Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Pols and Polls - The good, the bad, and the ugly

Summary for Nov 1: Early voting numbers favor Dems in swing states and opinions seem locked in and less influenced by October surprises (NY Times). But the bad news is in the trends. Nate Silver’s 538 forecast has Clinton’s popular vote declining to 4.7% from 7.1% two week ago, and Trump’s chances now up to 25%. Greg Sargent (Washington Post), however, advises us to not overreact to the polling numbers - which are mixed. “Keep focused on the polling averages, both national and in the battleground states. And watch the fundamentals outlined above by GOP strategists. Especially the early voting, which seems to be revealing a clear Clinton ground game advantage.” So, the Huffpollster’s forecast gives Clinton a 98% chance of winning and the Dems a whopping 81% chance of getting at least a tie in the Senate. Check out AZ Blue Meanie’s post this morning about the House Republicans’ plots for maximum obstruction should Clinton win, The plot for post-election Tea-Publican tyranny. After that mix of good and bad, here is the ugly: all the buzz about the emails may suppress voting by Sanders’ young supporters. See the Huffpollster’s item on voter turnout below. Grab a bottle of antacid - get a week’s supply!

New York Times: Early Turnout Tilts Toward Democrats in Swing States.

Hillary Clinton has established a slim edge over Donald J. Trump in early-voter turnout in several vital swing states, pressing her longstanding advantages in state-level organization and potentially mitigating the fallout from her campaign’s latest scrap with the F.B.I.

Even as Democrats continued to reel from revived questions about Mrs. Clinton’s use of a private email server as secretary of state — a jolt delivered 11 days before the election in an abstruse letter from the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey — turnout tallies and interviews with dozens of early voters suggest that even a vintage “October surprise” may pack less of a punch than it once did.

In a race between two deeply polarizing candidates, opinions appear to have been cemented weeks if not months ago for most voters. And the contest is well underway in some of the most important battlegrounds.

FORECAST UPDATE - HuffPost’s models give Hillary Clinton a 98.1 percent chance of winning the presidency. Democrats have a 46 percent chance of winning the Senate outright, and Republicans a 19 percent chance of holding on, with a 35 percent chance of a tie that would be decided by the winning vice presidential candidate. [Presidential forecast, Senate forecast]

Clinton’s biggest problem isn’t voters switching ― it’s voters turning out (Huffpollster via email) - Jim Newell: “[Democratic pollster Peter] Hart’s not especially concerned about voters switching their preference after the Friday news. (Voters rarely switch their preferences, despite what the fluctuating polls might indicate.)… The email revelations, in other words, don’t suddenly give a large bloc of voters sudden reason to believe that Trump would be a masterful steward of the nuclear arsenal. ‘Somehow people have to say, ‘I like the guy,’ or, ‘I think he’s right,’ more than saying, ‘Boy I’ve become more questionable about Hillary Clinton,’’ he said…. What concerns Hart more is dampened turnout from soft Clinton supporters—and Sanders voters, specifically…. Sanders voters, especially young voters, view Clinton as dishonest and untrustworthy, and they’re not as likely to turn out. They may see this latest news and ‘then end up saying: ‘I never really liked Clinton anyway, and I certainly don’t want Trump. I’m just not gonna vote,’’ Hart explained.” [Slate]

Nate Silver at 538 remarks via email on most recent polls. “While this is not a terrible set of numbers for Clinton — and probably not the “game changer” that the Comey news was billed as on Friday — I’ve also seen analyses that go too far in the other direction and conclude that the news hasn’t really had any impact. Clinton’s popular vote lead is down to 4.7 percentage points in our forecast, as compared with 5.7 percentage points on Friday and 7.1 percentage points two weeks ago. And Trump’s chances of winning are 24 percent in the polls-only model, up from 19 percent on Friday and 12 percent two weeks ago. Trump’s chances are 26 percent in the polls-plus model, which is converging with polls-only.”

Republicans think Trump will lose - at least some of them. Greg Sargent (Washington Post/Plum Line) tells us why in his Morning Plum..

… senior GOP strategists appear convinced that the new revelations — if that’s even the right word for the news — won’t shift the fundamentals of the race in a dramatic enough way to enable Donald Trump to win. With polls showing the race tightening, probably because disaffected Republican voters are coming back to Trump, Politico has a rundown on what these GOP strategists think this tightening really means and what comes next:

[For example:] “She was knocking on 400 electoral votes; that’s going to slide back,” said Steve Schmidt, the GOP strategist who guided John McCain’s 2008 campaign….Schmidt now predicts Clinton winding up with somewhere between 338 and 350 electoral votes. “It’s just really unlikely that there is an undecided bloc of voters still weighing Hillary Clinton’s emails. I think everyone made up their minds a long time ago on that subject.”

“It’s not just the electoral map,” Goeas [a GOP pollster said]. “The thing about polling is: polling assumes both campaigns are equal. You look at quality of surrogates, money raised, ground game — she has an advantage in all that. So you basically have to look at the polling and say it reflects the worst-case scenario for her.”

There are two other factors to consider, however. One might be good for Clinton; the other might be good for Trump. The first is that the news could jolt some Democratic voters out of complacency, persuading them that she might still lose, which could help goose early voting and/or turnout and perhaps get some who might have voted for a minor party candidate to vote for her, to keep Trump out of the White House. The Clinton campaign is using the news to try to make that happen.

The second big factor: the FBI might release more information in coming days. If there’s something serious in the emails, then all bets are off. But even if the FBI says that most of the emails are duplicates and that there’s nothing significant here, that could further rev up Republican voters who will be stoked into a fury. Trump will escalate his ongoing claims that the election is rigged by alleging an FBI cover-up. In this scenario, Trump will have gone from bashing the FBI as corrupt (for not originally suggesting criminal charges); to hailing the FBI’s bravery in revisiting the issue (in the wake of the latest news); to bashing the FBI as corrupt again. Republican voters will effortlessly glide through these contortions along with Trump, and may be energized by such an outcome.

I stress again that these latest polling returns are early. We very well could see national polls showing Trump ahead in coming days. If so, don’t overreact — remember, in a tightening race, some polls will be good for Trump. Keep focused on the polling averages, both national and in the battleground states. And watch the fundamentals outlined above by GOP strategists. Especially the early voting, which seems to be revealing a clear Clinton ground game advantage.

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