If New Mexico Voters Want Trump to Be President, They Should Vote for Johnson

 

Gary-Johnson-New-MexicoIn a recent poll by the Albuquerque Journal, New Mexico voters were asked which candidate they support: 35% said Hillary Clinton, 31% said Donald Trump, 24% said Gary Johnson, and 2% said Jill Stein.

As these numbers suggest, if a significant share of Trump supporters were to vote for Johnson, then this would give Johnson a plurality of New Mexico’s voters, which by New Mexico law, would give Johnson all five of New Mexico’s electoral votes.

If the electoral vote among the other states is sufficiently close, this would cause no candidate to win a majority of the Electoral College, which would mean that the presidential race would be decided by the US House of Representatives. Should this happen, the Constitution requires House members to vote by state delegations, whereby each state only has one vote.

The latter rule severely disadvantages Democrats. It means, for example, that California’s 39 House Democrats are just as influential as South Dakota’s one Republican House member. Consequently, because House Democrats tend to be clumped in large states, if the House were given this power, Hillary Clinton’s chance of becoming president would be essentially nil.

Because of all these factors, as I’ll show in the analysis below, New Mexican voters can help Trump the most by voting against him. In the parlance of political science, I’m suggesting that Trump supporters in New Mexico, rather than voting “sincerely” for Trump, should vote “sophisticatedly” for Johnson.

To see why this is their optimal strategy, first recall that there are a total of 538 votes in the Electoral College. Thus, to win a majority, a candidate must win at least 270 of the votes. If the top candidate wins 269 or fewer, then the House, not the Electoral College, decides the election.

Next, suppose it is election night, and let us consider the electoral votes that have been cast by all the states other than New Mexico. One of four things must be true: A) Those states have cast more than 269 votes for Hillary. B) Those states have cast between 265 and 269 votes for Hillary. C) Those states have cast exactly 264 votes for Hillary. D) Those states have cast fewer than 264 votes for Hillary.

Now suppose you are a Trump supporter who resides in New Mexico. For each of the four possibilities, I want to examine whether your optimal strategy is to vote sincerely (for Trump) or sophisticatedly (for Johnson).

First suppose that A has occurred—that Hillary has won more than 269 electoral votes from the non-New Mexico states. Then Hillary wins the presidency no matter how New Mexico votes. Your decision to vote sophisticatedly or sincerely does not matter.

Similar logic applies if D occurs. In this situation Hillary has won fewer than 264 votes from the non-New Mexico states. Even if she wins New Mexico’s five electoral votes, she will have fewer than 269 and Trump will have at least 270. Thus, in this situation Trump wins the presidency regardless how New Mexico votes. Here again, your decision to vote sophisticatedly or sincerely does not matter.

The following should now be obvious: Your decision to vote sophisticatedly or sincerely is only relevant if B or C has occurred—that is, if the non-New Mexico states have cast between 264 and 269 votes for Hillary. Thus, to determine what is your optimal strategy, you need to condition your decision upon the latter event.

Let us now do that. Thus, for the remaining analysis, let us assume that B or C has occurred—that the non-New Mexico states have cast between 264 and 269 votes for Hillary.

Now, if the latter is true, then the national vote between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton must have been close. This, in turn, implies that the expected purple states—which I define as Iowa, Ohio, North Carolina, Florida, Nevada, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Virginia, and New Hampshire—have each voted approximately 50-50 in terms of their support for Trump or Hillary.

In the 2012 presidential election, New Mexico was at least a few points more “blue” than any of these states. That is, of these purple states, Romney received the smallest percentages in Wisconsin (45.9%) and Pennsylvania (46.6%), while his percentage in New Mexico was 42.8%. Because of the large Latino population in New Mexico, it is reasonable to believe that in 2016 New Mexico is even more blue, relative to the above list of purple states, than it was in 2012.

This leads me to my first assumption, one that I think is nearly certain to be true. This is that, if B or C has occurred (and thus the above purple states have voted near 50-50 for Trump and Hillary), then, in New Mexico, Hillary supporters will outnumber Trump supporters. Let me also assume that, consistent with the poll numbers from the Albuquerque Journal, Hillary supporters will outnumber Johnson supporters, but the sum of Johnson and Trump supporters will be greater than the total number of Hillary supporters. These assumptions imply that: (i) if all New Mexican Trump supporters vote sincerely, then Hillary wins the state, but (ii) if a significant number of New Mexican Trump supporters vote sophisticatedly, then Johnson wins the state.

