Election Night 2016: What to look out for

Tomorrow night (finally) brings the end to the 2016 Presidential Election. How will it turn out? How soon will we really know the results? What should we look out for?

Well, while some of you may spend tomorrow evening watching CNN, Fox, NBC, or your personal favorite political news team analyze results, dive deep into specifics of each county yet to report in, and so forth, the fact of the matter is that there are some specific waypoints that will tell you all you need to know, fairly early in the night as well. The news teams will want you glued to their coverage all night, naturally, but here are the actual caveats what will decide the race (click here to get to the summary):

First of all, here is Nate Silver’s Electoral Map. For those unfamiliar, Nate Silver successfully called the outcomes in 49 of the 50 states in the 2008 U.S. Presidential election, and all 50 in 2012.

Anyway, as you can see, the estimate in the above map (at the time of this writing) is a Hillary Clinton victory, with about 297 electoral votes. There are, however, some light blue states, indicating a closer race (than a dark blue state).

270towin.com also is a great site for an interactive version of the above map, where you can toggle states red, blue, or neutral and find pathways to victory. If you go there now (again, at the time of this writing), you will see the states already filled out that are solid red or solid blue. The remaining states are the “toss-up” states with close races. Granted, if we start clicking around and making the map look like Nate Silver’s, we obviously get the same result: a Clinton win. As it stands, she already starts with 252 electoral votes, meaning she needs to win only 18 more to clinch victory. Conversely, Trump needs 107 electoral votes.

What this means is that Trump has to win the following states: Florida, North Carolina, Ohio, Iowa, Nevada, Arizona, Georgia, and New Hampshire. He can lose Michigan, since it’s only 16 electoral votes but, with Clinton only needing 18 more votes, but most of these states hover right around that number, such that — if Clinton wins any two or three of them, she wins. The caveat to that is, if she wins Ohio or Florida alone, she wins, since they carry 18 and 29 votes respectively — even if she loses every other “toss-up” state, which is unlikely.

Right off the bat, you have the waymark that if Trump loses Ohio or Florida, he has likely lost the whole election, regardless of results that have yet to come in from other states. The only way around this is if Trump unexpectedly flips some other state that is already marked solidly blue and has more votes than Ohio or Florida. Again, this is highly unlikely, but it means, if he lost Ohio or Florida, he’d need to have won Pennsylvania to negate the effect.

Another important thing to note, if you clicked the link above to the 270 map above of states Trump needs to win, and looked closely: that still only gets the race to an unheard of tie. That’s right: if Trump wins Florida, North Carolina, Ohio, Iowa, Nevada, Arizona, Georgia, and New Hampshire, it’s still only a 268-268 tie. In that case, the race is decided in the US House of Representatives.

The bottom line here is that Clinton has a massive electoral map advantage heading into tomorrow night, where she just needs to win 18 electoral votes beyond what is already assumed for her, whereas Trump needs to severely over-perform to the tune of 107 votes just to tie, meaning he’d still need to flip another blue state to actually win.

Therefore, if you are a supporter of one of these two, here’s what you’re looking for:

  • Pennsylvania is expected to go for Clinton (the last time it was red was 1988). If Trump turns this red, he’s having a good night so far, and could possibly be over-performing. If Pennsylvania goes blue, things are on track as expected for a Clinton win.
  • If Pennsylvania goes blue, and Clinton wins either Ohio or Florida, she will be the next President. These two states were the deciding state in 2004 and 2000 respectively, and you can expect news channels to start making their “Projected Winner” announcements at this point, in an effort to be the first to do so. The math is unlikely for Trump to lose either of these two states and Pennsylvania and still win, as he’d have to flip other states that are already expected to vote for Clinton that outweigh these two in electoral votes, and there just aren’t that many options (unless he flips multiple states).
  • If, for some reason, the results for the above states take longer to come in than the others I’ve listed as must-win for Trump, you can simply look to the eastern and mid-western states among the list. That would mean North Carolina, Georgia, Michigan, and Iowa. Michigan is expected to go for Clinton; if it ends up red, Trump is over-performing. North Carolina, Georgia, and Iowa all have to go to Trump; if any of them go blue (as several are expected to do), it is very likely that Trump will lose, because he’d have to flip other expected Clinton states, and that’s just not likely with current available polling.
  • I left out Arizona and Nevada in the above bullet because they are so far out west that the only way they play a role is if, by the time their results come in, Clinton has only won Michigan among the toss-ups, and Trump has won everything else. If Trump has done so, then these two must also both go to Trump, or else Clinton wins.

To sum it all up, it goes like this: if Pennsylvania turns red, it’s going to be an interesting night. If it’s blue, then look to any other toss-up state as listed above. If Trump loses any of them, he’s likely lost the race unless he unexpectedly flips another state or two. If he loses Florida or Ohio after PA is blue, it’s all over.

Hopefully that will help you in what to look out for in all the coverage and analysis tomorrow night.


Tomorrow night (finally) brings the end to the 2016 Presidential Election. How will it turn out? How soon will we really know the results? What should we look out for?

