The only two analysis I know of who really were close were Nate Persily at Stanford, with Nate Silver at least in the ballpark.
Many people at events in San Francisco, New York and Washington DC tell me I am only one who predicted a Trump win in writing to them using actual analytics. They are all among the thousands of media and opinion leaders who remember the September 9, 2016 email below pointing out we were on a likely course to a 3% popular vote win by Hillary Clinton, but a 291-247 Electoral vote by Donald Trump (see below, with figures highlighted).
Among the many people I respect who are often correct when I am wrong, perhaps the highest complement came from someone with whom I compared notes throughout the campaign, the great Larry Sabato with the email above.
When some in Athletic Departments complain about one of their players not being in the top 100 (of 4000 players) at www.valueaddbasketball.com, I often wish there were some way to prove to them their favorite players high turnovers, bad defense and missed shots really do make them less valuable than other players who score less but avoid mistakes. It is a funny intersection of sports and politics, as one of my favorite ESPN writers was kind enough to note in this post:
When you think about the intersection of advanced sports statistics and political forecasting, you think of Nate Silver. Far fewer people will know the name John Pudner, but college hoops fans probably should.
The fact is many fans of sports and politics have two things in common, the game looks simple so they believe they would be a better coach/campaign manager than the professionals, and they simply can not put aside their emotions and just look at the numbers objectively.
In the case of the election it was really not hard to figure out why Trump would likely pull within three points as predicted in my email two months out (he actually did even better, pulling to just a 2.1% loss), and in turn become President with about a 291-247 Electoral College margin (he actually won 304-227 by claiming Pennsylvania, which you see from the email below noted that he would get if he could pull within 2.5% in the popular vote).
The two obvious facts:
1. Trump was finally raising enough money to advertise in the closing two months ("Trump Shatters GOP records with small donors" was written by Politico 10 days after my email, but word was already out on the scale of his fundraising.)
2. Trump had a message that would move millions of voters once he finally had the money to get that message out (more than 37,000 shared my July 22 post titled "Donald Trump's Speech Grabs 14.8 Million Extra Likely Voters").
3. If you have the money and message to move the popular vote a couple of points, most states are going to move the same amount in your direction and the very numbers the Washington Post came up was fantastic research - but given the first two items it showed a likely Trump victory.
Nate Silver followed the logic of a Trump surge lifting all states flawlessly, and knew he had a chance. The only thing he was missing in giving Trump a one in three chance was #2 above, the power of his message.
With the Huffington Post giving Trump a 2% chance, me calling him the likely winner two months out proved more memorable than the email referenced in Taxation Only With Representation to 93,000 people telling them Dave Brat was in the process of upsetting Congressional Majority Leader Eric Cantor. That email will certainly be more remembered than the only other book with my name on the cover, a book with the stats of every Marquette basketball player in history that I see you can now buy on Amazon for anywhere from 10 cents to $2108 on Amazon (I'd take the 10 cents copy, even though it may not be in as good condition LOL).
Here is a copy of the email sent on September 9 pointing out that the Washington Post poll itself showed Trump should win the election. I added emphasis on the 291-247 electoral map win.
I call people all day about Take Back Our Republic’s conservative solutions for campaign finance, but knowing my history in number crunching (see Fox News, CNN/Sporting News) almost everyone wants my take on the Presidential race first. Let me get it out of my way – forgetting my personal preferences on the race I put the results of the Washington Post 50-state poll on the attached table and the numbers lead me to two conclusions:
1. Hillary Clinton has a MUCH better chance than Donald Trump at an Electoral Vote blowout, but …
2. Trump actually has a slightly better chance than Clinton to win the Presidency.
I ran these numbers right after the Post poll came out, but I’ve only shared the basic math with select friends over the several days. The feedback was that those in DC who crunch numbers because their business models are heavily impacted by each President have models that are very close to this, and a number of Hollywood affiliated people who were told these numbers started making plans to leave the country. But seriously, below is the state by state and key notes, and I welcome any feedback or rebuttal, from any of the best predictors in the country from Larry Sabato at the University of Virginia to Nate Silver.
A. The first thing you need to look at in any poll is when it was run. The Washington Post poll was run April 9 to September 1 – and all but the last three of those days the RealClear Politics average had Clinton ahead at least 5.4%. And in fact, when I weighted each Washington Post State Poll by the state population, the total of the Washington Post Poll was exactly a 5.4% lead for Clinton nationally – so it looks very accurate for when it was taken.
