If you set aside everything that Donald Trump has said and done over the last year and a half and also discount the fact that Hillary Clinton is the first female nominee of a major political party in America; even if you ignore both candidates entirely and assume that the election was between a tin of baked beans and a tin of spaghetti, then the way that this election will turn out well be entirely expected.
The way that the United States elects a President is via a method which is so arcane and utterly ridiculous that it has been copied by precisely zero other countries. The Electoral College awards one vote for every seat in the Congress, plus three extra votes for D.C. which it would have had if it had been a state; bringing the total number of Electoral College votes to 538 with 270 being required to win. Those Electoral College votes are then allocated to the states to decide how to apportion them but most states in the union award them on a winner takes all basis; thus for the vast majority of states, polling companies only need know who will win the state and so building predictive maps is relatively easy.
In 2016, without even looking at the map as I write this, most of the blue states are on the east and west coast, with outliers like Colorado and New Mexico also being blue. Most of the states in the middle are red and have been ever since the last seismic shift in American politics, which happened after the Southern Democratic Party imploded. Most of the so called "flyover" states which remain socially conservative, vote Republican and the only truly strangely swinging state is Florida which blinks red and blue like a mad thing.
Thus, if you look at the predictive Electoral College map for the 2016 election, it looks broadly the same as 2012 and 2008, which is when Obama was elected. Usually the next election after a President has sat two terms is far more open but on this occasion, even if you completely ignore both candidates entirely, what we're left with is an Electoral College map which basically describes the numbers of rusted on voters in America.
These three maps tell the most telling story of all:
- Electoral College Results 2008
- Electoral College Results 2012
- Predicted Electoral College 2016
Really apart from the change that each state gets in terms of Electoral College votes, and the fact that Indiana reverted to being a red state in 2012, then rest of the state of play is unchanged.
The United States doesn't have either compulsory voting nor preferential voting, though some states are beginning to toy with the idea of the latter. This means that from an Australian perspective, the United States' voting system looks like one giant effort to overcome laziness by the major parties to get people out of their houses to vote; rather than the begrudging masses in Australia who must give their consent to whomever wants to rule them.
Consequently, this election which will probably have a far lower turnout than either 2012 or 2008, will more than likely send Hillary Clinton to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue simply because that's the way that the rusted on voters will play out. Donald Trump on the other hand has been so offensive to people even within the party upon whose ticket he is running, that they just won't even bother to show up on polling day.
This has severe implications down ballot, with the Republicans fearing that apathy will rage so fiercely that Democrats will win races for both the House and Senate and thus take control of both. If this is the case then the passage of bills through the Congress will be far easier than the obstructionist "Do Nothing" Congress has been for the past eight years; which is ironic considering that a technocratic Hillary Clinton will have got more done than Obama who had a broader vision about what he wanted to achieve. Therein lies the problem.
With factions within the Republican Party splintering off such as the Tea Party, coupled with the total chaos which the global financial crisis wrought, this opened the door wide for a demagogue like Trump to waltz on in and hijack the nomination; which is precisely what happened. Trump represents a disaffected America but is personally a liability; so the resulting Electoral College map will basically be made up of all the states which the parties would have naturally won anyway, with no states being inspired enough to flip from blue to red. Thus the map looks kind of like it has done since 2008.
Presumably if someone like Marco Rubio or Speaker of the House Paul Ryan had won the nomination, then the trajectory from the end of the party convention would have been to try and broaden the voting base. Trump's strategy, if there is indeed such a thing (which I seriously doubt), has been about suring up the existing core of voters who would have voted for him anyway. He might very well pick up 48% of the vote nationwide but he has done nothing about flipping over those states which he needs to go from blue to red in order to swing the Electoral College; from the perspective of an election strategist, that's pure idiocy.
I think that the polls have more or less solidified at this stage and barring the Republican National Committee finding some clause to eject Trump from the ticket, or Trump resigning in a pique of rage, then I think that the results will remain identical to how they stand now.
Clinton 343 def. Trump 195.