US Election: Could neither Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump end up president?
3rd Nov 2016
There is a possibility that neither Hillary Clinton nor Donald Trump could win the US presidential election, says Bill Whalen, a research fellow at the Hoover Institution
While the latest national polling is showing Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump neck-and-neck, Mr Whalen, who also worked on several past Republican campaigns, said the unpopularity of both candidates could lead to some interesting results.
Mr Whalen said there was a chance a third party candidate could pick up enough votes in the state of Utah and “start a process that could lead to genuine chaos”.
He said as well as the usual suspects of key states to keep an eye on during election day — Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida — the Republican candidate, Mr Trump, would also have to hold onto every state carried by Mitt Romney in 2012.
“Where that would be troubling him would be Arizona, Georgia, North Carolina and Utah,” he said.
“But in terms of getting to 270, besides holding on to the 206 he needs to pick up the following, if he wins Florida and Ohio he is now up to 253 — he is only 17 electoral votes away.
“If he won the state of Pennsylvania, which has 20 electoral votes, that would do the trick right there, but he’s struggling in Pennsylvania so now he’s looking at Michigan, he’s looking at Wisconsin and other states.
“A very curious state would be the state of Utah, which almost always go Republican — I think it last voted for a Democrat in 1964.
“You can almost always put six electoral votes in the Republican side.”
Mr Whalen said right now the Mormon independent candidate, Evan McMullin, could instead pick up those six electoral votes in Utah.
“And start a process could lead to genuine chaos in terms of another candidate getting to the requisite 270 electoral votes they need to win the presidency.”
Could McMullin steal Utah away from Trump?
Mr Whalen said in the case of Mr McMullin winning the Utah votes, then the matter would have to be decided by the House of Representatives.
“What the McMullin campaign would hope is this, that once he got into that vote, because the constitution of the United States dictates that the top three earners of electoral votes are considered by the house, and McMullin would be part of this calculation,” he said.
“What his campaign would hope would be that they would get to the House and suddenly people would be thinking well, we don’t like Donald Trump, we don’t think he’s suitably presidential.
“Hillary Clinton is under federal investigation right now, if she’s elected to office there could be a constitutional crisis — let’s start voting for McMullin.”
This, he said, could all result in an election season where neither Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton end up in the White House.
“When you think about it in that it could be possible to actually win the White House carrying just one state of the 50, but that is how the incredibly unlikely scenario would play out.”
Mr Whalen said another possible scenario would be if Mr Trump managed to get the 270 votes, and Mrs Clinton only 268, giving Mr Trump the bare minimum to get elected.
“Now what happens is the electoral college meets 538 people picked by their respected parties across the United States to go to Washington and vote on this,” he said.
“Those electors are not bound by the result in their states, and historically there has been what is called a faithless elector — that is somebody who gets to Washington and decides it, [they could decide] ‘I cannot abide by this person, I’ve got to vote for somebody else’.
“It happened in 2000, a faithless elector in Washington DC did not vote for Al Gore, because she was upset that Washington DC was not a state.”
Mr Whalen said in that scenario two people could go to Washington DC and decide that despite their state having voted for Mr Trump, they would not — changing the 270 count to 268 votes for Mr Trump, and giving Mrs Clinton the necessary 270 vote count.
‘Perhaps Obama shouldn’t pack his bags yet’
But there was one problem with that scenario, Mr Whalen said, as that would then mean the electoral college had reversed what the people of America had voted.
“It then has to be certified by the House of Representatives, [and] if that is a Republican House of Representatives, I doubt they will certify that vote,” he said.
“In which case the United States is looking at a crisis, because this will all happen about 10 days or so before inaugural day.
“So this is all a very long winded way of saying that perhaps Barack Obama maybe shouldn’t pack his bags — he may not be leaving town on January 20 of next year.”
But Mr Whalen said he did not expect those “hell scenarios” to play out and instead predicted that Mrs Clinton would win presidency.
“Simply because she has more states that she can lose, Trump really has no margin for error,” he said.
“He has to run the table to be elected, that’s going to be awfully hard for him to do, unless there’s something going on out there that the polls aren’t picking up.”
Could there still be more surprises in the final days?
Mr Whalen said there could still be surprises in store for either candidates in the final days leading up to the election.
“Look Wikileaks has probably not done leaking,” he said.
“We don’t know what the FBI will turn out in terms of documents, they are spending 16 hours a day pouring through these 650,000 emails, so who knows what’s revealed out of that.
“I can’t believe that the Clinton campaign doesn’t have a little opposition work against Donald Trump still in store, so I think there’s just a little more to be dumped out of the dump truck before it’s over.
“I can tell you this, this country will breathe a collective sigh once this is over, because this has been just not pleasant at all.”