In a memo sent to supporters Tuesday morning, Hillary Clinton's campaign manager had a one-word message: Chill.
As in, relax. Yes, the race between Clinton and Donald Trump is getting closer, wrote Robby Mook. No, Clinton is not losing.
Much of Mook's memo is your standard-issue spin that's to be expected in these sorts of documents. (Mook writes this memo knowing it is going to get leaked to the media; it's sort of like a public-private document.) But not all of it. In a section headlined "The Electoral College," Mook makes a critically important point: Clinton has lots and lots of ways to win this race while Trump has very, very few.
Here’s the story that no poll can tell: Hillary Clinton has many paths to 270 electoral votes, while Donald Trump has very few. Hillary is nearly certain to win 16 “blue” states, including Washington D.C., which will garner her 191 electoral votes. If we add the five states that FiveThirtyEight.com gives Hillary a 70% or greater chance of winning (Michigan, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Wisconsin), Hillary only needs ten more electoral votes.
He's right. As I've written of late, the electoral map is heavily tilted to Democrats at this point. (It's the reverse of the 1980s when Republicans started in the race to 270 electoral votes with a 75-yard lead.)
Mook goes on in the memo to lay out five "win" scenarios where Clinton can find the 10 electoral votes she needs from the seven (Florida, North Carolina, Ohio, Colorado, New Hampshire, Iowa and Nevada) remaining swing states. Here they are:
1. Florida (289 electoral votes)
2. North Carolina (275 electoral votes)
3. Ohio (278 electoral votes)
4. Colorado and New Hampshire (273 electoral votes)
5. Iowa and Nevada (272 electoral votes)
There are lots and lots of other combinations that get Clinton over 270 electoral votes. And another handful that get her over 300.
That's a stark contrast to the paucity of paths to 270 for Trump. To have any chance at winning, Trump absolutely must hold the 206 electoral votes Mitt Romney won in 2012. That's no small task given that Arizona, Georgia and North Carolina were Romney states four years ago and are now all close.
Let's assume Trump wins those states and the rest Romney won, too. He could also win Florida, Ohio and Virginia and still lose to Clinton. (That would be 266 electoral votes for Trump.) He could win Florida, Ohio, Colorado and Iowa and still lose. You get the idea; this is going to be a massive climb for Trump.
I set about trying to game out plausible scenarios that got Trump to or over 270 electoral votes. Here's what I came up with:
1. Maine! Maine! Maine!
This map gives Trump Florida, Nevada, New Hampshire, Ohio and — although I can't show it above — one of Maine's two electoral votes. (Maine and Nebraska award their electoral votes by congressional district.) It would give Trump 270 electoral votes and a win.
2. Virginia, Ohio and Florida + Nevada/Iowa
If Trump takes Florida, Ohio and Virginia, he can even afford to lose Iowa — where he is running well — and still win. He would still have to win Nevada, however, where polling suggests the race is close. (Obviously Trump could win Iowa, lose Nevada and still win under this scenario.) The map above gives him 272 electoral votes.
This is Trump's most direct route to a win. Win Ohio, Florida and Pennsylvania and Trump has 273 electoral votes. The problem? Pennsylvania. Although Trump has spent lots of time and money in the state, there's little evidence that he's making a dent in Clinton's lead there. According to the Real Clear Politics polling average in the state, Clinton has a 6.6 point edge.
And that's it. Or it's damn close to it when it comes to real paths for Trump to get to 270.
That doesn't mean Trump can't win. Polling in battleground states has moved toward him in the past few weeks. It's possible that trend continues for the next seven weeks. But what the maps above should show you is that Clinton's margin for error is vastly higher than Trump's. And that makes her the favorite to win the White House with 49 days left before voters vote.