Hillary Clinton can afford to lose several of the states that are leaning her way and still prevail in America’s presidential election on Tuesday.
By contrast, her rival, Donald Trump, must triumph in all states that have voted Republican in recent elections and then some.
Barring an upset, the first results from the East Coast should tell us if Clinton is indeed likely to succeed Barack Obama in January.
It could be over quickly
The Democrat is almost certain to win the bulk of Northeastern and Midwestern states have voted for her party in the last several elections, including Illinois, Michigan, New York and Pennsylvania.
The states to watch are Florida, North Carolina and Ohio, which have a combined 62 out of 538 electoral votes.
Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight gives Trump a 67-percent chance of winning Ohio, which Obama won in 2012. The property mogul’s popularity with white working-class voters could flip the industrial state back to Republicans for the first time since 2004.
But that’s a trick Trump is unlikely to repeat elsewhere.
In Florida and North Carolina, it are Hispanic and mostly white suburban voters, respectively, who hold the balance. Clinton is more popular with both. She only needs to win one of these swing states to stay on track to get a majority of 270 electoral votes.
The Trump campaign is hoping against hope that they might win in either Michigan or Pennsylvania, states that haven’t voted for a Republican in a generation. If they’re right, it could turn into a very bad night for Clinton after all.
Last stand in the West
There is little doubt about the outcome of the election in the center of the country. Trump is virtually guaranteed to take all states that are on Central Time southwest of Illinois. Clinton is almost certain to win Colorado and New Mexico.
If Trump does better in the East than the prognosticators are expecting, the outcome could hinge on Arizona, Nevada and Utah.
FiveThirtyEight is conservative about Clinton’s prospects in Nevada, but early voting and recent polling figures suggest she is ahead there. Obama won the state in both 2008 and 2012.
Clinton has been competitive in Arizona and NBC still has the state in its tossup category. But if Trump did well in the East, it seems unlikely Clinton could pull off an upset victory here.
Most surveys have Trump ahead in Utah, by some measures the most conservative state in the country. But his unpopularity with Mormon voters might just give third-party candidate Evan McMullin a shot at its six electoral votes.
Clinton’s to lose
In sum, the election is still Clinton’s to lose.
She has consistently been ahead in national opinion poll averages and she has the demographic advantage: Trump may be stealing white working-class voters from the Democrats in Northern industrial states, but it’s not making up for his unpopularity with Hispanics and mostly white middle-class voters in swing states like Nevada, Florida, North Carolina and Virginia (which only switched to the Democrats in 2008).