Finally, let me define two probabilities. For the first, suppose that we know that B or C has occurred—that Hillary’s electoral votes from the non-New Mexico states is between 264 and 269. Given this, what is the probability that C occurs—that, from those states, Hillary’s electoral votes are exactly 264? Define this probability as p. Note that one reasonable way to estimate p is simply to note that, if B or C has occurred, then Hillary’s electoral vote from the non-New Mexico states must be one of six numbers: 264, 265, 266, 267, 268, or 269. If all six numbers are equally likely, then p must be 1/6, i.e. about .17. However, I have run some simulations (where I assume that all “red” states vote for Trump, all “blue” states vote for Hillary, and all purple states vote randomly). These simulations suggest that a more accurate estimate of p is something like .32.

For the second probability, suppose that the House is tasked with deciding the president, and Trump, Hillary, and Johnson have all received at least one vote in the Electoral College. More specific, suppose that Gary Johnson has won the five electoral votes of New Mexico and neither Hillary nor Trump have won more than 269 electoral votes. The Constitution specifies that, if this were to happen, then the House must choose among the top five vote-getters in the Electoral College. According to the scenario I’m painting, only three candidates have received electoral votes. Thus, the House would have to choose among Trump, Hillary, or Johnson. Define q as the probability that the House chooses Trump in such a scenario.

As I’ll show, if q is greater than p, then the optimal strategy for any New Mexican Trump supporter is to vote sophisticatedly for Johnson.

To see why this is true, first suppose that New Mexican Trump supporters vote (sophisticatedly) for Johnson. If the above assumptions are true (including that event B or C has occurred), then this strategy causes Johnson to win New Mexico. It also means that no candidate will have won a majority of electoral votes and thus that the House must decide between Trump, Hillary, and Johnson. According to my definition, this strategy gives Trump a probability of q of winning the presidency.

Now suppose, in contrast, that all New Mexican Trump supporters vote (sincerely) for Trump. Then, according to my assumptions, this causes Hillary to win New Mexico and gain its five electoral votes. If B is true, this gives Hillary a majority of electoral votes and she becomes president. If C is true, then this causes the electoral vote to be 269 for Trump and 269 for Hillary. Since no other candidate receives electoral votes, the House must choose between Trump and Hillary. According to my assumptions, this means that Trump wins for certain. Thus, the probability that Trump wins is the probability that C occurs given that B or C has occurred. According to my definition, this probability is p.

In sum, (assuming that B or C has occurred) if New Mexican Trump supporters choose a sophisticated strategy, then they cause Trump’s probability of winning to be q. But if they choose a sincere strategy, then they cause his probability of winning to be p.

Thus, if q is greater than p, the optimal strategy for Trump supporters (in New Mexico) is to vote sophisticatedly.

Finally, recall that I think .32 is a reasonable estimate for p. What is a reasonable estimate for q? Recall that this is the probability that the House chooses Trump, given that it must choose from Trump, Johnson, or Hillary. Given the Constitutional rules—most important, that the House votes by state delegations—I believe that Hillary’s chances would be essentially nil. But what about Johnson’s chances? I asked a friend who is a senior campaign consultant for several Republican members of the U.S. House. He responded that “Johnson is a clown” and that “zero” Republican House members would vote for him. I suspect that my friend was engaging in hyperbole when he gave that answer, but still I think there is much truth to it. I accordingly think a reasonable estimate for p is something like 95 or 99%, and it’s possibly as high 99.9%.

If so, p is much greater than q. If this is true, it means that Trump supporters in New Mexico would be wise to vote sophisticatedly.

Strangely, the way they can best help their candidate is to vote against him.

There are 16 comments.

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  1. Marion Evans Inactive
    Marion Evans
    @MarionEvans

    Finally, recall that I think .32 is a reasonable estimate for p. What is a reasonable estimate for q?”

    • #1
  2. Herbert Inactive
    Herbert
    @Herbert

    couldn’t follow it, and didn’t really try…   but are you saying Trump voters are more likely to strategize and vote for Johnson than the reverse?   If so, what is the basis for that?

