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March 31, 2016

Donald Trump likes to brag that polls show him beating Hillary Clinton in a head-to-head matchup, even though the opposite is true in most surveys. But polls this early out aren't particularly useful for predicting what will happen in November, not least because neither Clinton nor Trump has secured their party's nomination. More to the point, polls reflect the popular vote. "Here at Crystal Ball," note political prognosticator Larry Sabato and his colleagues, "we are going to cling to one central fact about presidential elections: The only thing that matters is accumulating a majority of 270 votes in the Electoral College."

Last May, Sabato and his team at the University of Virginia created a generic Democrat-versus-Republican map that predicted a close election, but now that Clinton and Trump are the likely nominees, they adjusted the map accordingly. The new map "does not show a close and competitive general election," write Sabato, Kyle Kondik, and Geoffrey Skelley.

Sabato's team leaves a healthy amount of wiggle room for the "unexpected twists and turns" sure to come, including "the shape of the economy or terrorism, or the precise job approval rating of President Obama in the autumn, or the gaffes and scandals that may yet unfold," calling their electoral map an "extra-early, ridiculously premature projection." (You can read more about their methodology and assumptions at Sabato's Crystal Ball.) But they aren't going out on the Clinton-landslide limb alone:

Or who knows? If Trump's unfavorable ratings among women keep on their current trajectory, Nate Silver's slightly facetious alternate map starts to look almost plausible. Peter Weber