Trump vs Clinton, Decision 2016: The factors that will decide the presidential election

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The two US presidential candidates, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton

The two US presidential candidates, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton

In one of the most volatile US presidential elections in recent years, what will be the crucial factors in determining the winner? As a self-proclaimed supporter of Bernie Sanders I don’t agree with Clinton on a number of policies, but I respect the closeness of the race and hope that she’ll prevail against Trump. Opinion polls put both unpopular candidates neck and neck with Clinton holding a razor-thin three-point advantage, with the debates in less than a week. She is trailing Trump in key battleground states in the rust belt like Ohio. But what are the important factors that will help determine their electoral success?

The reason why Republicans lost both the 2008 and 2012 elections was not due to a lack of presentable candidates like John McCain or Mitt Romney but their inability to win over African American or Hispanic voters. Demographic Hispanic shifts across the country, especially in battleground states like Nevada, Florida and Colorado, will give the democrats an inbuilt advantage. With record turnouts expected among Hispanics and African Americans, who make up 22% and 13% of the US population respectively, this could result in a landslide victory.

It is true that Trump has stimulated a predicted rise in white working class voters – people who had previously not voted in recent presidential elections. But he holds less than 1% of the Hispanic vote and less than 4% among African Americans. Partially due to his stances on immigration, the proposed US-Mexican border wall, and endorsements from former grand wizard of the KKK David Duke and white nationalist activist groups like the National policy institute and the American renaissance, African Americans and moderate independents are anti-trump.

The other major factor that will decide this election is effective campaign organisation in battleground states across the country, and the number of campaign offices in these states. The success of presidential candidates is often decided by what is referred to as a ground game and is crucial in their success. This includes basic functions like registering people to vote, getting transportation to the polls for voters, and making sure campaign literature is distributed. On election day this will be vital. A head-to-head comparison will show a dramatic disparity in the the breadth and effectiveness of campaign management.

Hillary Clinton boasts 291 campaign offices spread across 14 battleground states. She has particularly many in her must-win states, including 34 in Florida, 36 in Pennsylvania, 36 in Ohio, 29 in Virginia and 30 in North Carolina. Trump in comparison has 88 spread across the 14 states. He has just 1 campaign office in Florida, 2 in Pennsylvania, 16 in Ohio, 2 of his own offices in Virginia (the other 18 are Republican Party offices), and 1 in North Carolina.  The fact that the Trump campaign does not have the organisation in critical swing states could mean he loses the election. The electoral college numbers in just these 5 states is over 95 electoral college votes out of a possible 540, and if Clinton or Trump wins more votes than the other in any of these states they will take the state’s entire electoral college vote.

In conclusion, the changing demography of the US and a competent ground game will decide the election. Although opinion polls matter, long-term there is no doubt that with Trump’s lack of a ground game a predicted surge in Trump voters will be irrelevant as he’ll struggle to register them to vote. His abysmal showings among anyone who isn’t a poorly educated, elderly, white working class voter shows that he needs to make a decent showing among minority voters such as Hispanics and African Americans. He will otherwise have a tough time making up the ground he has lost in the battleground states.