It is possible to win the election with only 11 states, the most populous including CA and NY (blue states) and 9 others. In reality, since at least one of those states is Texas (red state), it is unlikely this would happen. Nonetheless, almost all presidential campaigns in recent history have focused on the dozen or so states with the most electoral college votes.
Since the electoral college is largely based on relative population, the popular vote generally will yield the same results. Only in close elections where there is no real difference between the two candidates will there likely be any discrepancy between the electoral college and the popular vote. Most of our elections since Reagan have been of this close, no real difference nature. 2008 and 2012 are the exceptions.
In the 2012 election the youth vote and the disenfranchised vote (irony real) favored a socialist over a capitalist (Romney). In the 2008 election these two groups defeated a nationalistic candidate (McCain). Both elections pitted socialism against one of its eternal enemies and reflected an ideological decision by the youth and disenfranchised.
Today the leaders in the GOP race are a capitalist (Trump) and an evangelical (Cruz), but the issues do not revolve around the ideology. Immigration and national security along with the false government reports of economic prosperity combine to make this election about safety. While socialists are strong on equal rights and shared sacrifice they falter when the question of safety is raised because they, the socialists, have no good ideological response to any real threat to citizen safety.
So, Trump and Cruz have claimed the high ground on the citizen safety issue. At this late date it is unlikely that the Democrats, the Republican Elites, or the media will recognize what has happened until the election is over. If historic post-election analysis is any indication, at least the two parties will draw the wrong conclusions from a Trump or a Cruz victory.
But that should trouble nobody who understands. They still don’t understand that Reagan did pretty much the same thing only his issues were the economy and national security. In short, it’s happening again and the Elites are just as clueless as they were back in 1979.