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Breaking down - or bypassing - "The Blue Wall"

By Scott Tibbs, August 12, 2016

Can Donald Trump win the Electoral College? It will not be easy. No matter who won the Republican nomination for President in 2016, the Republican candidate was going to have to overcome a significant obstacle to winning the Presidency: "The Blue Wall." These states (plus the nation's capital) represent 242 electoral votes: California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, Washington D.C. and Wisconsin. Once a candidate hits 270, he (or she) is President.

It is not impossible to for Trump win, even assuming the "Blue Wall" remains intact. After all, George W. Bush was elected President twice without breaking the "Blue Wall." Instead, he went over the wall by winning other states. But if Clinton holds the wall and wins Florida, it is game over for Trump. Clinton is the President of these United States. (I hope you have a hurl bag handy!)

Also consider this: The Blue Wall is not invincible. New Jersey has an incumbent two-term Republican governor. Michigan also has a Republican governor in his second term. Both states have voted Democratic in Presidential elections since 1992 but Republicans can obviously win statewide in both states. Can Trump flip either to his side? If he flips both, he rips 30 "safe" electoral college votes away from Clinton.

It will also be interesting to see what happens in Wisconsin, which (like Michigan and New Jersey) has a two-term Republican governor. Prior to Obama, the margins for Democrats have been razor-thin. Clinton is not Obama, and she is not nearly as charismatic or likable as her husband. That is a state Trump could win.

It will not be easy to break the "Blue Wall," though, and elections for governor in off-year or midterm elections are very different from Presidential elections. A big reason for this is different voters turn out, and mid-term election demographics tend to favor Republicans. New Jersey has consistently given the Democrats big margins. It has been closer in Michigan, but Obama widened the margins there.

So, no, the Electoral College is far from a lock for Hillary Clinton - especially if Trump can peel off one or more "Blue Wall" states. If the wall holds, though, Trump's path to victory is very narrow. Keeping Clinton from picking up another 28 electoral votes beyond the "Blue Wall" will be difficult. If Obama's get-out-the-vote machine is in place for this election, that makes Trump's chances even smaller.

Both Clinton and Trump are very fortunate to be running against each other. They are two deeply flawed candidates who are disliked by wide swaths of their own parties - even by Republican and Democrat voters who plan on voting for their respective party's nominees. Hillary Clinton is favored to win because of the Electoral College math, but her victory is by no means assured.