US Elections 2016: Final countdown

Defeat looms for The Donald

Mr Trump is clinging on to his hopes of becoming president despite rapidly declining support. Forecasts have his chances of winning at as low as 1 per cent.
Mr Trump is clinging on to his hopes of becoming president despite rapidly declining support. Forecasts have his chances of winning at as low as 1 per cent.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

National polls and analysts have Clinton as big favourite to win

Last week, European online betting firm Paddy Power started paying out to punters who picked a Hillary Clinton victory on Nov 8.

"With national polls showing a healthy lead for the Democratic candidate and Donald Trump's campaign running into scandal after scandal, Paddy Power believes it's a done deal and that Hillary is a nailed-on certainty to occupy the Oval Office," the firm said in a statement.

The move might have been a publicity stunt but there is an increasing consensus among poll forecasters and political watchers that the election will likely go Mrs Clinton's way.

POSSIBLE, BUT NOT LIKELY

The challenge for Donald Trump is that he is possibly the least popular presidential candidate in modern times, and he's tasked with pulling off the greatest comeback in the history of the polling era with just two weeks to go. Is that possible? Sure. Is it likely? No, not at all. Clinton is a very big favourite.

MANAGING EDITOR OF SABATO'S CRYSTAL BALL KYLE KONDIK

SLIM CHANCE

Donald Trump's chances in our model are about one in seven, and you'd expect a candidate with a one-in-seven chance to win about one presidential election every 28 years. So while it would be a rare occurrence, we're not quite in once-in-a-lifetime territory.

STATISTICIAN NATE SILVER OF FIVETHIRTYEIGHT 

With less than two weeks to go and Mr Trump trailing in nearly every single poll, most analysts say the election race is over. A glance at the topline numbers from the forecasters shows how much of a hole the Republican campaign is in.

FiveThirtyEight, perhaps the most famous forecaster, gives Mrs Clinton an 86 per cent chance of getting into the Oval Office. Five others, including the New York Times, Huffington Post and PredictWise, all put the probability at above 90 per cent. The Princeton Election Consortium currently gives Mrs Clinton a 99 per cent chance of winning.

While the University of Virginia team behind the popular political newsletter Sabato's Crystal Ball doesn't provide a probability prediction, its analysis of polling currently has the Democrat winning a landslide-esque 352 electoral college votes out of 538.

Under the electoral college vote system, states are allocated a certain number of electoral votes according to population. Candidates need 270 votes to secure a majority.

The University of Virginia team considers only two states now as toss-ups - Utah and Iowa - meaning it is predicting a Clinton sweep of all the biggest battleground states, such as Florida, Ohio, North Carolina and Pennsylvania.

The fact that Utah, a state that has not voted Democrat since 1964, is currently a toss-up shows just how big a task Mr Trump's campaign faces.

As Mr Kyle Kondik, managing editor of Sabato's Crystal Ball, told The Straits Times: "The challenge for Donald Trump is that he is possibly the least popular presidential candidate in modern times, and he's tasked with pulling off the greatest comeback in the history of the polling era with just two weeks to go. Is that possible? Sure. Is it likely? No, not at all. Clinton is a very big favourite."

The Clinton edge is also holding in an analysis of votes cast where early voting has already begun. A recent Associated Press analysis gave Mrs Clinton the advantage in Florida, North Carolina and even Arizona, while there are good signs for the Trump campaign in Ohio and Iowa.

Even if the real estate tycoon defies the odds in every major battleground state - Florida, Ohio, North Carolina, Nevada and Iowa - he still finds himself short of the 270-vote mark without turning at least one traditional blue state over to his side. And he needs to do that without any attempt to reach out to minority voters and a deep disadvantage in terms of the ground game and money.

Mr Trump, of late, has started to question the polls and that remains the sliver of hope for those still hoping for a Trump comeback - that the polling is currently under-representing the support for the businessman. One popular theory is that there are many Trump voters too ashamed to say to pollsters they will vote for Mr Trump, but who will do so in the privacy of the voting booth.

However, researchers have tended to discount such a theory because most polls are conducted anonymously anyway and the preponderance of Trump signs suggests his supporters aren't that shy.

There is a caveat to all the predictions though, and one that should prevent either side from being too despondent or too confident. As statistician Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight stresses, a small probability of victory should not be read as a sure thing.

"Donald Trump's chances in our model are about one in seven, and you'd expect a candidate with a one-in-seven chance to win about one presidential election every 28 years. So while it would be a rare occurrence, we're not quite in once-in-a-lifetime territory," he wrote.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 26, 2016, with the headline 'Defeat looms for The Donald US Elections 2016: Final countdown'. Print Edition | Subscribe