Giving It the Old Electoral College Try

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Both conventions are history. Now the real presidential campaign begins.

As you know, the magic number — the number of electoral college votes needed to win the presidency — is 270. (Why it’s called a college remains a mystery to me. There is no campus, I assure you.)

Each state is accorded a specific number of votes, the number of House members plus the two senators. D.C. is treated as a state and has three electoral votes. D.C. voted for president for the very first time in 1964, after the 23rd Amendment was passed. The District has always voted for the Democrat.

If you want to follow the campaign and earn the right to call yourself an expert (or at least a pundit), pay close attention to where Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump spend their time. Nothing is more important than these personal visits to battleground states. They are called battleground states because neither candidate feels that he or she has them in the bag.

Remember: If you win a state by one vote, you get all that state’s votes, the ultimate winner- take-all. This is true except for two states, Nebraska and Maine, which award their electoral votes based on who wins each congressional district. (More about that later.)

The most crucial battleground state is Florida (29 electoral votes), which now has the third-largest population in the Union, right after California (55 electoral votes) and Texas (38 electoral votes). California is firmly in Clinton’s column, and Texas is just as firmly in Trump’s column. In fact,thelasttimetheDemocratswonTexaswas in 1968. Hubert Humphrey carried it, surprisingly.

Obama carried Florida twice, in 2008 and 2012. Four years ago, he won by less than one percent. The fight for Florida’s vote will center on the center of the state, the I-75 corridor. What helps Clinton is the large number of Latino voters. More than 650,000 voters of Puerto Rican heritage have moved to central Florida. Clinton is counting on them to turn out and vote for her. You can bet vice-presidential nominee Sen. Tim Kaine will be there quite a bit, using his proficiency in Spanish to great advantage. Trump hopes to do well with the large Republican base. Since Sen. Marco Rubio is running for reelection, Trump hopes to collect Rubio (and GOP) loyalists. The Miami area and South Florida, with a sizable Jewish population, will be for Clinton.

I noted earlier how Nebraska awards its electoral votes. Last week, Clinton campaigned in Omaha. She hopes to win Nebraska’s second congressional district and get one electoral vote in the state. Obama won it in 2008 but lost it in 2012.

Billionaire Warren Buffett campaigned with her. Michael Bloomberg and Mark Cuban are also for Clinton. A very elite sub-group: Billionaires for Hillary.

My next column: The State of Ohio.

*Political analyst Mark Plotkin is a contributor to the BBC on American politics and a contributor to TheHill.com. Reach him at markplotkindc@gmail.com.*

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