Handicapping the Electoral College – Mountain Edition

The mountain states were a bastion of conservative thought for decades, but the times are changing. While Idaho, Montana, Utah, and Wyoming are still very safe states for Republicans, Colorado and Nevada have moved left due to major changes in the populations and politics of those states. There isn’t as much attention paid to this region politically as there are others since there are only 31 electoral votes at stake in these six states, but Colorado and Nevada will be hotly contested.




Colorado only voted for a Democrat one time between 1964 and 2008, but a Democrat has won the state for each of the last three presidential elections. Barack Obama won Colorado by nine points in 2008, yet the Democrats’ margin of victory has fallen in each of the last two elections. Obama only won here by 5.4 points here in 2012, and Hillary Clinton won the state by less than five points.

The Democrats are moderate favorites per the political betting odds, but there are a few reasons to believe that Donald Trump might pull out a win in this state. Over five percent of the vote went to Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson in 2016, and those votes will likely go to Trump in 2020 as the charismatic Johnson isn’t running and there is no Libertarian candidate with the same appeal. Additionally, Republicans flipped five counties red in 2016, and they could flip even more counties thanks to Trump’s incumbency advantage.




Betting on a Republican to win Idaho is essentially a CD. A Republican has won this state in every presidential election since 1968, and they are able to run up huge margins of victory here. The closest a Democrat has come in the last five elections was Obama in 2008 when he only lost the state to John McCain by 25 points, and it’s highly unlikely that Joe Biden even comes that close to Trump. This is a free three percent if you’re willing to wait for six months.




Montana is usually lumped together with Idaho in terms of very safe states for Republicans. Big Sky Country has voted for a Republican in all but one presidential election since 1964, but there have been some huge swings over the years. In 2008, Obama only lost this state by 2.2 points, and Bill Clinton beat George H.W. Bush here by 2.5 points in 1992.

Trump won this state by over 20 points in 2016, and Biden does not have the same charisma as a Clinton or an Obama so this is probably great value on the GOP. The absence of Gary Johnson will help too, so betting on the Republicans to win Montana is a shrewd bet.




Utah is a lot more interesting than observers may think at first glance. While Republicans have dominated this state historically, Trump has alienated a lot of voters by repeatedly attacking favorite son Mitt Romney. A Republican garnered at least 60 percent of the vote in the Beehive State from 2000 to 2012, but Trump earned just 45.5 percent of the vote in 2016.

If there is a state that might vote for a third party candidate, it’s Utah. Evan McMullin won 21.5 percent of the vote here last election, and Trump is still very unpopular among many conservatives. At this point, it’s best to wait and see what other candidates might end up on the ballot in Utah.




As with Idaho, a Republican is guaranteed to win Wyoming. The state has voted red in every presidential election since 1964, and the only Democrat to even earn at least 30 percent of the vote in the last five cycles was Barack Obama in 2008. Donald Trump won this state by a whopping 45 points in 2016, and that kind of margin of victory takes generations to erase.




Nevada might be the biggest unknown of any state in the union. A steady stream of people moving into the state has helped turn the Silver State blue in the last three presidential elections, but the shuttering of Las Vegas has led to a lot of people leaving the state over the last couple months. This state is filled with transplants that move to Vegas for one reason or another, and their absence could swing the state back to the GOP in 2020.

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