President Donald Trump told his supporters to pretend that he was on the ballot in the midterm elections, and many voters from both parties acted like he was. The estimated 114 million people who turned out to vote was within shouting distance of the 137 million who voted in 2016.
But what if Trump really had been on the ballot?
Out of curiosity, TIME gamed out what a presidential election would have looked like in 2018 if one were to replace votes for House candidates with votes for a presidential candidate of the same party. In this speculative face-off, the hypothetical Democrat wins the White House with 284 electoral votes, well north of the 270 needed to win.
Of course, we can’t assume that every person who voted for a member of Congress this year would have voted for a presidential candidate of the same party. But many would have, given that “split-ticket voting” has declined steadily in the past several cycles.
The bad news for Trump comes in the essential states of Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin, three traditionally blue states which narrowly broke for him in 2016. In this year’s midterms, all three cast more votes for Democratic candidates than Republicans in House races, however. He’d also face the prospect of losing Iowa from his 2016 map.
But Trump gets some good news from the traditional swing states of Ohio and Florida, which cast more votes for Republicans in House races and would stay in his column. The rest of the 2016 Electoral College map would also stay the same.
Overall, Trump also would appear to be on track to lose the popular vote, again.
The nationwide tally from the midterm elections heavily favored Democrats, whose House candidates in 2018 received nearly 6 million more votes than their Republican counterparts — more than twice the 2.8 million margin that Hillary Clinton claimed over Trump in the popular vote in 2016.
The tally from the hypothetical matchup accounts for the fact that Maine and Nebraska split their electoral votes by Congressional district, which awarded one hypothetical electoral vote to the Republicans in Maine’s second district while Democrats carried the state, the same result as in 2016. The heavily Democratic District of Columbia is assumed to go blue, as it reliably does.
This simulation does not account for the 35 Senate races to avoid double-counting voters in some states, but the aggregate House results are generally in line with the Senate results. Democrats won Senate seats in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin as well.
With midterms over, the attention of election forecasters now turns directly to 2020, when President Trump will presumably run for reelection against a Democrat who will not be selected for about a year-and-a-half. Who the Democrats ultimately nominate will naturally have tremendous implications for whether this week’s results can be replicated in two years.
But given that the popular vote does not translate to an electoral college victory, the results should offer some good news for those hoping that Donald Trump is one-term president.
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