It would be a “yuge” political earthquake – and shatter Hillary Clinton’s presidential dreams – if Donald Trump won California in November.
Though this is a campaign like no other and a lot of crazy things could happen before Nov. 8, that is highly unlikely to happen.
But Trump does have a decent shot at carrying a good number of California’s 58 counties, based on the June 7 primary results. He would appear to have the best chance in counties where he won more votes than Clinton and where there were more votes cast in the Republican primary than in the Democratic contest.
That puts the list at 21 counties, including El Dorado, Placer and Yuba. Trump also outpolled Clinton in 13 more counties – including Fresno and Stanislaus – but Democrats outnumbered Republicans in the total vote.
Statewide, Trump won 1.66 million of the 2.2 million votes cast in the GOP primary, while Clinton won nearly 2.75 million of the 5.2 million votes on the Democratic side.
That difference in total votes shows how big the gap between the two parties is in California – and how much ground Trump must make up to have any realistic hope of carrying the state. A poll released this week gave Clinton a 46 percent to 30 percent lead over Trump among likely voters. (The last time a Republican won California was George H.W. Bush in 1988 over Michael Dukakis, but the state is far less Republican today).
Before political scientists start screaming, let’s get the caveats out of the way. The primary vote isn’t an absolute predictor of what will happen in November. The electorate could be far different, depending on how many new voters sign up and who actually votes.
There are a lot of political variables. For instance, how many members of the Bernie Sanders army will vote for Clinton? Or will “Bernie or Bust” diehards vote for a minor party candidate, stay home, or even vote for Trump? How many voters who backed other Republican candidates will fall in line behind Trump? How many votes do Libertarian Gary Johnson and Green Party nominee Jill Stein get?
The primary tally, however, does give some indication where Trump’s support is strongest. Many of those counties overlap with the “State of Jefferson.” If they ever secede from blue California, they could call it Trumpland instead.
But these counties have small voting populations, so even if he cleans up, it won’t help him much in November. The winner in the popular vote statewide gets all of California’s 55 electoral votes, a big chunk of the 270 needed to win the presidency.
There have been proposals to divide electoral votes proportionately by percentage of the vote, or by the winner of each congressional district. The thinking is that if California became more competitive, the candidates would actually campaign here and not just use the state as a giant ATM.
In an election year of so many surprises, Clinton and Trump stumping across our state would be one to welcome.
By the numbers
Vote totals in the June 7 primaries in the counties where Republican Donald Trump won more votes than Democrat Hillary Clinton and where total Republican votes exceeded the Democratic total:
- Amador: Trump, 4,868; Clinton, 2,516
- Calaveras: Trump, 5,763; Clinton, 2,971
- Colusa: Trump, 1,712; Clinton, 835
- El Dorado: Trump, 21,889; Clinton, 12,492
- Glenn: Trump, 2,521; Clinton, 911
- Kern: Trump, 50,186; Clinton, 28,806
- Kings: Trump, 7,446; Clinton, 4,150
- Lassen: Trump, 3,231; Clinton, 812
- Madera: Trump, 9,976; Clinton, 5,808
- Mariposa: Trump, 2,296; Clinton, 1,102
- Modoc: Trump, 1,244; Clinton, 281
- Placer: Trump, 41,386; Clinton, 25,249
- Plumas: Trump, 2,710; Clinton, 1,211
- Shasta: Trump, 21,464; Clinton, 7,809
- Sierra: Trump, 531; Clinton, 224
- Siskiyou: Trump, 5,407; Clinton, 2,466
- Sutter: Trump, 8,058; Clinton, 4,023
- Tehama: Trump, 6,651; Clinton, 2,372
- Tulare: Trump, 23,915; Clinton, 13,472
- Tuolumne: Trump, 6,313; Clinton, 3,433
- Yuba: Trump, 5,289; Clinton, 2,388
Source: California Secretary of State