This morning, longtime Trump friend and supporter Roger Stone told Boston Herald radio, “Nevada, I think is problematic. Frankly, Trump has run one of the worst campaigns in modern political history in the state. The crew there is really left over from the primary, these old Americans for Prosperity folks — nice people, just don’t know anything about politics and actually getting elected. I’m disappointed with the campaign there.”
In yesterday’s Jolt, we looked at the assessment of legendary political reporter Jon Ralston, who is adamant that Nevada is unwinnable for Trump – and with that swing state firmly in Hillary Clinton’s column, the presidency is all but lost already. How firm is that assessment?
(For the sake of simplicity and readability, I’m rounding all numbers to the nearest thousand.)
Let’s go over some basics: Last cycle, about 1 million voters cast ballots in Nevada. Obama won 531,000 and Romney won 464,000 — a 52 percent to 46 percent split, a difference of 67,000 votes. Of those one million votes, a bit over 700,000 voted early.
Four years ago, 308,000 registered Democrats voted early, absentee or by mail.
Four years ago, 260,000 registered Republicans voted early, absentee or by mail.
Democratic advantage: 48,000 votes.
Assuming the same proportion of registered Democrats voted for Obama as registered Republicans voted for Romney, then Romney went into Election Day needing to make up a deficit of more than 48,000 votes – with just 300,000 people voting. If absolutely no one voted third party, Romney needed to win those remaining votes by a 58 percent to 42 percent margin. Obviously, he didn’t, and he lost the votes cast on Election Day by about 19,000 votes.
This year, 324,000 registered Democrats voted early, absentee or by mail.
This year, 278,000 registered Republicans voted early, absentee or by mail.
Democratic advantage: 46,000 votes.
Assuming the same proportion of registered Democrats voted for Clinton as registered Republicans voted for Trump, then Trump goes into Election Day needing to make up a deficit of more than 46,000 votes.
(Yes, some will argue that more Democrats voted for Trump than Republicans voted for Clinton. Say Trump is getting 16 percent of Democrats and Clinton is getting 11 percent of Republicans, as the 8 News Now poll shows. This means 52,000 registered Democrats voted for Trump, and 31,000 registered Republicans voted for Clinton. We can take 21,000 out of the Democrats’ margin… and Democrats still head into Election Day with an advantage of 25,000 votes.)
“Ah, but what about the independent or unaffiliated voters!” Trump fans will cry. Well, in that 8 News Now poll that has him doing so well among Democrats, he’s still barely winning voters in the “other” category, 40 percent to 39 percent. The NBC News/Marist poll has him winning independents, 45 percent to 38 percent – but that poll shows just 7 percent of Democrats defecting to Trump, and 4 percent of Republicans defecting to Clinton. This year, 167,000 Nevadans who aren’t registered Republicans or Democrats voted early. Assuming Trump is ahead by seven percentage points among that group, he gains… 12,000 votes.
Let’s assume a really rosy scenario for Trump: 16 percent of Democrats vote for him and 11 percent of Republicans vote for Hillary, and he wins the independent/other voters, 45 percent to 38 percent. This means Democrats walk into Election Day with “just” a 13,000-vote margin.
In 2016, Nevada has 1.4 million registered voters; 694,821 haven’t voted yet. Trump would need to overcome that 13,000-vote margin out of the people who come out Tuesday.
In other words, the broad contours of Ralston’s argument are hard to dispute. Democrats walk into Election Day with roughly the same advantage in registered turnout in the early vote that they had in 2012, and that year they won overall by about 6 percentage points. Trump needs an unbelievable performance among Election Day voters and a lot of crossovers and to win among independents by a solid margin. It’s a tall, tall order.