Insider's Game

Selected writings by David Fiderer

Republican Path to 270 Electoral Votes in 2016 Looks Close to Nonexistent

First published in on November 20, 2014

If you take a step and look at the numbers, the 2016 Presidential race looks like it’s all over before it starts. The Republicans’ path to attaining 270 electoral votes in 2016 appears to be really remote.


Very few states are in play. The 2012 election results showed that either Obama or Romney won by landslides in 41 States and the District of Columbia, which represent 417 electoral votes. The odds that a Republican or Democratic candidate might flip any of those States in 2016 are unrealistic.


In nine swing states–Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and North Carolina–the candidates came within 6 points of one another. The demographic trends in a number of these states, which represent 121 electoral votes, are moving away from the Republicans.


Obama carried eight of those nine swing States. So, if Obama had lost the three biggest States where the vote was especially close—the 60 electoral votes represented by Ohio, Virginia and Florida—he still would have won the election with 272 electoral votes compared to Romney’s 266.


And it’s also worth remembering that the country is deeply divided along lines of ethnicity and religion. As the recent Gallup survey points out, there are basically two types of voters: Religious whites and everyone else. Religious whites lean Republican by a wide margin, everybody leans Democratic by a wide margin.


Religious Whites and Everybody Else


Very religious whites overwhelmingly favor Republicans by more than 2 to 1. Whereas moderately religious whites favor Republicans strongly, by a 16% margin. Which is why, at Fox News, the war against Christmas will never end.


Screenshot 2014-11-20 22.24.52



But then there’s everyone else. Nonreligious whites favor Democrats by 18%. Very religious Hispanics and Asians favor Democrats by 18 to 20%. But Hispanics and Asians who are moderately religious or nonreligious favor Democrats by overwhelming margins, 31% to 40%. For blacks, religiousness is not a factor. In every category they favor Democrats by more than 60%.


And by 2016, the number representing the everyone else group will have risen dramatically in key swing States, including Colorado, Florida and Nevada.


In Florida the number of eligible voters will risen by about 1.1 million, or about 0.1 million additional whites, and 1 million more of everybody else, primarily Hispanics. In Nevada 90% of the new eligible voters are non-whites. In both Florida and Nevada the number of eligible white voters, as a percentage of the total, drops by 4%. About 70% of the new eligible voters in Virginia are non-white, where the statewide percentage of eligible white voters shrinks by 2%.


Can Democrats increase their appeal to white voters? It seems highly plausible. First of all, the percentage of voters who do not believe in religion, a group that strongly veers towards the Democrats, has been increasing dramatically over the last few years, as the Gallup survey shows. In 2005 Protestants were 49% of the total, and 10% said they had no religion. By 2013, Protestants were 41%, with 15% of the survey saying they had no religion.


The young white voting age population, those who are 29 or younger, seems to be currently split 50/50. Everybody else leans Democratic in overwhelming margins.


But it’s worth remembering that cultural issues now favor the Democrats. For young people, gay marriage is a wedge issue. Seventy-eight percent of eligible voters aged 29 and younger say gay marriage should be legal. Opposition to gay marriage is viewed as a strong sign of intolerance. By way of contrast, only 30% of Republicans support gay marriage. It will not be so easy for a Republican candidate to evolve on that issue before or during the primary season.


And then there is the hard-to-quantify issue of race. It is all but certain that the next Democratic presidential candidate will be white. That factor alone may make it possible for the next Democratic candidate to improve upon Obama’s results in 2012, when he received 40% of the white vote. If, according to Nate Silver’s Presidential Calculator, Obama had gotten 42% of the white vote, he would have carried North Carolina, the only swing state the broke for Romney.


Whatever smear tactics are used against the next Presidential nominee, those smears will not include race baiting, or questions about his or her religious beliefs or country of origin. As it happens, Hillary Clinton says that, “the Bible was and remains the biggest influence on my thinking. I was raised reading it, memorizing passages from it and being guided by it. I still find it a source of wisdom, comfort and encouragement.”


Also, whoever runs for President will need to defend his or her record.


Anyone running from the House or the Senate will need to defend all of his votes while serving at an institution that is less popular than cockroaches. Jeb Bush would need to defend the record of his brother and his father, who, during 12 years in office generated a fraction of the jobs that Obama has in less than six years. He will also need to say that the Iraq invasion was the right thing to do. Chris Christie will need to defend the sorry state of New Jersey’s finances.


And any Republican candidate will need to be specific about what he would do to replace Obamacare. So far, the law’s implementation has met or exceeded original expectations.


Which is why, if Hillary ran for the Presidency, it would be all over from the start. If she ran, she can say, “When my husband was in office, we generated 22 million good jobs, balanced the budget, and worked with the Republican Congress that impeached him.” No Republican President, in the 20th and 21st century, has ever come close to matching Bill Clinton’s jobs record.


More specifically, she can point to the glowing tribute written about her by Lindsey Graham in 2006 for Time Magazine. Graham, who led the way in advocating impeachment of Bill Clinton, described his colleague as a “smart, prepared, serious senator” who “has managed to build unusual political alliances on a variety of issues with Republicans.”


“I don’t want her to be president,” he said in an interview. “We’re polar opposites on many issues. But we have been able to find common ground.” That’s a very appealing message to swing voters.


What about her tenure as Secretary of State? Republicans will surely point to the sorry state of the Middle East and Afghanistan and pin the blame on her. Whether or not those charges are deserved, the fact remains that Americans’ attitude toward these matters is simply, “Enough already.” Or as Glenn Beck put it, “Not one more life. Not one more life. Not one more dollar, not one more airplane, not one more bullet, not one more Marine, not one more arm or leg or eye.”


The Benghazi charges, which are only kept alive in right wing media, will not hold up to mainstream media scrutiny.


Finally, everything including the kitchen sink has been thrown at Hillary over the last 22 years. The country knows her much better than it knows any of her potential rivals, save Joe Biden, who would need to defend the entire Obama record. It would be all but impossible for an opponent to define Hillary, whereas Hillary’s surrogates will have plenty of opportunity to define her Republican opponent.


Again, it appears that the election will be decided in nine or possibly 10 states Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, North Carolina and possibly Wisconsin, which is very polarized along ethnic lines.


In those states will the GOP candidate have a message that appeals to non-white, non-religious voters? One that appeals to young people? And will that message be consistent with that candidate’s record over the past four to eight years? Those are rhetorical questions, since the answer is so obviously, “No.”


I suspect many Republican strategists and the Koch Brothers, who look at the long game, recognize that their prospects for the White House in 2016 are dim. Which means, for the foreseeable future, all federal judicial appointments will be made by a Democrat. Which is why they have opted to encourage a never-ending policy of obstructionism. They want to delegitimize our government institutions so that our county is more like a 21st century Weimar Republic. So, whoever the next President is, he or she will be unable to effectuate anything. Which is why the House vote to repudiate immigration reform may not be as crazy as it seems.


Which is why GOP State officials realize that their best chances for winning is to suppress voting participation for everyone except older whites.