It’s time for this year’s election predictions, since waiting until a week out makes it all-too-easy. Nowhere holds the key to victory more than Pennsylvania, so we’ll start there for who wins the presidency, and by extension, control of Congress.
The White House goes through southeastern Pennsylvania, home to more than 40 percent of the state’s voters. As the five-county region goes, so too does the commonwealth’s 20 crucial electoral votes. If Donald Trump loses Pennsylvania, he has virtually no path.
Hillary Clinton is in slightly better shape, but in reality, if she loses the Keystone State, she’ll likely have lost the election.
A quick background: Pennsylvania has not voted Republican for president since 1988, but the GOP remains a powerful force. The state House and Senate are overwhelmingly Republican, and the GOP dominates the Congressional delegation by a 13-5 margin. However, Republicans have managed only one statewide win since 2011, a problem exacerbated by almost a million more registered Democrats than Republicans.
That Democratic shift is most evident in the Philadelphia suburb of Montgomery County, the state’s third most populous county.
Montgomery County voted Republican in all but one presidential election from 1952 to 1988, and had so much influence that it boasted three (yes, three) cabinet officials in the Reagan administration. But Democrats have won the last six contests, capturing a whopping 60 percent of the vote in 2008.
Overcoming that deficit statewide is a challenge for any Republican, but for Trump, with his controversial candidacy, lack of campaign cash, and a disorganized field operation, it is damn-near impossible.
And that is why Trump will lose Pennsylvania, and thus, the election.
1) For Trump to win, he needs to capture an overwhelming share of the national white vote, but the numbers tell how difficult that will be:
• In 1980, Reagan captured 56 percent of whites while carrying 44 states; in 2012, Mitt Romney won 59 percent of whites while losing 26 states.
• In 2004, George W. Bush barely squeaked by, earning 58 percent of the white vote, but more telling, 26 percent of non-whites. And the latter is that demographic which will prove Trump’s death-knell.
• Romney won just 17 percent of nonwhites, but Trump is poised to do worse. Yet even if Trump won 20 percent of non-whites, he would need a staggering 65 percent (or higher) of the white vote — a historic level of support that is virtually unattainable.
2) Trump faces significant opposition within his own Party, as an unprecedented number of Republicans oppose him outright. Hillary faces similar discontentment, but has better bridged the gulf with her Party’s holdouts.
3) If Trump loses Pennsylvania, he has to run the table on virtually every battleground state, including Florida, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Nevada, Arizona, Ohio and Iowa, and capture one of Maine’s electoral votes, just to reach the 270 threshold.
While not impossible, that is extremely unlikely.
4) The idea that millions of disaffected union Democrats will support Trump is founded on a faulty premise. The majority of those people, especially ones who can actually remember what a coal mine or steel plant looks like, are either dead or have been voting Republican for 20 years. In 2015, there were only 65,000 coal miners left in the U.S., largely the result of automation. Ditto for the steel industry. Where these folks are who will supposedly turn the election for Trump remains a mystery.
Barring a catastrophic domestic terror attack, a major health issue for Hillary, or this author not accurately reading the electorate (though he has been wrong only once in ten years of predictions), the result will be a Clinton presidency. While voters hold immense disdain for both, her being “subpar but competent” will win the day, with Trump being perceived as “unfit.”
Clinton likely wins with 320 to 330 electoral votes. The House will remain Republican, though it will lose just enough seats to make Speaker Ryan probably wish he was Minority Leader.
The senate races are particularly unpredictable because the margins could vary greatly. That said, the GOP will lose seats in Illinois and Wisconsin; Indiana’s senate seat stays Republican with help from Mike Pence; and, going against conventional wisdom, New Hampshire’s Kelly Ayotte and Pennsylvania’s Pat Toomey will eke out victories.
But there’s a caveat: if Trump’s vote falls below 45 percent, they lose.
Republicans must hope for the “Tom Corbett effect,” where, in 2014, voters said “no” to the former Pennsylvania Governor and “yes” to other Republicans, making the wildly-unpopular Corbett the only incumbent nationwide to lose. Prediction: senate becomes 50 to 50, then 51 to 49 when Vice President Kaine gives up his seat and Virginians replace him with a Republican.
Then again, as comedian Dennis Miller always said: “That’s just my opinion. I could be wrong.”