Four years ago, at this stage of the 2012 presidential cycle, there was a stark difference between clear betting market signals and a commentariat loathe to jump off the fence. Whereas pundits were saying en masse that the race was 'too close to call', Betfair punters consistently made Barack Obama the odds-on favourite to beat Mitt Romney, progressively so after the conventions.
One of the reasons for that difference was surely an understanding of the electoral system. Each state's vote translates into a pre-determined number of electors based on population and congressional districts, that count towards the electoral college. In total, there are 538 electors up for grabs, making 270 the winning target. For full, up to the minute projections, check out RealClearPolitics map, based on an aggregate of state polls.
As I reported even before the 2012 conventions, the map spelt trouble for Romney, who was trailing pretty much everywhere it mattered. Not a great deal changed between June and November, and Obama ended up winning a landslide with 332 electoral college votes.
While 2012 is a race that Republicans want to forget, they would swap Romney's post-convention position for that of Donald Trump in an instant. Not only are his national ratings dire but Trump is performing catastrophically in the swing states.
Indeed Hillary Clinton is a much stronger favourite than Obama - the shortest odds of any at this stage since the inception of Betfair - yet on reading the electoral map, is probably a good value bet even at [1.28], which equates to a 78% likelihood. She has already been matched down to [1.85] (54%) to win 360 or more Electoral College Votes - at least 28 more than Obama.
The RCP map guards against potential changes by leaving 'toss-up' states from their projection. Ten states fall into this category, yielding 234 electoral college votes, of which Clinton requires just 14. In contrast Fivethirtyeight update an overall prediction, which currently has Clinton on 361, 184 ahead of her Republican challenger.
Now let's consider these toss-up states. Michigan alone provides 16 votes that would take Clinton over the line. Here, the RCP average rates her 6.6% ahead, likely to increase further if the last two polls showing 9 and 10% leads are a guide. I expect it will soon move from 'toss-up' to 'leans Clinton'.
Four more states that Obama won, yielding a combined 59 votes, are included in the toss-ups. In Florida (29 votes), she leads by 4.5%; Ohio (18) by 2.6%; Nevada (6) by 2.3%. Iowa (6) is more positive for Trump, trailing by only 0.4%.
Significantly the list includes four states that Romney won, and would surely have been a given for any Republican candidate apart from Trump. The last North Carolina (15) survey had Clinton 9% up, compared to a 2% average. Arizona (11) and Georgia (16) - where Clinton has belatedly decided to invest heavily - average 0.3% either way.
At 5.3%, Missouri (10) remains likely to go Trump but the fact it even appears as a toss-up speaks volumes. Even more worrying for Republicans, there are usually reliably red states in the 'leans Trump' list that could yet become competitive. Limited numbers from Utah (6), Indiana (11) and South Carolina (9) point to surprisingly close races in states where the Democrats would barely even try in any normal cycle.
Could it turn around? You won't read me predicting a Trump comeback but more cautious observers would point to this still being relatively early. Only after Labor Day, (September 5th), do swing voters take a seriously close look.
Alternatively, one could believe Trump is right to say that the media and opinion polls are 'crooked', 'biased' and that the election is rigged against him. If the reality TV star is wrong about that, all available evidence suggests Hillary Clinton is a stone-cold certainty to become president.
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For an in-depth breakdown of the state-by-state picture visit 270towin.com
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