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Where America stands one day ahead of Election Day

It's not over until it's over—but we're getting close.


Andrew Couts


Posted on Nov 7, 2016   Updated on May 25, 2021, 3:37 pm CDT

America’s long national nightmare is nearly over.

With less than 24 hours before Americans take to the polls for the final day of voting in the 2016 election, the race between Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump remains tight—but not a toss-up.

Here’s a quick rundown of the key poll numbers, states to watch, and details you need to know before descending into the anxious abyss of Election Night coverage as Trump and Clinton fight for 270 electoral votes.

What the national polls are saying

Despite a tightening in the race in the final two weeks of the election, Clinton remains ahead in both national polls and in key battleground states. 

All of the final national polls show Clinton with a three- or four-point lead over Trump. The Real Clear Politics (RCP) average—a widely watched figure among politicos—gives Clinton a 2.2-point lead over Trump, nationally. 

One thing to note: These final polls were conducted before FBI Director James Comey announced that the new emails investigators discovered on former New York Rep. Anthony Wiener‘s laptop changed nothing in his decision to not recommend charges against Clinton or her staff for their use of a private server during her time as secretary of state. 

Key point: The latest news is good for Clinton and stands to only bolster her support—if it changes anything at all, which isn’t particularly likely.

Where the battleground states stand

Of course, presidents are not decided by a national vote; it all comes down to the states. There are currently anywhere from four to 14 states that remain in the toss-up column, depending on which model you’re looking at. 


Going with the most conservative toss-up map, from RCP, here are the average poll numbers in those 14 potential toss-up states:

    *Maine awards a total of four electoral votes; two go to the overall popular vote winner, while each of its two congressional districts award an additional one electoral vote.

    Key states to watch

    As the results come in over excruciating hours on Tuesday night, there are a couple of states you need to keep an eye on, because the outcomes there could effectively determine the entire outcome of the election, or at least make the rest of the night more of a nail-biter.

    Maine and New Hampshire: These two states are effectively Clinton’s northeastern firewall, as the pundits call it. If Clinton loses here, it opens up a greater possibility of a Trump win—or, gasp, a tie. (In that scenario, the House of Representatives would pick the president.) That said, it looks unlikely that Trump will win all four of Maine’s electoral votes, though it’s entirely possible he’ll win one. 

    New Hampshire is less certain, but the latest polls have Clinton up as much as 11 points in the state; however, Trump won big in New Hampshire in the primary, so a lot of people are going to be holding their breath after polls close at 7pm ET. 

    Pennsylvania: Clinton is the safe favorite in Pennsylvania, but it remains a close race. If she loses here, however, it bodes poorly for her in other East Coast toss-up states and would make it difficult for her to close the gap to 270.

    Ohio and North Carolina: Trump is ahead in both of these states—and he needs to win them. Without either Ohio or North Carolina, Trump’s path to victory relies on him flipping at least two other states from Clinton.

    Michigan and Wisconsin: Clinton maintains steady leads in both of these states, but they are by no means runaways for her. If Clinton loses either Michigan or Wisconsin, Trump opens up a whole new path to victory that’s far less precarious than where he currently stands.

    Florida: The Sunshine State is a must-win for Trump—as in, if he doesn’t win Florida, there is next to zero chance that he can win the election. If Clinton wins Florida, she could lose New Hampshire, all of Maine, Ohio, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Nevada, and still come out the ahead of Trump.

    What the prediction models are saying

    So, that’s the most conservative look at the electoral map—meaning the one that puts the most states into the toss-up category. Others are less vague in their outcome: FiveThirtyEight gives Clinton a 68 percent chance of taking the White House to Trump’s 32 percent; CNN gives Clinton a 92 percent chance; the New York Times puts Clinton’s chances at 84 percent; the Los Angeles Times predicts Clinton will win with 352 electoral votes. 

    In fact, not a single major prediction model predicts a Trump win. The real question now is, are the polls right?

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    *First Published: Nov 7, 2016, 2:21 pm CST