Maine could decide the presidential election

If you think your vote doesn’t matter on election day because you live in Maine, think again.  There is a very, very real possibility Maine — particularly Maine’s second congressional district, could decide the election.

One electoral vote?  Yes.  One electoral vote.

Let’s start by taking a look at the state of the race as it stands right now.  According to the RealClear Politics “no toss-up” polling average of the states, this is the current state of the race as of the time I write this:

Now, in fairness, the “no toss-up” map awards a state to the current leader in each state, even if (as is the case in Florida) one of the candidates is leading by less than one percent.  None the less, the map you are looking at right now is very much a realistic possibility, and it shows Hillary Clinton barely clinging to an electoral college lead.

So, how can Maine swing the election?

Glad you asked.  It can swing it in many ways.  Here are a few incredibly realistic scenarios that show how Donald Trump winning, or losing the state of Maine (or one of its electoral votes) would actually decide the election:

Donald Trump wins Maine outright

If the RealClear Politics “no toss-ups” map stays exactly the same, but Maine goes for Donald Trump, he wins.

Maine, as most of you know, awards two electoral votes for the winner of the state, and one for the winner of each congressional district.  So, at a bare minimum, somebody who wins Maine will get at least three electoral votes, possibly four.

Trump would have to pull off the improbable, and win the state, and also win both congressional districts to win the race.  If he did that, the electoral college would be in a 269-269 tie (every political junkie’s fantasy), and the election would be decided in the House of Representatives, which is currently controlled by the Republican Party. They would, of course, vote for their own nominee.

This, however, is quite a long shot.  While most observers think Trump will likely win the second district, he has never polled particularly well in the first.  His winning three electoral votes is usually predicated on him running up the score in the second district and limiting the damage in the first.  But to win, in this scenario, he would need all four.

Still, it isn’t impossible.  The last two polls of Maine put Clinton’s lead in the state at four points and five points, respectively.

Donald Trump wins New Hampshire, Maine’s Second District, and Hillary Clinton Wins Nebraska’s Second District

This one is a bit tricky, but if the above map stays the same, and Donald Trump wins New Hampshire, he would tie up the electoral college 269-269, and the election would be sent to the House of Representatives, which as in the first scenario would allow him to win.

This is where Maine’s second district comes in.

If, in addition to Trump winning New Hampshire, he won Maine’s second district, he would win the 270 votes needed to win the electoral college outright, and we wouldn’t have to go to the House of Representatives.  So in that respect, Maine would put him over the top.

If, however, Donald Trump won New Hampshire while Hillary Clinton won Nebraska’s second congressional district (which, like Maine, is worth one electoral vote), that would get her back to 270 electoral votes, and the win.  In that instance, Maine’s second district flipping to Trump would, once again, decide the election by bringing the election back to a tie, and allowing Trump to win in the House of Representatives.

This is not a crazy scenario.  Barack Obama won a single electoral vote in Nebraska in 2008, and New Hampshire is a perennial swing state that Donald Trump did very well in during the primary.

Donald Trump Wins Pennsylvania, Loses Ohio, and Wins Maine

This one is a bit tricky, but entirely possible.

So if the “no toss-ups” map holds true, but Donald Trump loses Ohio, and wins Pennsylvania, he would lose the election to Hillary Clinton 271-267.

Unless he wins Maine, that is.

First of all, this scenario is not one typically predicted, but it may (in my mind) be one of the more likely outcomes.  Trump is currently holding a narrow three point lead in Ohio, but Hillary Clinton was leading the state last week.  This one, particularly with turnout unpredictable right now, could go either way.

Similarly in Pennsylvania.  The last three polls conducted in that state show Clinton with a lead of four points, four points, and two points.  Back in March I identified Pennsylvania as one of the more likely blue states to turn red, if Trump prosecuted his campaign correctly. He still has a realistic chance at the state.

So, in that scenario, the winner of Maine would win the election.  Yes, Maine.

If Hillary wins Maine, she gets 270 or 271 electoral votes (depending if she wins the second district or not), and wins the election.

If Donald wins Maine, he will get 270 electoral votes (or, 271 if he miraculously pulls off a win in the first district), and will win the election.

Maine, in this quirky but entirely possible scenario, would be the kingmaker and decide the election.

These aren’t the only situations where Maine could decide the election

There are others.  If you enjoy playing with maps — as I do — you can come up with your own scenarios by heading over to 270 to Win.  Start giving states to one candidate or another, and see how it impacts the results.

The thing is, though, that the other electoral college maps you can come up with will be far less likely than the three possibilities that I have laid out for you here.

You can come up with one where Trump wins Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and North Carolina but loses Florida, and again, Maine would decide the election.  That, and everything else you’ll find, while fun, is almost certainly not going to happen.

But, what I’ve shown you here is, in fact possible, and not at all a stretch of the imagination.

How cool would it be to see the talking head pundits on TV saying things like, “it all comes down to Maine…” and seeing them report on returns from The County?

Matthew Gagnon

About Matthew Gagnon

Matthew Gagnon, of Yarmouth, is the Chief Executive Officer of the Maine Heritage Policy Center, a free market policy think tank based in Portland. Prior to Maine Heritage, he served as a senior strategist for the Republican Governors Association in Washington, D.C. Originally from Hampden, he has been involved with Maine politics for more than a decade.