We're in the final stretch of the election, and all eyes are on a handful of swing states whose votes will decide America's next president. One of the more decisive states could be North Carolina, a state that's traditionally voted Republican but has been trending toward Hillary Clinton for most of this cycle. And if the race ends up being particularly close, North Carolina's 15 electoral votes could well be the difference between a President Clinton and a President Donald Trump.
This is because North Carolina has a good chance of being what Nate Silver calls the "tipping point" state of 2016. Silver coined this term himself, and it refers to the state that casts the decisive electoral vote in the election from an electoral vote standpoint.
Identifying the tipping point state after an election is simple. First, you line up all of the states that voted for the winner in order of their popular vote margin, so the states with the most lopsided results (such as California) come first. Then, you count them off in order and keep track of how many cumulative electoral votes the winning candidate has. Whichever state pushed them over 270, the minimum needed to win the presidency, is the tipping point state.
As of this writing, Silver gives North Carolina a 10.1 percent chance of being this year's tipping point state. As of time of writing, this makes it the fourth most-likely state to decide this election, behind Florida, Pennsylvania and Michigan.
North Carolina has only voted Democrat twice in the last 40 years — once for Jimmy Carter in 1976 and once for Barack Obama in 2008. But there are signs that it's turning bluer: Mitt Romney won it by just 2.2 percent in 2012, compared with George W. Bush's 12-plus-point victory in the state eight years earlier. It's now a bona fide swing state, and its polls have oscillated between Clinton and Trump for much of this election.
Clinton is currently behind in the Tar Heel State, according to Silver's metrics, but only slightly: he gave her a 48.8 percent chance, as of Nov. 5. But if she pulls it out, she'll be 15 electoral votes closer to the presidency.