A Clinton Landslide: What It Would Mean For Democrats And Republicans

A Hillary Clinton landslide victory this November – something that would have seemed almost inconceivable only one year ago – is now starting to look more and more likely. But just what will this mean for Democrats and Republicans? This will depend on the scale of the “landslide.” But Republicans – and particularly those Republicans running for reelection this year – are terrified to learn the answer.

This time last year, Donald Trump’s ascendancy as the Republican nominee for president still looked highly improbable, while Hillary Clinton’s popularity ratings were only slightly higher than cholera. The idea that Clinton might have a chance at a landslide by sweeping not only the battleground states, but also many states that have long been securely Republican would have seemed insane. What a difference a year can make.

Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally.
Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

In many ways, Trump himself has been primarily responsible for Clinton’s rise in the polls. Trump’s seemingly incurable case of foot-in-mouth disease has made Hillary Clinton look amazing – not to mention presidential – by comparison. Trump has laid the foundations for a landslide, but not for himself.

In recent election cycles, the terminology for victory used by the news media and political pundits has gotten a bit vague. How you define a “landslide,” versus a “mandate from the people” or a “squeaker,” isn’t entirely clear.

At the beginning of the 20th century, landslide elections were the norm. Virtually every presidential election in the ’20s and ’30s was won in a landslide. In 1932, FDR crushed incumbent Herbert Hoover, taking 472 electoral college votes to 59 for Hoover.

As Nate Silver points out at FiveThirtyEight, the last presidential landslide was Reagan’s 1984 victory over Mondale. In fact, Reagan’s landslide was the most lopsided in history, with Reagan winning almost every state.

So Clinton winning by 50 electoral college votes or getting five more states than Trump wouldn’t necessarily be considered a landslide. It will take something more dramatic than that. It’s unlikely that Clinton can match the unprecedented landslide victory by Reagan. But just what is likely or possible this election cycle?

Currently in the national polls, Clinton is running roughly 5-15 percentage points ahead of Donald Trump. These numbers vary from state to state and depending on which poll you’re looking at, but overall they look very much like a potential landslide for Hillary Clinton.

Looking just at the South, Trump is behind in Virginia, North Carolina, Florida, Georgia, and – in some polls – is almost tied in South Carolina. Most of the states are ones that Trump absolutely needs to win, and that Republicans usually – or always – win. Landslide victories are made from shifts like this.

In the Rust Belt states like Pennsylvania and Ohio where Trump hoped to be competitive, he is again looking at a potential blowout by Clinton. Trump’s hope that – since he was a native-born New Yorker – he could somehow pull that state away from the Democrats is also turning out to be a pipe dream.

Trump’s comments suggesting Mexicans are all drug dealers and rapists haven’t won him many votes among Hispanics. States with high Hispanic populations – like Florida and Arizona – are clearly polling away from Trump and toward Clinton. While it’s unlikely that Texas’ high Hispanic population can make a difference there, it’s still a concern for Republicans.

So what does this all mean? It suggests the chance of a landslide victory by Hillary Clinton in November is relatively high. More than this, since more and more Republican voters – and voters in general – are now voting straight ticket rather than splitting their ticket, Clinton’s coattail effect can be even greater.

This means Mitch McConnell and even Paul Ryan might have new offices next year. As the Washington Post reports, Ryan has tacitly acknowledged this by admitting Republicans might be facing a landslide.

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI (L) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) walk together.
Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI (L) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) walk together. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Based on these facts, and if the current polling trends hold through the election, Hillary Clinton can not only sweep herself into the White House, but she may also have enough momentum to flip the Senate – and possibly even the House by a hair – back to the Democratic Party. And given the current disarray in the Republican Party and long-term demographic changes in major Republican strongholds, it’s possible that the Democrats could hold onto these gains for quite some time.

[Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images]