…And the winner is

Hillary Clinton, by a dominating margin. I’m speaking of last Monday’s debate, which she won roughly two-to-one over a collapsing Trump. His abysmal performance was the worst by any candidate in living memory.

As usually happens, the debate winner picks up momentum in the polls, and we see that happening now in both the national and key battleground state numbers. Huffington Post’s Pollster, the best of the poll averaging sites, shows she’s
back up to 4.5 points over Trump nationally. But readers know that the race will be decided in a few Battleground states, not the nation as a whole. Late yesterday we got our first look at Clinton’s post-debate position in five key swing states from Public Policy Polling. She’s moved back into the leads in all of them, most notably Florida and North Carolina, two Trump must-win states.

Many of us were confident Trump would not be an effective debater, but none could have foreseen his reversion to utter boorishness and confusion as his facade gradually slipped from the opening stages, began to crumble by the midway point, and totally disappeared by the final moments. He was at that point a quivering Orange mess, seething with barely-controlled rage.

It began with his dodging of questions on job creation. Then came his tax returns, and Clinton’s deft skill at making these into the issue they deserve to be. It went downhill from there. He was called out on his phony concession that President Obama was born in the U.S., and his refusal to answer the question why he pursued the Birther claims for five long years, when he was aware they were completely unfounded. When asked if he had anything to say to African-Americans, he firmly said “No”, and repeated it. Even a pro-Trump supporter heard the angry cry in a hundred ghettos across the land, and in some twenty million suburban households as well, very likely.

Already on the run, he reverted to his charge that Hillary doesn’t have the stamina to be President, doesn’t have a “Presidential look”, and doesn’t have the necessary (in his alternate-reality) “winning temperament”. He and his ratpack should count themselves lucky that she or the moderator did not at that point correct his poor understanding of English, and remind him that while there is no such thing as a “winning temperament”, there most definitely is a losing temperament.

Nearing the end, he had lost badly. But none of us could have imagined how he was about to self-destruct in the final minutes. Slapped in his puffy cheek with Clinton’s reminder of his misogyny, and her example of it, his public humiliation of Alicia Machado, his own Miss Universe pageant winner, Trump first tried to bully his way out of documented history, and, when Clinton was not intimidated, backed into his regular posture of petulant denial. Learning that the young woman, a struggling immigrant, had become a U.S. citizen, he gave up, crushed by not one woman, but two. Public humiliation in the eyes of 84 million-plus viewers. No Trump building was tall enough to escape his shame, no wall high enough to hide his weakness.

The Clinton team was understandably proud of her massive win, and the total success of the carefully laid Machado trap. They were even ready with a TV attack ad featuring Ms. Machado. It was at that moment simply a matter of waiting for the Friday and weekend polls to come in and see how well she had done.

There was absolutely no way they could have been prepared for what was to come.

The following morning, desperate to prove that his mega-fail the night before was simply a big lie put forth by the media under Clinton’s masterful direction, Trump attacked Ms. Machado on Fox News. Even his own supporters were caught flat-footed. How could he bring that terrible scene up, when he needed to get his message of tax-cuts for the rich and the horrors of inner-city neighborhoods back on track?

That was only the beginning of his descent into mindless rage this week. He simply would not, because, adolescent bully that he is, he could not let go. Clinton supporters and an estimated fifteen million undecided voters have now been treated to three full days of Trump’s winning temperament on full, shouted, incoherent display. Unlike the real and tragic one in Hoboken, his train wreck still dominates the news today.

Worse yet for the Trump cause, we’ve seen a massive surge in Latino interest in registering to vote after last Monday, in the key states of Florida, Texas, Arizona, and Nevada. Little did the self-centered Trump realize the nineteen year-old girl he’d publicly berated in 1996 had become a highly popular figure in the American Latino community.

And let’s be clear: the surge in Clinton’s numbers as of this morning do not reflect the additional voters who turn to her as a result of this latest round in the long-running Republican War on Women. By next Monday we’ll know better the damage he’s inflicted upon himself.

My guess is we’ll see Clinton’s well-organized advocates pushing hard on Machado and misogyny for at least another week, further disrupting Trump’s extremely shallow concentration as he vainly attempts to prep for the second Presidential debate a week from Sunday.

