Clinton Takes a Commanding Lead

In less than a month, our Electoral College handicapping went from indicating a narrowing presidential contest to one that is widening.
by | October 20, 2016

Amid poor reviews for his debate performances and a stream of accusations by women who said he groped them, Trump has seen his Electoral College vote tally -- already insufficient to win -- shrink further.

Since we last handicapped the Electoral College on Oct. 5, the candidates' fortunes have reversed. Currently, we project that Clinton has 272 electoral votes leaning her way, while Trump has 187. That's an increase of nine electoral votes for Clinton, and a decrease of 29 for Trump. Another 79 electoral votes are currently in the tossup category.

Perhaps more important, the Democratic candidate is now above the crucial 270 electoral vote threshold that she needs to win the presidency. That means she would not have to win any of the five states we're currently categorizing as tossups -- Arizona, Florida, Nevada, North Carolina and Ohio -- to become president.

Our assessment categorizes states as either safe Republican, likely Republican, lean Republican, tossup, lean Democratic, likely Democratic or safe Democratic. Within each category, the states run from most likely to vote Republican to most likely to vote Democratic.

With this handicapping, we've shifted several states in Clinton's direction, notably Arizona and Ohio from lean Republican to tossup, and Colorado from tossup to lean Democratic. Arizona has voted Democratic in only one recent election -- 1996 -- while Colorado backed Barack Obama twice.

Meanwhile, we've shifted Indiana as well as one electoral vote in Nebraska from likely Republican to lean Republican; Utah from safe Republican to lean Republican; and Texas and Alaska from safe Republican to likely Republican.

We're still skeptical that the solidly red states of Texas and Alaska will ultimately vote for Clinton, but we're shifting their ratings slightly due to surprisingly close polling margins.

In Utah, the anti-Clinton vote is split between Trump, Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson and independent candidate Evan McMullin, a conservative who is making a big play for his home state. At this point, the margins are so close that it's possible that any of the four candidates could win Utah.

We also moved three blue states from likely Democratic to safe Democratic, to reflect more comfortable poll margins for Clinton: Connecticut, New Jersey and Rhode Island.

By the standards of the previous two election cycles, Clinton's edge in our analysis is large.

In our final handicapping of the 2012 cycle, Obama had 237 electoral votes leaning his way -- significantly fewer than Clinton has now. And Clinton's current total exceeds the 263 Obama had in our final 2008 handicapping when he defeated U.S. Sen. John McCain of Arizona. Here is our current state-by-state breakdown. States listed in bold have switched since our previous handicapping:

Safe Republican (86 electoral votes)

Alabama (9), Arkansas (6), Idaho (4), Kansas (6), Kentucky (8), Louisiana (8), Mississippi (6), Montana (3), Nebraska (4 of 5 electoral votes), North Dakota (3), Oklahoma (7), South Dakota (3), Tennessee (11), West Virginia (5) and Wyoming (3)

Likely Republican (50 electoral votes)

Texas (38), Alaska (3), South Carolina (9)

Lean Republican (51 electoral votes)

Missouri (10), Indiana (11), Nebraska (1 of 5 electoral votes), Georgia (16), Maine (1 of 4 electoral votes), Utah (6), Iowa (6)

Tossup (79 electoral votes)

Arizona (11), Ohio (18), North Carolina (15), Florida (29), Nevada (6)

Lean Democratic (89 electoral votes)

New Hampshire (4), Colorado (9), Pennsylvania (20), Wisconsin (10), Maine (2 of 4 electoral votes), Minnesota (10), Michigan (16), New Mexico (5), Virginia (13)

Safe Democratic (183 electoral votes)

California (55), Connecticut (7), Delaware (3), District of Columbia (3), Hawaii (4), Illinois (20), Maine (1 of 4 electoral votes), Maryland (10), Massachusetts (11), New Jersey (14), New York (29), Oregon (7), Rhode Island (4), Vermont (3), and Washington state (12)