After a long and tumultuous campaign season, the question of who will be President will finally be answered in a little over 24 hours.
Either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton will be the 45th President of the United States. That much we know. The rest is up to the voters.
Let’s break down where things stand on the final day before an election unlike any other in history, and with so much at stake for America …
As of Monday morning, polls show a modest but not insurmountable lead for Hillary Clinton, the baggage-laden Democratic nominee.
She’s ahead of controversial Republican Donald Trump in both two-way matchups and a four-way race against Trump, Gary Johnson and Jill Stein.
Aggregators of polling data agree that her lead is somewhere in the range of 2-3 percent nationally, with similarly close races statewide.
Is 2-3 percent within the margin of error?
Indeed, and we can guarantee you Clinton is not measuring the Oval Office drapes yet. Nevertheless, she remains a modest favorite Tuesday.
A few weeks ago, a more comfortable Clinton win seemed likely, and a landslide victory even felt like something within the realm of possibility.
So much for that.
Clinton led in national polls consistently by 6-7 points, benefiting from three strong presidential debate performances and Trump … being Trump.
The recent reopening of the FBI’s probe into Clinton’s private email server helped galvanize Trump’s base, however, and tighten the race.
How much impact the FBI had – as opposed to reliably Republican voters “coming home” to the Donald as they would anyway – is unclear.
It didn’t help her, however; Clinton’s once-safe lead dwindled down to toss-up territory, even as the FBI didn’t change its findings ultimately.
Clinton probably never thought she’d be sweating it out at this point in her second White House bid, but she undeniably (and wisely) is.
No candidate in 2012, 2008 or 2004 improved their national polling by more than two points in the two weeks prior to Election. Trump has.
Still, it may not be enough to overcome his own ceiling with independents, and the Clinton campaigns superior’s organizational structure.
If Clinton and Trump perform at current polling levels (or if Clinton does better than expected), she will prevail, either by a little or a lot.
There are still real paths to a Trump victory, via polling errors and/or a late uprising of previously undetected support for the businessman.
How favorable are his odds really, though?
Predictive models at FiveThirtyEight, the Upshot (New York Times) and the Huffington Post all project a Clinton win … of varying degrees.
The HuffPost model cites a ridiculous 1.6% chance of a Trump win, while FiveThirtyEight is more bullish, giving him once chance in three.
In fairness, Trump does have a real shot.
See the map above. With 270 Electoral Votes needed to win, Clinton would claim 301 – more than enough – if every state’s polling is accurate.
It’s more complicated than that, however.
Margins in Florida in particular are razor-thin, while Trump is gaining ground in New Hampshire. Take away their 33 combined Electoral Votes?
You could be looking at President Trump. On the flip side, Clinton is competitive in 5-6 red states above, so he has no margin for error.
This second map (both courtesy of Real Clear Politics) offers a better indication of the extent of both candidates leads in the polls, if any.
Using only leads determined to be safe or reasonably safe, Clinton’s lead in the Electoral College shrinks to 203-164, with 171 in play.
Still, Trump’s battle is more uphill than Hillary’s.
North Carolina and Florida are very close – within a percent – but if she can pull out either one, it’s pretty much curtains for the Donald.
How Trump does there will tell us what kind of night we’re in for, although neither is currently part of Clinton’s fabled blue state “firewall.”
That’s a problem. Even if he wins both North Carolina and Florida on top of Ohio, Iowa, Georgia and Arizona, he’ll be at 259 Electoral Votes.
Very close, but not quite Inaugural Address time.
In that scenario, he’d have to cobble together a combination of Nevada (very possible), Colorado or New Mexico (less likely) and N.H. to win.
So, unless he can outperform his polling across the nation and “steal” a Pennsylvania or Michigan (he trails in both), he will come up short.
It’s just a matter of how short.
In the end, we would bet on a Trump victory based on this analysis. However, we’ve also learned never to count out Donald or his supporters.
Yet therein lies a central tradeoff of Trump’s candidacy – his outsider persona and populist stances widely appeal to a wide swath of the electorate.
They also alienate an equally wide swath.
Turning off Hispanics, women, and even traditional Republican groups in his brash run for the Republican nomination put him in a big hole.
One has yet to show he can climb out of.
For all of Clinton’s many flaws, and her own widespread unpopularity, she seems poised to eke this one out and make history Tuesday.
Thoughts? Comments? Votes? Hit it!
Donald, Hillary or… Gary? Who has your vote to be the next President of the United States?
View Poll »