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Fun with the Electoral Map

Having fun with the electoral map creator from

Tomorrow (9 October 2016) is the second presidential debate, at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri. It will be co-moderated by Martha Raddatz and Anderson Cooper. It will be a town hall format, with audience members asking some of the questions of the candidates. But rather than prattle on about what may go down, here are some more interesting maps you can make by playing around at

In general, the goal is to get above 270, but as close as possible to it, while obeying some other rule or rules.

Non-contiguous states

Shows non-touching states adding up to victory

Maybe Trump or Clinton will decide that straightforward victory is too simple, and they will seek to win the 272 votes of these 18 states that do not touch each other. Alaska and Hawaii are freebies, and naturally you pick the biggest prizes first (California, Texas, New York, and Florida), but after that you have to make some choices to make it happen.

Complete the circuit

Shows loop of states adding up to victory

The rest of the country is lava (or just toxic from all the negative campaigning), but you can still get around without visiting it. Each state in this map touches exactly two other states that voted the same way, creating a circuit of 271 votes from 20 states. While still possible without Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, I don’t believe you can get this close to 270 without it. You can substitute Wyoming for Montana, if you care to.

East-West split

Shows all states up to Michigan for one party

Divided government? How about a divided country. Roughly half of the population of the country lives east of the Mississippi River. So going east-to-west, you can win everything shy of Wisconsin, Illinois, and Mississippi and attain a narrow victory. It’s 28 states (plus DC) for 272 votes.

Big states rule

Shows physically-largest states selected

There’s so much room for government activities. 24 states for 277 EVs in the states with the largest land area. Due to the way our country developed, most of the big states are out west.

Full states rule

Shows population-largest states selected

The minimum states to win, 11, coming in at a clean 270 votes.

An odd victory

Shows states with an odd number of electoral votes selected

By happenstance these 25 states (plus DC) that have odd numbers of electoral votes add up to a victory of 272 votes.

Alphabetical states

Shows states selected alphabetically

All the states from A-for-Alabama to M-for-Mississippi (but not M-for-Montana or M-for-Missouri), it takes 24 states alphabetically to earn 272 votes.

By their order of admission to the union

Shows states selected chronologically

All 26 of the states admitted up to Michigan (1837) gives you a vote count of 285. Washington, DC, was founded in 1791, but not given votes for nearly 200 years, so it doesn’t count here.

It’s fun to play around with the electoral vote maps, even though one has to delve deep into the imagination to come up with scenarios to match these maps (a constitutional amendment that changes the order of the alphabet, or a bunch of states becoming lava).

If you come up with an interesting map, feel free to leave a comment.

Veep Debate 2016

This week will see the 2016 Vice-presidential Debate. Some thoughts on that.

Indiana Governor Mike Pence is practicing for his debate against Virginia Senator Tim Kaine (also practicing). The debate will be on Tuesday 4 October 2016, at Longwood University in Virginia. Elaine Quijano will moderate.

Vice-presidential debates are typically of little matter. They aren’t running to be the leader, so a passing performance is all that’s needed. But, as Trump did not do very well against Hillary Clinton in the first debate, the question arises: what happens if Pence outshines his star?

That’s not to predict a Pence win—Kaine will undoubtedly bring a solid performance of his own. It’s just a general question: how will the electorate respond if it appears that the sidekick is the stronger of the two.

Back when it was time to speculate on veep choices, I pointed out that basically anybody that Trump could pick would have more experience than he does. And, of course, that’s the case. But it’s not clear that the contrast has been made to the electorate, and if it will become clear, the VP debate is that time.

Given the obscurity of the event, the damage is surely limited, but even if only a few Trump voters clue-in to the fact that they’ve got a kind of corporate-inversion ticket on their hands, they might be discouraged. This is especially true if they remember the talk from Governor Kasich of Ohio that Trump basically offered him the position of policy puppeteer.

To put it another way, Hillary Clinton may have been debating someone who plans to be a figurehead if elected, while Kaine may end up debating the one who seeks to handle much of the actual function of the presidency. In that case, the media should really be vetting Paul Ryan for a succession scenario where Pence were to become incapacitated.

In any case, Kaine is more moderate, while Pence is something of an arch-conservative, so the debate will probably be fairly ho-hum except where it applies to the tops of their tickets. Neither of them will open with “Who am I? Why am I here?” as James Stockdale did in 1992. But maybe they should. Almost everything the electorate knows about them is a few clips from their highlight reels on their records (Pence’s needle-exchange opposition, anti-abortion restrictions, etc.; Kaine’s being a moderate Democrat on every issue).

With Trump and Clinton absent, the debate will feature fewer interruptions from Trump—though who knows, he may try to call in. But both Kaine and Pence will inevitably weigh in on the 200-pound candidate sitting on his bed. Pence will do his best to allay fears of Trump, while Kaine will do his best to contrast the inexperience of Trump with the experience of Clinton. But it may also serve him well to point out the experience gap between Trump and his own running mate.

First Debate 2016

What will go down in the first presidential debate of 2016.

In the green corner, we have Donald Trump. In the blue corner, Hillary Clinton. They will square off on Monday (26 September 2016) in their first televised debate. Clinton has been practicing and studying hard. Trump, opting for the non-traditional route, has instead been trying to find someone (and probably using his foundation’s money to pay them) to defeat his son’s Skittle® Riddle so he can eat the damned things.

This first debate features Lester Holt as moderator, and it takes place in Hempstead, New York, at Hofstra University (motto: Je maintiendrai, which is French). The topics will be the direction of the nation, how to achieve prosperity, and how to maintain security.

One expects Clinton to be well versed on the issues, prepared for almost anything (even for Trump quitting the race mid-debate). She knows Trump’s policy proposals better than he does, at this point. She’s had strong debate practice, both in ’08 against then-Senator Obama, and this year against Senator Sanders.

People question “which Trump” will show up. I haven’t seen any firm numbers on that, but I’m pretty sure there’s just one Trump. People have surely figured out that him acting nice on a stage and Trump-like on the trail is just the two-faced nature of this guy. That is, I don’t think Trump gains anything by acting any particular way, except maybe from the press. The press seems to think it’s an asset of Trump’s to be able to wait until after the debate to brag-tweet about not calling Clinton “Crooked Hillary” (“Lincoln, eat your heart out!”).

Trump’s only real debate experience at this level is his involvement as one of the leaders of the Birther movement, the movement to somehow disprove the fact that President Obama was born in Hawaii. The primary debates, while entertaining, were mostly about him sniping other candidates and then letting the throng beg the moderators to let them respond.

Trump will tell us how tough he’ll be on ISIL, and Clinton will ask him how he can be tough on them when all they’ll need is his tax returns in order to assure his capitulation to their wants. Trump will claim he’ll be the law-and-order president, Clinton will point out that racism is not a viable strategy for dealing with economic problems or criminal justice reform.

They’ll both say they’ll create lots of jobs. Trump will say he’ll do it by reducing trade (which ignores the loss of export jobs), Clinton by increasing government programs and fostering investment. On the direction of the country, Trump will say he’ll make America great again. Clinton will say we should all move forward together. In other words, some slogans.

Will there be any big surprise of the debate? Will one of the candidates spontaneously combust? Will Trump, by virtue of appearing on the same stage, look presidential? Will his supposed unpredictability help him or harm him? Who will win?

We’ll see Monday. Trump should probably have practiced.