October 3, 2016

FiveThirtyEight: What happens if Johnson wins NM?


Andy Lyman

Gary Johnson poses for a picture during a lowrider event

Will New Mexico be in play this presidential election? That’s the question following the release of an Albuquerque Journal poll by Research and Polling, Inc. Sunday (which NM Political Report wrote about).

And it’s a question polling guru Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight looked into Monday.

The bottom line is that the FiveThirtyEight model still has Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton as a heavy favorite to win the state. While the poll was close between Clinton and Republican nominee Donald Trump, FiveThirtyEight still has Clinton an 82 percent favorite to win the state, down from 85 percent before the poll.

And despite Gary Johnson polling over 20 percent, Johnson’s odds of winning New Mexico are still under five percent.

So will New Mexico be a deciding state?

If Johnson were to somehow win the state, that could cause deadlock where no candidate gets the required 270 electoral votes, sending the election to the U.S. House of Representatives. Republicans are overwhelming favorites to keep control of the U.S. House.

It’s not far-fetched to think the Electoral College would be close enough that New Mexico would make the difference, and it’s not totally crazy to think that Johnson could win his home state. But for both to occur together is quite a parlay.1 In 20,000 simulations of our polls-only model this morning, cases in which neither Clinton nor Trump received a majority of electoral votes and Johnson received at least one came up just 30 times, putting the chances at 0.15 percent. Most of those did involve Johnson winning New Mexico, sometimes along with Alaska (probably his second-best state).

Even with the impressive result for Johnson, his 24 percent is still 11 percent behind Clinton and 7 percent behind Trump.