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Will Donald Trump Win If He Wins Ohio? Not Necessarily

Election Day is nigh, bringing months of fevered speculation, family infighting, and far too much social media activity to a long-awaited close. But in the hours left before we know who our next president will be, why not continue to ratchet up our anxiety levels by obsessing over the current state of the electoral map and what it means for America's future? Like, for instance, will Donald Trump win overall, if he wins Ohio?

The Buckeye state has been a notoriously good predictor of the presidential election in the past. Since 1960, Ohioans have always cast their 18 electoral votes for the eventual winner. This year, although polling remains tight in the battleground state, FiveThirtyEight has Trump winning the state over Hillary Clinton with, currently, a 63.2 percent chance to her 36.8, and many other major polls predict a Trump win there. So is it time for Clinton supporters (and Trump detractors) to start freaking out? Not necessarily.

This year, it seems more accurate to say that Trump needs to win Ohio if he has any chance of winning at all, rather than that, if he wins the state, he will win the whole thing. Or, put another way, Clinton can absolutely still win even if she loses Ohio. Trump, not so much.

The Huffington Post's electoral model, for example, suggests that Clinton has already pretty much locked down 273 votes, barring some big upset. (Reminder: a candidate needs 270 votes to win.) That's not counting swing states like Florida, North Carolina, Nevada, and, yes, Ohio. According to that prediction, Trump would need to win every swing state, plus flip at least one of the states that seems to be solidly leaning towards Clinton, like Pennsylvania or Michigan, in order to put his name in big shiny letters on the White House.

Of course, while The Huffington Post and many other major outlets are predicting that Trump's chances are not-so-good, liberals have been freaking out over Nate Silver's well-respected FiveThirtyEight, which gives Trump about a one-in-three chance of winning the presidency.

Silver's model gives more weight to the large number of undecided voters in this election cycle, and more weight to the general unpredictability of this crazy 2016 contest, among other semi-complicated statistical factors. But even he isn't focusing too much on the Buckeye state. This time around, he only gives Ohio a seven percent chance of tipping the election. By contrast, Florida has a 17 percent chance, while North Carolina has 11.

So on Tuesday night, Democrats won't necessarily need to start hyperventilating if Trump pulls out an Ohio win. And if, by contrast, Clinton takes the state, liberals can probably pull out the champagne.