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  2. Elections
31 October 2016

Relax. Donald Trump’s chances are worse than they look

Hillary Clinton's bad news week hasn't shifted the fundamental picture. 

By Stephen Bush

The fallout from another story about Hillary Clinton’s emails during her time as Secretary of State dominates most of today’s frontpages. “Trump picks up poll surge”is the i‘s splash. “FBI play the Trump card” is the Metro‘s. “Hillary and Trump now neck and neck” is the Mail‘s splash. 

A nervous final week of the campaign awaits – and that the FBI has now acquired a warrant to search a laptop belonging to Anthony Weiner, the estranged husband of Clinton’s key aide, Huma Abedin, but will not report until after the election will cause further jitters.

Is it time to start stockpiling tinned goods? Should you be worried? As so often, the Onion has the best advice: “if you haven’t already been horrified for the last 16 months, there’s probably no point in starting now”.  It is worrying that a major presidential candidate of the world’s number one superpower is running on a ticket of reactionary racial politics at home and obeisance to Vladimir Putin abroad, but there is no reason to be any more worried about the American election this week than there was last.

The American press loves a horserace and the rest of the world is allowing itself to be worried unnecessarily. The big polling collapse that has everyone nervous – that ABC tracking poll that went from a lead of 12 points to just one – was of a poll that was too far out the other way.  Even with that poll included, Clinton still holds a seven-point lead in the HuffPo average and a three point lead with the RealClearPolitics average.

In the electoral college, Clinton’s position still looks to be far stronger. Remember that in many states, there is a significant amount of early voting and for the most part, it looks as if Clinton has a sizable advantage in the swing states. She looks likely to get all of Maine’s electoral votes and Trump – who has no field operation to speak of – has it all to do in Nevada and Colorado. In Ohio, where he has led all year, it looks as if he could come unstuck at the last. And Florida – the icing on the cake for Democratic presidential candidates but very much an optional extra – is still a toss-up. Essentially, Clinton is drawing in the states that will be nice for her ego, and remains ahead in her “firewall” states, which, as long as they remain in her column, guarantee her the White House.

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As I’ve written before, of course, it could be that on the day itself, a tide of angry white voters without college degrees who have never voted before are drawn to the polls by Trump’s combination of anti-free trade and anti-minority rhetoric. But it’s worth noting that Trump tended to underperform his polling in the primary race and there is little to no evidence that he added non-voters to the electorate then or is doing so now.

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And it’s always worth looking at what campaigns are doing as opposed to saying for a clue as to how they think things are going. As I wrote before the Brexit result, that David Cameron was willing to torch any hope of reunifying the Tory party after a Remain vote with his last-minute press conference outside Downing Street showed how badly they felt things were going. This time, that Trump is making a desperate play for New Mexico, Michigan and Wisconsin, states he has spent little time or money in, shows that for all the triumphant sounds coming from his Twitter feed and the talk of a close race, it is still Clinton who is in pole position in the contest’s last days. 

A shorter version of this appeared in today’s Morning Call, my daily guide to what’s going on in British politics and beyond. You can subscribe for free here.

  1. Spotlight
  2. Elections
31 October 2016

Relax. Donald Trump’s chances are worse than they look

Hillary Clinton's bad news week hasn't shifted the fundamental picture. 

By Stephen Bush

The fallout from another story about Hillary Clinton’s emails during her time as Secretary of State dominates most of today’s frontpages. “Trump picks up poll surge”is the i‘s splash. “FBI play the Trump card” is the Metro‘s. “Hillary and Trump now neck and neck” is the Mail‘s splash. 

A nervous final week of the campaign awaits – and that the FBI has now acquired a warrant to search a laptop belonging to Anthony Weiner, the estranged husband of Clinton’s key aide, Huma Abedin, but will not report until after the election will cause further jitters.

Is it time to start stockpiling tinned goods? Should you be worried? As so often, the Onion has the best advice: “if you haven’t already been horrified for the last 16 months, there’s probably no point in starting now”.  It is worrying that a major presidential candidate of the world’s number one superpower is running on a ticket of reactionary racial politics at home and obeisance to Vladimir Putin abroad, but there is no reason to be any more worried about the American election this week than there was last.

The American press loves a horserace and the rest of the world is allowing itself to be worried unnecessarily. The big polling collapse that has everyone nervous – that ABC tracking poll that went from a lead of 12 points to just one – was of a poll that was too far out the other way.  Even with that poll included, Clinton still holds a seven-point lead in the HuffPo average and a three point lead with the RealClearPolitics average.

In the electoral college, Clinton’s position still looks to be far stronger. Remember that in many states, there is a significant amount of early voting and for the most part, it looks as if Clinton has a sizable advantage in the swing states. She looks likely to get all of Maine’s electoral votes and Trump – who has no field operation to speak of – has it all to do in Nevada and Colorado. In Ohio, where he has led all year, it looks as if he could come unstuck at the last. And Florida – the icing on the cake for Democratic presidential candidates but very much an optional extra – is still a toss-up. Essentially, Clinton is drawing in the states that will be nice for her ego, and remains ahead in her “firewall” states, which, as long as they remain in her column, guarantee her the White House.

As I’ve written before, of course, it could be that on the day itself, a tide of angry white voters without college degrees who have never voted before are drawn to the polls by Trump’s combination of anti-free trade and anti-minority rhetoric. But it’s worth noting that Trump tended to underperform his polling in the primary race and there is little to no evidence that he added non-voters to the electorate then or is doing so now.

Content from our partners
How automation can help telecoms companies unlock their growth potential
The pandemic has had a scarring effect on loneliness, but we can do better
Feel confident gifting tech to your children this Christmas

And it’s always worth looking at what campaigns are doing as opposed to saying for a clue as to how they think things are going. As I wrote before the Brexit result, that David Cameron was willing to torch any hope of reunifying the Tory party after a Remain vote with his last-minute press conference outside Downing Street showed how badly they felt things were going. This time, that Trump is making a desperate play for New Mexico, Michigan and Wisconsin, states he has spent little time or money in, shows that for all the triumphant sounds coming from his Twitter feed and the talk of a close race, it is still Clinton who is in pole position in the contest’s last days. 

A shorter version of this appeared in today’s Morning Call, my daily guide to what’s going on in British politics and beyond. You can subscribe for free here.