Voices & Choices

As the Polls Close Tonight, Listen to the “Spectator States”

As the Polls Close Tonight, Listen to the “Spectator States”

Anyone following American politics closely knows that the national popular vote in presidential elections is always interesting, but never decisive. Who wins and loses the White House is all about the results in the Electoral College. Consider, for example, that Hillary Clinton’s 51% of the two-party popular vote in 2016 was little changed from Barack Obama’s 52%. But shifts in key states made for a huge shift in the Electoral College, from Obama winning 62% of electoral votes in 2012 to Clinton winning only 42% in 2016.

For that reason, the presidential candidates and the media have obsessively focused on this year's swing states — ones that almost without exception are the same states as in 2016. But thank goodness for the Americans who still participate in high numbers in our some “spectator” states. They vote, and they tend to vote in patterns that are highly revealing for how the swing states will vote. In this modern era of hyperpartisanship, the general consistency of partisan voting patterns is breathtaking, and gains or losses for a party in one state are likely to be mirrored in other states.

So yes, early votes coming in from states like Florida and North Carolina are going to be incredibly important for deciding the presidency when all the votes are counted. But we’ll likely have a very good sense of who will end up prevailing in the presidential race from other states too. Below is a simple chart of some of the first states where we should be getting substantive vote totals that will be indicative of the “national partisan tide” in the country. If you see a trend in what the state leader’s percentage of the vote is, we may well know who is likely to win long before all the votes are counted in the all-important swing states like Pennsylvania and Arizona.

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