Donald Trump has nearly clinched the Republican presidential nomination, and most of the political world is still processing this reality. In the meantime, some of the potential consequences are already becoming clear. According to Nate Silver — one of the most highly-respected election forecasters in the business — if he becomes the nominee, Trump will put seven states in play for Democrats that otherwise would have leaned Republican or been pure toss-ups.
The news came courtesy of the Cook Political Report (CPR), a non-partisan newsletter founded in 1984 that analyzes U.S. elections for the House of Representatives, the Senate, and a variety of other political officials. After Trump won the Indiana primary and became the GOP's presumptive nominee, the CPR shifted five states to the "lean Democratic" category that had previously been ranked as toss-ups. Those states are Colorado, Florida, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Wisconsin.
CPR also changed North Carolina out of the "lean Republican" category and labeled it a toss-up state. Similarly, Nebraska's 2nd congressional district went from "solid Republican" to toss-up status after Trump effectively won the Republican nomination. (Nebraska, along with Maine, is one of two states that allocates its electoral votes by congressional district, as opposed to the "winner take all" system the other 48 states use.)
Democrats should be very pleased about all of this.
Florida, Virginia, Colorado and (arguably) Wisconsin are all critical swing states, while blue-leaning Pennsylvania is worth a lot of electoral votes and will be a major target for Trump this year. A Democratic victory in North Carolina would be huge, given that the state has only voted Democrat twice in the last forty years, in 1976 and 2008; Democrats would be thrilled to come away with any electoral votes at all from deep-red Nebraska.
It's too soon to say how likely it is that any of these states will actually affect the final electoral vote count, but we can get a rough idea. The Washington Post published five conceivable, "not-totally-crazy" electoral paths to a Trump victory in November, and they rely pretty heavily on states that just moved further from Trump's Republican favor in the CPR. All five of these paths to victory require him to win both Virginia and North Carolina. Four of them involve him winning Florida, and all but one assume he'll win in Wisconsin.
To be sure, Trump doesn't need to win every one of these states, and a loss in any one of them wouldn't necessarily cripple his chances of success in November. At the same time, these are among the swing states that Trump most needs to win, and by extension, the ones he can least afford to lose. This is especially true of Virginia and Florida.
It's also worth remembering why the CPR moved all of these states toward Democrats: Trump himself. He is the only reason. The projections were updated after Trump became the presumptive Republican nominee and the last remaining GOP presidential candidate in the 2016 race. Unlike temporary or short-term developments, that's not something that can change between now and the election.
None of this is to say that Trump can't win. But it's striking to note that, from an electoral standpoint, the Republican Party's odds of winning the presidency dropped significantly the moment Trump became the presumptive nominee.