Well, while some of you may spend tomorrow evening watching CNN, Fox, NBC, or your personal favorite political news team analyze results, dive deep into specifics of each county yet to report in, and so forth, the fact of the matter is that there are some specific waypoints that will tell you all you need to know, fairly early in the night as well. The news teams will want you glued to their coverage all night, naturally, but here are the actual caveats what will decide the race (click here to get to the summary):

First of all, here is Nate Silver’s Electoral Map. For those unfamiliar, Nate Silver successfully called the outcomes in 49 of the 50 states in the 2008 U.S. Presidential election, and all 50 in 2012.

Anyway, as you can see, the estimate in the above map (at the time of this writing) is a Hillary Clinton victory, with about 297 electoral votes. There are, however, some light blue states, indicating a closer race (than a dark blue state).

270towin.com also is a great site for an interactive version of the above map, where you can toggle states red, blue, or neutral and find pathways to victory. If you go there now (again, at the time of this writing), you will see the states already filled out that are solid red or solid blue. The remaining states are the “toss-up” states with close races. Granted, if we start clicking around and making the map look like Nate Silver’s, we obviously get the same result: a Clinton win. As it stands, she already starts with 252 electoral votes, meaning she needs to win only 18 more to clinch victory. Conversely, Trump needs 107 electoral votes.

What this means is that Trump has to win the following states: Florida, North Carolina, Ohio, Iowa, Nevada, Arizona, Georgia, and New Hampshire. He can lose Michigan, since it’s only 16 electoral votes but, with Clinton only needing 18 more votes, but most of these states hover right around that number, such that — if Clinton wins any two or three of them, she wins. The caveat to that is, if she wins Ohio or Florida alone, she wins, since they carry 18 and 29 votes respectively — even if she loses every other “toss-up” state, which is unlikely.

Right off the bat, you have the waymark that if Trump loses Ohio or Florida, he has likely lost the whole election, regardless of results that have yet to come in from other states. The only way around this is if Trump unexpectedly flips some other state that is already marked solidly blue and has more votes than Ohio or Florida. Again, this is highly unlikely, but it means, if he lost Ohio or Florida, he’d need to have won Pennsylvania to negate the effect.

Another important thing to note, if you clicked the link above to the 270 map above of states Trump needs to win, and looked closely: that still only gets the race to an unheard of tie. That’s right: if Trump wins Florida, North Carolina, Ohio, Iowa, Nevada, Arizona, Georgia, and New Hampshire, it’s still only a 268-268 tie. In that case, the race is decided in the US House of Representatives.

The bottom line here is that Clinton has a massive electoral map advantage heading into tomorrow night, where she just needs to win 18 electoral votes beyond what is already assumed for her, whereas Trump needs to severely over-perform to the tune of 107 votes just to tie, meaning he’d still need to flip another blue state to actually win.

Therefore, if you are a supporter of one of these two, here’s what you’re looking for:

  • Pennsylvania is expected to go for Clinton (the last time it was red was 1988). If Trump turns this red, he’s having a good night so far, and could possibly be over-performing. If Pennsylvania goes blue, things are on track as expected for a Clinton win.
  • If Pennsylvania goes blue, and Clinton wins either Ohio or Florida, she will be the next President. These two states were the deciding state in 2004 and 2000 respectively, and you can expect news channels to start making their “Projected Winner” announcements at this point, in an effort to be the first to do so. The math is unlikely for Trump to lose either of these two states and Pennsylvania and still win, as he’d have to flip other states that are already expected to vote for Clinton that outweigh these two in electoral votes, and there just aren’t that many options (unless he flips multiple states).
  • If, for some reason, the results for the above states take longer to come in than the others I’ve listed as must-win for Trump, you can simply look to the eastern and mid-western states among the list. That would mean North Carolina, Georgia, Michigan, and Iowa. Michigan is expected to go for Clinton; if it ends up red, Trump is over-performing. North Carolina, Georgia, and Iowa all have to go to Trump; if any of them go blue (as several are expected to do), it is very likely that Trump will lose, because he’d have to flip other expected Clinton states, and that’s just not likely with current available polling.
  • I left out Arizona and Nevada in the above bullet because they are so far out west that the only way they play a role is if, by the time their results come in, Clinton has only won Michigan among the toss-ups, and Trump has won everything else. If Trump has done so, then these two must also both go to Trump, or else Clinton wins.

To sum it all up, it goes like this: if Pennsylvania turns red, it’s going to be an interesting night. If it’s blue, then look to any other toss-up state as listed above. If Trump loses any of them, he’s likely lost the race unless he unexpectedly flips another state or two. If he loses Florida or Ohio after PA is blue, it’s all over.

Hopefully that will help you in what to look out for in all the coverage and analysis tomorrow night.


About the author

Jason L. Hubsch

Jason L. Hubsch

I love music, video games, comic books, pro wrestling, politics, and God -- and not necessarily in that order! If you like any of these, chances are we'll get along.

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