It is a completely realistic proposition that the 2016 presidential election could be won by the GOP without a popular vote a majority or 270+ Electoral College votes or, as in the 2000 Bush/Gore election, the assistance of the Supreme Court.
This map of the possible state by state results clearly shows a more than strong possibility of such a tied outcome;
The vital states, Florida/Virginia/Ohio were won by President Obama in 2012 with majorities that could easily be overturned, or held, in the case of Ohio. That would make Iowa,Colorado and Nevada, all swing states, the final key to win, lose or tie.
In the map above there is a tie. To reach this situation, one vote short of the 270 to win Electoral College majority, is quite clearly a possible outcome. Further it is not dependent on either candidate having a majority of the popular vote. A number of presidential elections have been won or lost without a majority, Bush in 2000 obviously being a recent case.
In this scenario with neither candidate (whomever they are) having the 270 electoral college votes needed for outright victory, under the constitution Trump, the presumptive GOP standard bearer, and Clinton would, presuming no other candidate had any electoral college votes, have their chances determined by the House of Representatives
Every state would would caucus, have one vote based on the result of each states party representation. Thus, for example New York's one vote would go to Hillary (That state having more Democratic Congressmen than Republican) and Wyoming's one vote would go to Trump.
Given it would be unlikely that the GOP would lose control of the House in the 2016 elections and that, on the most recent analysis, the GOP would have a majority of the 50 states votes based on caucus outcomes when balloting.
The current situation regarding the caucus composition is as per this map via "Newsalert" ;
The Democratic party would cast 14 votes for Hillary. The Republicans could caucus 33 state votes for Trump and 3 states votes are undetermined at present, this could of course change either way in 2016 but it seems unlikely that whatever their final structure it would affect the outcome given the huge majority of state caucuses the GOP controls. The situation of Washington D.C.
is unclear but even if it were allowed a "caucus" vote it would not change the outcome.
Thus, without a popular vote majority nor an Electoral College one and without the aid of the Supreme Court Donald Trump could be sworn in as president in January 2016 thanks to the Constitution.
The full constitutional scenario is set out below
"The person having the greatest Number of votes for President, shall be the President, if such number be a majority of the whole number of Electors appointed; and if no person have such majority, then from the persons having the highest numbers not exceeding three on the list of those voted for as President, the House of Representatives shall choose immediately, by ballot, the President. But in choosing the President, the votes shall be taken by states, the representation from each state having one vote; a quorum for this purpose shall consist of a member or members from two-thirds of the states, and a majority of all the states shall be necessary to a choice."
Thus, if the no candidate with an electoral college majority scenario plays out, and presuming there are no other candidates who have won electoral votes, the House would meet to choose the next president by January 20th 2016, with the states having one vote each, whilst the Senate would meet to choose the Vice-President.
Based on the current composition, and presumably similar composition post November 2015, of the House and if voting went strictly on party lines, with no vote switching or abstentions in states with a close proportion of Republicans and Democrats, the Republican candidate would be chosen on the first ballot.
States with a Republican party majority of Representatives 33
States with a Democratic party majority of Representatives 14
States with an equal number of Representatives 3
What can happen to cause a crisis, or give victory to the Democrats? If there are changes in swing states delegations due to a move back to the Dem's from the GOP's perhaps, high watermark result in November 2014, a Hillary landslide with long coattails.In that scenario a constitutional crisis could come into play if the Republicans lost their majority in 8 caucuses giving a 25/25 tie.
The "stolen election" of 1876 brought the country to the brink of civil war. The election of 2016 gives the possibility of a situation where, as in 1824, when no candidate had an electoral majority, the candidate with a significant minority of popular votes might be chosen by the House under heated circumstances.
For all these reasons, especially if the economy is at the current level of unemployment-or worse, the election of 2016 is fraught with a terrible danger for the country.These dangers could be averted, or ameliorated if, well before the actual election, the constitutional possibilities are well canvassed with the public so they are aware of what might need to be done.
Otherwise, if by the first Monday following the second Wednesday in March 2016, as the constitution requires, there is no President, the Senate's choice of Vice-President will take over-to who knows what effect.