The coronation of Hillary Clinton may be premature, despite the fact she won all three debates and has run a much better campaign than that of Donald Trump.
But first – why people are ready to call the election: Clinton’s polling in swing states is very strong. She not only leads by a significant amount in enough states to give her 270 electoral votes and the election, but she leads in many others, and has a fighting chance in Arizona, Georgia and even Texas. This suggests that the battle is being fought on Trump territory, which is never good for a candidate late in an election cycle.
Given the polls, the fact Clinton has a lot more money for a late ad blitz, and she has a much better get out the vote operation, it’s possible that this could even be a Democratic wave, sweeping in a majority in the Senate and threatening Republican control of the House.
Or maybe not.
Politico has a story that quotes Republican operatives as believing there is a “secret Trump vote” out there, as people don’t want to admit to pollsters that they’re voting for the controversial media baron. That is unlikely, however there are reasons to give such a theory credence:
- The polls that are most kind to Trump are on line or automated polls – polls where one does not have to admit to a live person that they are voting Trump;
- The Demographics of the rust belt swing states – Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania – are similar. If there is an error in one, it probably affects them all since pollsters use similar methods. In other words, if the polling errors were idiosyncratic to each state, the odds of them being wrong in all three (or others) would be high. But really, if there is an error, it’ll impact all states.
- This is an odd election. Trump was predicted to be all but dead long ago. He keeps coming back like an Energizer Bunny. So predictions of his demise are risky, even given current polling; and finally
- The race is tightening. How much is a matter of question. Nate Silver’s website, fivethirtyeight.com, currently gives Clinton an 81.2% chance of winning. Earlier this week it hit 88% (this is in the polls only model). She still has the odds on her side, but her strength is eroding. Trump having a 1 in 4 shot of winning is not good odds – but if you were given a one in four shot to win the lottery, you’d snatch it up!
If Trump loses, it’s on him. If he had come in to the first debate prepared and Presidential, he might have convinced a lot of moderates and educated women to vote for him. If he hadn’t convened a forum of Bill Clinton’s former accusers and gone on an aggressive defensive attack of his own accusers, he could have handled the controversy with more grace. He would likely be in a position to win, perhaps easily. Moreover, his lack of a ground game and poor organization also are likely to cost him. So if the polls are right, Trump has only himself to blame for the potential loss.
Trump is comparing the polls to the Brexit vote. Those polls showed the race neck and neck going into the final phase, with the “stay” vote slightly in the lead. The “Go” side won by four points. A four point polling error here would definitely make it a very competitive race. For team Clinton, the next eleven days promise to be the longest 11 day stretch of their lives.
I still predict a Clinton win – the polls are rarely so far off, Clinton does have a state of the art ground game, and the Trump campaign seems inept. Moreover, Trump’s claims could be much like the “skewed polls” claim of 2012 – a desperate attempt to convince supporters there is still a chance. Every political science indicator I can imagine points to a Clinton win.
But this year is an election cycle like no other. We could be shocked by a Trump victory, or amazed by a Democratic take over of the House. Most likely is a Clinton victory, Democratic take over of the Senate, and GOP hold of the House. But in 2016 anything can happen. Hold on, it’s going to be a wild ride.