WASHINGTON — Donald Trump barnstormed across much of Florida in the space of about 24 hours this week: Miami, Orlando and Pensacola on Wednesday followed by Jacksonville on Thursday.
It shouldn’t be a surprise. There’s almost no path to the presidency for the real estate mogul if he loses the nation’s most important swing state, most analysts say.
Polls suggest Democrat Hillary Clinton is likely to win the 18 states that have gone blue since 1992: California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington and Wisconsin.
That would give her 239 electoral votes, only 31 short of the 270 necessary to win the White House. Add the three votes for the District of Columbia and that gets her to 242.
Which means the former secretary of State crosses the finish line if she captures the Sunshine State and its 29 electoral votes.
“If we win Florida, we will win this election,” President Obama said at a rally in Miami on Thursday to support Clinton.
The challenging electoral terrain is something Trump has inherited, said Larry Sabato, a political scientist at the University of Virginia,
“The Republican path to the White House is always narrow, at least in the modern era,” Sabato said. “So 29 votes — there’s no way for him to make it up on this (2016 electoral) map. He just can’t do it.”
A poll-driven, computer-generated forecasting model used by The New York Times’ Upshot blog finds that Trump has 276 paths to get 270 electoral votes if he wins Florida and 39 if he doesn’t.
Sabato’s not sure he has as many as 39.
If Trump wins Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin in addition to all the states GOP nominee Mitt Romney won in 2012, he wouldn’t need Florida, the political scientist said.
“But tell me how he’s going to do that?” Sabato said. “He’s behind in Pennsylvania. He’s behind in Michigan. He’s behind in Wisconsin. The only one he can probably carry is Ohio.”
Trump, a New York native, has cast himself as a different kind of Republican whose business background and anti-establishment credentials play well in the traditionally Democratic states.
Clinton would still have 224 paths to victory if she lost Florida. That’s in part because she could win three states that have gone blue in five of the past six elections (Iowa, New Hampshire and New Mexico) and two states that have gone blue in four of the past six (Nevada and Ohio).
The good news for Trump is that Florida remains a tossup, according to most handicappers.
When he was in Pensacola on Wednesday, Trump told the audience some advisers questioned why he would come back to an area where he’s already got strong support. He said it was a show of gratitude — “I love this area” — but it didn’t hurt that it was in a state crucial to winning the presidency.
“In six days, we are going to win the state of Florida and we are going to win the White House,” he told the appreciative crowd.
Contributing: Melissa Nelson Gabriel, Pensacola News Journal