    • #2
  3. Richard Rummelhart Inactive
    Richard Rummelhart
    @RichardRummelhart

    Interesting idea but it won’t work.  There is no way you could get that  many people to agree to vote for Johnson.  I think a better idea is for Trump supporter’s to spend their time getting more people registered who will vote for Trump.

    • #3
  4. Grosseteste Thatcher
    Grosseteste
    @Grosseteste

    Herbert:couldn’t follow it, and didn’t really try… but are you saying Trump voters are more likely to strategize and vote for Johnson than the reverse? If so, what is the basis for that?

    Trump voters are more likely to have a Trump victory as their goal in voting.  It’s harder to imagine what ends a Johnson supporter has in mind that would be served by voting for one of the other candidates.

    • #4
  5. Matt White Member
    Matt White
    @

    Trying to be so clever can lead to the danger us situation where you outsmart yourself.

    What happens if the Johnson voters sober up before Election Day?  Trump may be able to draw more of them than Clinton, then with trump supporters following your plan you end up giving the state to Clinton.

    • #5
  6. garyinabq Member
    garyinabq
    @garyinabq

    Here in Albuquerque, I expect this will generate some interesting conversations.  Most people liked Gary Johnson pretty well when he was in office, and at least wouldn’t feel too bad about pulling the lever for him.  And we’re just small enough in population, and independent enough in spirit, to pull something like this off.

    • #6
  7. Mister D Member
    Mister D
    @MisterD

    Herbert:couldn’t follow it, and didn’t really try… but are you saying Trump voters are more likely to strategize and vote for Johnson than the reverse? If so, what is the basis for that?

    Johnson seems to be siphoning off votes from Hillary. If they don’t vote for him, they vote for her. So leave them be. Trump probably can’t win NM’s electoral vote.

    Trump voters want to be Hillary. They need to deny her 270. If Johnson gets the plurality, he wins the 5 EV, and maybe denies Hillary 270. If this results in no candidate hitting 270, then the house will likely give it to Trump. Therefore to best help Trump win, it makes sense for Trump voters to toss their all their votes to Johnson, get him over Hillary, and toss the election to the House.

    • #7
  8. Old Bathos Moderator
    Old Bathos
    @OldBathos

    I tried to follow but had an Aleppo moment.

    This kind of strategic voting only work in countries with lots of parties, none of which ever gets a majority.

    • #8
  9. drlorentz Member
    drlorentz
    @drlorentz

    Matt White: What happens if the Johnson voters sober up before Election Day?

    But really, how likely is that? They are supporting the stoner candidate. Or, as one comedic genius put it, the drugs and orifices candidate.

    • #9
  10. Mister D Member
    Mister D
    @MisterD

    Matt White:Trying to be so clever can lead to the danger us situation where you outsmart yourself.

    What happens if the Johnson voters sober up before Election Day? Trump may be able to draw more of them than Clinton, then with trump supporters following your plan you end up giving the state to Clinton.

    If Trump wins New Mexico there’s a really good chance he’s winning without it.

    • #10
  11. Mister D Member
    Mister D
    @MisterD

    drlorentz:

    Matt White: What happens if the Johnson voters sober up before Election Day?

    But really, how likely is that? They are supporting the stoner candidate. Or, as one comedic genius put it, the drugs and orifices candidate.

    They’d be happy he won a state.

    • #11
  12. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    Richard Rummelhart:Interesting idea but it won’t work. There is no way you could get that many people to agree to vote for Johnson. I think a better idea is for Trump supporter’s to spend their time getting more people registered who will vote for Trump.

    If Weld thought that he would throw the election to Clinton, he would correct that. He’s been repeatedly clear that Clinton is awesome while suggesting that Trump’s deportations are similar to Hitler’s Holocaust. This strategy depends on a Clinton supporter being our key ally against Clinton.

    It would require massive efforts on the part of the Trump and Johnson campaigns, neither of which efforts appears to be on the cards.

    It requires cherry picking the polls. If you take an aggregator of the polls rather than just the most favorable one, you come to a much less Johnson friendly answer. 538.com’s best prediction is of 46% Clinton, 37% Trump, and 15% Johnson. Figures don’t add to 100% because part of the service that 538 offers Johnson is the exclusion of other parties from the modeled results.  The most recent poll has 46, 33, 14, 2 (Stein), 2 (0ther), 3 (undecided).

