Ground Game

Strange things could happen on the Electoral College map

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump at the second presidential debate in Missouri, a traditional Republican state.
Saul Loeb-Pool/Getty Images
Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump at the second presidential debate in Missouri, a traditional Republican state.

Buoyed by increasingly favorable poll numbers and a massive campaign cash advantage, Hillary Clinton is trying to expand the number of battleground states in a way that could give her the biggest win of any presidential election since 1988.

The result? Come election night, some strange things could happen on the Electoral College map.

Yes, because of the Democratic nominee’s recent rise, some traditional Republican states — such as Arizona, Missouri, and even South Carolina — may have closer-than-anticipated contests.


But while Clinton’s lead has grown in national polls, she isn’t pulling away from Trump in most swing states. In fact, she remains statistically tied in Florida, Ohio, Iowa, and Nevada.

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Consider what polls are showing in some states:

 The presidential contest may be closer in Texas, a deeply Republican state, than it is in Pennsylvania, where Democrats have won every presidential race since 1988. Two recent Texas surveys show Trump leading Clinton within the margin of error, but the Real Clear Politics polling average of Pennsylvania puts the Democrat ahead by more than 6 percent.

 Clinton may have as good a chance of winning Indiana, the GOP-heavy home state of vice presidential nominee Mike Pence, as Trump has in Maine, a state that has not voted for a Republican presidential nominee in 28 years. Real Clear Politics polling averages show Trump ahead by about 5 points in Indiana, and Clinton’s advantage is about the same size in Maine.

 Trump may have a better shot at winning Ohio, the essential swing state where the race is statistically tied, than North Carolina, a state that Democrats have only carried once in presidential races since 1980. Clinton has led every one of the last dozen polls taken in North Carolina


There’s no doubt that most of these developments favor Clinton. Add up even a few of these additional states, and Clinton could get at least as many as the 365 electoral votes that President Obama won in 2008 over Senator John McCain. It’s possible she could win as many as the 400 electoral votes that George H.W. Bush received in his big win over former Massachusetts governor Mike Dukakis in 1988.

And Clinton’s campaign is getting aggressive about running up the score. This week her campaign announced it is putting additional staff and going up with ads in a number of these new states, which could spell an electoral rout if — and it’s still a big “if” — they are successful.

“The fundamentals of this race, which now point to a Clinton win, are largely set at this point,” said Kevin Madden, a veteran of the George W. Bush and Mitt Romney presidential campaigns. “All we’re doing now is making sure the writers at ‘Saturday Night Live’ earn their paycheck.”

Campaigns have two finite resources: time and money. So while Clinton’s campaign is spending money to expand the map, so far Clinton’s schedule has her sticking to the same battleground states that have been fought over for several elections.

“I’d expect the Clinton campaign believes that Trump’s lack of any real turnout infrastructure in states that were expected to be reliably red can be beaten with ads and resources for volunteers instead of candidate travel right now,” Madden said.

James Pindell can be reached at james.pindell@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @jamespindell or subscribe to his daily e-mail update on the 2016 campaign at bostonglobe.com/groundgame