Recent polls have become terrifying. But can the biggest potential disaster since the Civil War actually win?
As the Times likes to say, recent polling, including their latest which shows a dead-heat, nationally, has made Democrats feel nervous. That’s misleading in two parts. One, it isn’t just Democrats, it is anyone who feels like maybe the most powerful and important nation on earth shouldn’t be run by a vapid know-nothing megalomaniacal vulgarian. And, two, “nervous” is kind of an understatement. The late and lamented Harold Ramis sums it up, above.
But we can look at it rationally, sort of, with the screaming terror always lurking, a banshee calling from the fog.
- This always happens. As the RCP tracker shows, in 2012 President Obama and Mitt Romney were dead-even before Obama pulled ahead. But on Oct. 8th, after the debate, he was only up by a half point. A week later he was up by 1/10th of a point, and then 7/10th of a point on Nov. 5th. November 5th! And he won easily. Both Wang and Silver were confident throughout. Polls aren’t always going to tell us much of anything, and they jump back and forth. Whomever is trailing will make some noise, of course. The nature of the game is like that.
- Screaming banshee. OK, but Obama pulling away came after some pretty high-profile gaffes by Romney, which is what Clinton just did, calling racists bad and having human lungs. Even if you dismiss the “scandals”, they look bad, and are giving Trump ammo, and that’s all he needs. He thrives on perceived weakness, even though he’s a nonsensical lawyer-cossetted fancy lad. These are not just tightening; they are moving in the completely wrong direction.
- The real projectionists are still sort of comfortable. The above-mentioned Sam Wang still has Hillary at anywhere from a 82-89% probability, depending on whether you prefer a random drift or Bayesian analysis. And depending on if you know what that means, which I will say I do, provided there are absolutely no follow-ups. Silver, meanwhile, has a healthy 62% in the polls-plus.
- Screaming banshee. Yeah, but Silver had her at close to 90% just a few weeks ago. We kept bargaining with ourselves. 85% is still amazing! I’m not going to even worry until it is at 75%. Heck, 70% is still really good. Now we’re at the “until it gets to 50-50 everything is coming up Hillary!” This is not a good place to be.
- The debates will change it back. Hillary can outdebate Trump with her eyes closed. She knows the issues inside and out, and unlike in the free-for-all primaries, Trump can’t just rely on insults. People who watch him stumble back on talking points, weird lapses, recurrent nonsense, and self-praise will be put off by his extreme lack of knowledge and unconcern for the issues. Hillary will get under his skin and he’ll be revealed to be unpresidential in the extreme.
- Screaming banshee. Yeah, but this is what everyone thinks, so by the ludicrous “expectations game”, as long as he stays on his talking points and doesn’t say anything outrageous, he’ll be perceived as the winner, and the media will treat him as such, which is maddening. “We know he’s an idiot, but he managed to pretend not to be one for 90 minutes, so good for him!” As Fallows points out in his exhaustive and typically excellent debate preview, there’s a chance that his willingness to say anything at anytime and be convincing about it can catch Hillary off-guard, and make him seem reasonable. Remember the first debate in 2012 when Romney outflanked Obama to the left and caught the POTUS wrong-footed? Imagine that time 10, with the deeply unprincipled Trump willing to take any position to gain a moment’s advantage, and then spin back around. If Hillary isn’t on top of her game, she could be encircled by nonsense.
- Trump is still Trump. The brazen cynicism of his “I’m going to pretend to be sort of what a President should be” is matched only by the lappish media talking about a new Trump, as if after 70 years the man isn’t still a boorish sexist and bigot who has disdain for everyone around him. But we know better. He can’t really keep this up, in fact, he already isn’t. The clownishness of revealing his detailed health records, then handing a 1-page summary to Doctor Oz (Doctor Oz!), sums up the artifice and unreality of this campaign. It’ll catch up, and he’ll do something incredibly stupid again. He can’t help it. He’s Donald Trump.
- Screaming banshee. Well, I guess the banshee got into the calm part, what with the puppydog media thrilled that Trump has pretended to care about running. And it seems like things are breaking his way. Hillary had been talking about how racist the campaign is, but then used a phrase that the professionals didn’t like, and now she is a monster. Then she got sick, after “weeks of speculation and rumors about her health”, which are pretty sweet euphemisms for lies. I know this is Noonanish, but you can feel the zeitgeist shifting, and everything falling in place for Trump. Suddenly we’re weirdly accepting of him as a candidate, simply by virtue of the race getting tighter. Well, if it’s tight, he must be good! When have the American people ever been wrong. The moral arc of the universe is long, but right now it has jagged itself into a kink, and is pointing toward stupidity and insanity running the day. The weird and unhealthy are running rampant. We could be screwed.
- POTUS and FLOTUS have this. Both Barack and Michelle are hard on the trail, and are in high dudgeon. You can tell they can’t believe this, and are personally offended that this man might soon be sleeping in their bed. They are personally offended that someone so low and classless and just plain ignorant might become President. It’s one thing to have, say, Jeb Bush undo your legacy. It breaks the moral progress represented by his tenure to have Donald Trump do it. They are going to rally voters, especially the young, Hispanic, female, educated, and black votes. And rally them they will. And that, demographically, is what matters.
- Screaming banshee. Nope, got nothing. The professionals and amatuer pundits, and those who follow politics every day, might think the President has lost his juice, doesn’t matter. We’re bored. But that’s nonsense. He still matters deeply to a lot of people, and he’s personally asking for their help to make sure his Presidency isn’t a footnote, and to rally the best in this nation. He hasn’t lost yet. Don’t bet against him.