Last week’s election produced the widest gap between the Electoral College and the popular vote in a generation — a result of Hillary Clinton racking up huge margins in populous coastal states such as California and New York while narrowly losing several Midwestern battlegrounds to Donald Trump. Were this pattern to continue, Democrats could be at a significant Electoral College disadvantage.
Clinton, who’s currently leading in the popular vote by 0.6 percentage points and whose advantage should increase — probably to between 1.5 and 2.0 points — as additional ballots are counted, became the fourth candidate to lose the Electoral College while winning the popular vote. She joins Al Gore (2000), Grover Cleveland (1888) and Samuel Tilden (1876).
In 1824, Andrew Jackson lost the election in the House of Representatives despite having both the most electoral votes and the most popular votes, although not all states used the popular vote back then. But Tilden’s loss to Rutherford B. Hayes in 1876 was, in part, because Colorado — which had newly joined the union and said it didn’t have time to run an election — appointed its electors to Hayes via its state legislature. Thus, Clinton is likely to win the popular vote by the widest margin of any Electoral College loser in an election in which all states voted, surpassing Cleveland’s 0.8-percentage-point margin in 1888.