    It requires a clear logical fallacy; “New Mexico voters” are not a hivemind. Any individual voter casting his vote for Johnson is casting a protest vote; those numbers a week before voting starts (October 11 in New Mexico) are simply not winning numbers, absent some sort of radical event. With Johnson now conclusively out of debates (his numbers have fallen from 8.4%, short of the 15% debate inclusion mark for the first debate, to 7.4%, further short of the 15% inclusion mark, for the second debate, and seem unlikely to double in the next few weeks), it is likely that Johnson’s numbers will decline further. With a genuinely enormous conspiracy, maybe large numbers of Trump voters could be moved to Johnson, but such a conspiracy would confuse a lot of voters, moving non-NM voters, and strategic voting pleas generally have a sharp negative impact on the candidate’s overall race. It would have a pretty strong impact on the votes of the substantial numbers (20% in the linked poll) of Johnson voters whose primary aim is to vote against Trump, even before Weld and Johnson took action to respond to it. Without the conspiracy, this is the same as all the other times that the Johnson campaigns and its hacks (not suggesting that Groseclose in repeating this often told claim this cycle is a campaign hack; he may have either listened to one or come up with this himself in a fleeting brain fart) that the Johnson campaign has pointed out that if everyone unhappy with Trump and Clinton voted Johnson, Johnson would win. This is also true for Stein, Castle, and Harambe, and the dead gorilla has better favorability ratings than Johnson. Without a literal, magical, fairy godmother, a genie in a bottle, or some other high fantasy solution, however, most of those unhappy with Clinton will vote Trump, and most of those unhappy with Trump will vote Clinton.

    • #12
  13. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    drlorentz:

    Matt White: What happens if the Johnson voters sober up before Election Day?

    But really, how likely is that? They are supporting the stoner candidate. Or, as one comedic genius put it, the drugs and orifices candidate.

    Although they’re more likely to remember in New Mexico than elsewhere that Johnson did less than the average governor for pot users. He didn’t pardon even the most sympathetic cases. He didn’t institute drug courts, which were popular at the time. He didn’t abolish civil asset forfeiture, as the current governor of New Mexico has. He should never be mistaken for a man of principle, even on the issue that was second closest to his heart (his number one issue as governor was shoveling public money to his pals in the construction industry, and he has remained focused on bringing public money to himself and his friends).

    • #13
  14. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    Tim Groseclose: This leads me to my first assumption, one that I think is nearly certain to be true. This is that, if B or C has occurred (and thus the above purple states have voted near 50-50 for Trump and Hillary), then, in New Mexico, Hillary supporters will outnumber Trump supporters. Let me also assume that, consistent with the poll numbers from the Albuquerque Journal, Hillary supporters will outnumber Johnson supporters, but the sum of Johnson and Trump supporters will be greater than the total number of Hillary supporters. These assumptions imply that: (i) if all New Mexican Trump supporters vote sincerely, then Hillary wins the state, but (ii) if a significant number of New Mexican Trump supporters vote sophisticatedly, then Johnson wins the state.

    This is the paragraph that does the work. Now, take these principles and apply them to Florida in 2000. You will discover that it turns out that a “sophisticated” Gore voter should have voted for Nader (more Bush voters than Gore, but more Gore + Nader votes than Bush). There’s no more exploration than that. If you concede that stolen base, the rest of the piece retains critical flaws, but the rest of the math starts to look a little more like math and a little less like a distraction from the absurdity.

    • #14
  15. Tyler Boliver Member
    Tyler Boliver
    @Marlowe

    Johnson could win NM, and Trump can still lose. Right now he’s losing most of the swing states except for Ohio.

    • #15
  16. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    Tyler Boliver:Johnson could win NM, and Trump can still lose. Right now he’s losing most of the swing states except for Ohio.

     

    I’d go further. If Johnson wins NM, Trump will almost certainly still lose; If Johnson more than doubles his vote in NM, it will almost certainly mean that his vote has increased elsewhere, too. Since Johnson pulls primarily from Trump (“third parties” pull primarily from Clinton, because Johnson pulls from Trump less than Stein pulls from Clinton, and this fact is often mischaracterized to suggest that Johnson is pulling primarily from Clinton, but the two claims are not the same or particularly similar), it would be unlikely that Trump could survive a massive increase in the Johnson vote in places like Ohio, Nevada, and Florida where he needs every white vote he can get.

    • #16
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