B. If the poll did reflect the Election Day results, then Clinton wins by 5.4% and wins a blowout 375-163 Electoral College win as she puts Arizona, Texas and North Carolina (I just split Georgia and North Carolina since they were both tied in the WaPost poll). So a Clinton blowout is more likely than a Trump blowout.
C. However, if Trump improved just 2.5% across the board, he still loses the popular vote by 3%, but that 2.5% improvement delivers North Carolina, Arizona, Texas, Colorado, Florida, Michigan and Wisconsin and Trump wins 291-247. Right now Trump is within 3% nationally, so with the map really favors him in a close race.
D. If Trump won the popular vote, or even just tied, then he would only go a little higher – a 317-221 Electoral win – so it is harder for him to get to a blowout win even though he seems to have an ever so slight advantage to win the race.
Keep the polling dates in mind when looking at state polls. An Arizona poll was released separately showing Clinton up one point there and was referred to as evidence she had a huge lead, but actually that poll was also run almost entirely when she was up 6 points or so nationally (August 17-31) and had the same result as the Post poll - a one-point Arizona lead. The real takeaway from an older poll like that is that Trump is running 5 points better in Arizona than he is nationally, so If Clinton wins by 7 points she likely does take Arizona along with Texas and Georgia. But as indicated above, if Trump is even within a few points nationally he wins the Presidency assuming a 2.5% shift in all the state polls the Washington Post ran to give Clinton the +3% popular vote win and Trump the Electoral win.
Of course not every state will shift the exact same amount, so if it were a 3% Clinton win it is likely that she would get at least one of the projected narrow Trump wins in Colorado, Florida, Michigan and Wisconsin – but unless that one state was Florida Trump would still be above 270 Electoral votes.
Here are all 50 states in the Washington Post poll shifted 2.5% toward Trump to account for a projected 3-point Clinton win in the popular vote. Please email back with other perspectives or anything you see is off.
The states are listed from strongest Trump to strongest Clinton, and how many Electoral votes Trump would have if he won only that state and the states before it. The percent margin is how much Trump would win (positive number) or lose (negative number) the state by assuming he improved just 2.5% in each state from the Post Poll – to estimate the result if Clinton won the popular vote by 3%. So if Trump lost by 35 points, he would only win Wyoming to lose 3-535 in the Electoral College. If he won by 35% he would win every state but lose DC to lose 535-3, etc. You need 270 to become President.
North Dakota 30.5%6
West Virginia 26.5%18
South Dakota 16.5%72
South Carolina 9.5% 117
If Clinton were to improve 4.5% from the WaPost Poll, she wins by 10% and takes Electoral College 421-117
Iowa 6.5% 123
Ohio 5.5% 141
Mississippi 4.5% 147
Georgia 2.5% 163
When weighting the WaPost 50-state by state population, Clinton wins popular vote by 5.4%, and 375-163 Electoral College Win
North Carolina 2.5% 178
Arizona 1.5% 189
Colorado 0.5% 236
Florida 0.5% 265
Michigan 0.5% 281 (Trump needs to get to here to win)
Wisconsin 0.5% 291
If all States in the Washington Post poll shifted 2.5% toward Trump, then Clinton wins popular vote by 3%, Trump wins 291-247 Electoral
Pennsylvania -1.5% 311
Nevada -2.5% 317
If Trump and Clinton were to tie, meaning a 5.4% shift toward Trump since the Post polled Aug. 9-Sept 1, then Trump wins 317-221
Maine -5.5% 321
Virginia -5.5% 334
Minnesota -6.5% 344
New Hampshire -6.5% 348
Rhode Island -7.5% 352
Connecticut -9.5% 359
Delaware -11.5% 362
New Mexico -11.5% 367
Illinois -12.5% 387
New Jersey -12.5% 401
Washington -13.5% 413
Oregon -16.5% 420
New York -19.5% 449
Massachusetts -20.5% 460
California -21.5% 515
Vermont -25.5% 518
Hawaii -27.5% 522
Maryland -27.5% 532
District of Columbia (not actually polled by WaPost, but will be Clinton) -67.5% 535