Republican age group. This year, will it be, for the fourth consecutive election, the most Democratic?

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‐A large and growing portion of voters acknowledge no religious tradition. They were 12 percent of the 2012 turnout and Democrats carried this secular cohort by 44 points. How much support did such voters give Trump, who has vowed to “spiritize” America?

‐In 1928, a Brooklyn Democratic boss explained why he was funneling political funds to the candidate for New York’s governor, Franklin Roosevelt, rather than to down-ballot candidates: As the Staten Island ferry enters its slip, he said, it drags in “all the crap in the harbor behind it,” adding, “FDR is our Staten Island ferry.” Trump might be the opposite. Watch whether his undertow drowns Representatives Barbara Comstock and Mike Coffman, Republicans with chilly relations with Trump, both representing similar districts — Northern Virginia and suburban Denver, respectively.

#related#‐Will Trump become the first Republican in 60 years to lose whites with college educations?

‐Will Trump achieve even Mitt Romney’s 17 percent of the non-white vote?

‐Will Trump hold Clinton in Georgia below the 46 percent that Barack Obama won in 2012?

‐Finally, Winston Churchill enjoyed the story of the man who, upon receiving a telegram reporting his mother-in-law’s death and asking for instructions, replied: “Embalm, cremate, bury at sea. Take no chances.” What instructions will Tuesday evening’s returns give to Republicans about what to do with Trump’s approach to the electorate?

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