Pennsylvania and Michigan give Donald Trump his greatest chance for posting an Election Day surprise, while victories in Colorado and Nevada could seal the deal for Hillary Clinton, according to a Goldman Sachs analysis of what to expect in presidential voting.
Voters hit the polls Tuesday morning as the nation looks to elect its 45th president.
Goldman's views hold largely with the consensus, though it makes room for surprises not foretold in prediction markets and polling. Economist Alec Phillips told clients:
Our central election expectation continues to be that (Secretary) Clinton wins the White House, with a slim Democratic majority in the Senate — quite possibly a 50-50 split with the vice president breaking the tie —and a somewhat smaller Republican majority in the House than the 246 seats they currently hold.
For Trump, the path to victory comes through states that haven't voted Republican for decades.
Mr. Trump has been outperforming other recent Republicans in both states, and polls in both have tightened over the last week. That said, no Republican has won either state since 1988, and while Mr. Trump has made some inroads in both places, he has not won a single poll in either state this year, though he has come close. Both states also inject a bit more uncertainty due their lack of a significant early vote — Pennsylvania has very little early voting, and Michigan does not report early vote data based on party registration — and because these industrial states would appear to be the sort of place where a Brexit-like surprise, if it were to materialize anywhere, might be most likely.
In Clinton's case, two states with only a handful of electoral votes — nine for Colorado, six for Nevada — could push her over the 270 mark, when viewed by the timetable that states are likely to follow for reporting results.
At this stage, both states appear to favor Sec. Clinton by narrow margins, and look more likely than any others to provide the marginal 270th electoral vote to the winner. In Nevada, polls show Mr. Trump with a narrow 2 (percentage point) advantage, but early voting patterns favor Sec. Clinton. With early voting now over, (18,000) more Democratic-registered voters turned out than Republican-registered voters. ... In Colorado, polls have tightened somewhat, showing a 3 (percentage point) lead for Sec. Clinton. Early voting in the state also leans in Clinton's direction; Democratic-registered voters are roughly even with Republican-registered voters, an improvement over their 3 (percentage point) early voting deficit in 2012 (President Obama won Colorado by 5.4 (percentage points) despite this). If Sec. Clinton wins both states, along with the states noted above, she would have reached 274 electoral votes.
There are other battlegrounds, of course — Florida, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia and New Hampshire among them — that could tile the race.
For the hard-core election follower, Goldman provides the following timetable to use when watching the results.