What a difference a week makes! One week ago it looked like Clinton was headed for a sure victory. Trump had been tanking in the polls, and her probability to win was up to 87% on Nate Silver’s model, over 90% according to some others.
Now she’s down to a 69% chance — still good, though the trend is bad, and recent polls for Trump have looked very promising. State polls where Clinton held a firm lead are now wobbly – and change is consistent across many states. Trump has a path to victory, Clinton may have peaked too soon.
Should Democrats panic? Are we staring into the abyss of a President Trump?
Well, panic is never a good idea, so no – there is no reason to panic. But right now Trump stock is rising and Hillary looks to be sinking. The possibility of “President Trump” is at a high. So distress and fear are reasonable Democratic responses. But there are reasons for each candidate’s supporters to be optimistic.
Why Trump supporters should be optimistic
- The black vote is down in early voting, all over. This suggests that Clinton is in trouble; Obama won in part because of high African-American turnout.
- The narrative of this election ends not with “pussy grabbing,” but “e-mail rumors.” Clinton has lost control of the narrative.
- The trend line is moving sharply to Trump; at this pace he’d have a clear lead by election day.
- The Brexit effect – voters who want to challenge the system might come out stronger than the polls indicated. This could be enough to put Trump in the lead in many swing states.
Why Clinton Supporters should be optimistc
- Early voting looks strong for women and Hispanics, which is good news for Clinton. A really strong Hispanic turnout may give Clinton more support than the polls indicate in a number of swing states.
- The impact of a new event – a debate, in this case the e-mail story – tends to dissipate after a week. The e-mail news, which contained no bombshells or evidence against Clinton, may have had its peak impact.
- Clinton has a vastly superior get out the vote effort, which could make a difference in close elections. Indeed, Trump’s focus on rallies and free advertising may cost him the election. This may be Clinton’s secret strength.
- The state polls have tightened, but haven’t gone completely south for Clinton. She’s still the favorite.
I’m hesitant to blame the e-mail story for this completely. Trump’s tightening of the race started almost a week before that story broke. But it is significant in helping energize Trump’s voters and shift the narrative towards one critical of Clinton. On the other hand, any Democrats who were unenthusiastic about Clinton and thinking maybe Jill Stein might now decide they need to stick with the one who has a chance to win. There is differently no more complacency in the Clinton camp.
So it looks like we may have a cliff hangar. Or not. If the get out the vote effort for Clinton is strong and the impact of the e-mail story starts to wane, it could still turn out a big night for the Democrats. But this surreal election, now subject to a surreal October surprise, promises to defy expectations to the very end. But in one week, we’ll know.