Would Clinton and her mighty surrogate team rather be talking about the goals she has for the country, and her well-considered plans to achieve them? Of course, especially since Trump has no plans except an economic plan that would bring about a recession while handing the richest 1% massive tax breaks. Trade? Trump’s “plan” is to try and get our trading partners to agree to new “deals” or risk the Donald bombing the s**t out of them.

Be sure that the Clinton team will continue to do their best to inform the voters on the pressing concerns and issues that confront the country. But the other side knows they dare not get into serious and complex issues when they must rely on a TV buffoon with the mind and emotional maturity of a fifth grader to explain the Republican position.

This is a sad state for our nation.

But sad or not, professionals and thoughtful citizens concerned with governing, economics, history, science, income distribution, education, public service, defense, foreign affairs, health care, climate change, civil rights, criminal justice, and women’s rights need to face the reality that Trump has created: this election will not be about issues, since only one side is prepared or willing to debate them.

Did I miss anything?

If you happened to be on vacation the past few days, or visiting your sick aunt in Sri Lanka, or doing, well, you know, real stuff, and you see the polls this morning and through the weekend, you may be wondering why we’ve gone from “the tightening” to “the rightening” in less than a week.

The quick answer is Trump and Clinton had a debate, he got thumped good, and then he spent the next few days trying to re-write the reality, only managing to confirm what the debate showed: he is totally unequipped to be President.

To get the complete answer one would need to hear the full ninety minutes. But there are dozens of web sites with the many highlights and lowlights. Incapable of answering a question, Trump tried to harangue, divert and lie his way through a thicket of issues. Ultimately he showed himself as the shallow, bombastic, threatening phony he is, even trying in vain to bully Clinton as she crushed him in exchange after exchange.

The people have decided that Clinton beat the windbag by an average of two to one, and now the polls are beginning to reflect that judgment. By Friday she should be leading again by about 5% nationally, and the most important Battleground states should be seeing her comfortably ahead. So much for the “tightening”.

The most important point

If you didn’t catch the debate, you missed what your Truthteller suggests is the single most important exchange. In the transcript of the debate, you’ll see that Trump boasted he’d earned $694 million last year. Here are his exact words:

“But you will learn more about Donald Trump by going down to the federal elections, where I filed a 104-page essentially financial statement of sorts, the forms that they have. It shows income — in fact, the income — I just looked today — the income is filed at $694 million for this past year, $694 million. If you would have told me I was going to make that 15 or 20 years ago, I would have been very surprised.”

Then during Clinton’s barrage re: his tax returns a few minutes later, he brags about not paying taxes. He actually says it’s smart. (He should say his tax lawyers and accountants are the smart ones, but Trump is incapable of admitting that.)

We can only hope the Clinton campaign will run ads asking the essential questions and exposing him for the greedy money-grubber Elizabeth Warren labels him. If I were writing copy for Clinton’s team here’s what the ad would say:

“Donald Trump brags that he pays no Federal taxes. He says it’s smart to screw the American people if he can legally get away with it. Just how smart? Last year he boasts that he earned $694 million. And he wont tell us how much he paid in Federal taxes, or how much he donated to charity. Was it zero? He takes in nearly 700 million, and manages to keep it all for himself by being “smart”? No wonder he doesn’t want you to see his tax returns. No wonder he wants to eliminate the Estate Tax. No wonder he wants to keep his business practices hidden, and keep all his hard-working supporters in the dark, too.”


“Prepared to be President”

So she said, and so she is. Clinton has demonstrated once again that she is a supremely competent, dedicated lifetime public servant who’s also gifted at taking down overblown bullies. It wasn’t even close, a total mismatch. Trump may stick his name on tall towers, but her intellect and command of the issues towers far above his self-centered view of the egoistic, delusional, adolescent reality he inhabits.

Was anything accomplished by the public deflating of the Orange windbag?

Certainly not among Trump’s benighted followers, who will be whining from now to November how he was cheated, or treated with no respect, or prevented from repeating his bellicose lies for the fifth time by an unfair moderator.

So far as Clinton’s supporters are concerned, their worst fears about Trump’s lack of fitness for the Presidency, his bullying egoism, his mental deficiencies, and his unstable temperament were confirmed. The only surprise was that Mr. Stamina doesn’t actually have much. Oh, and that, as Dr. Howard Dean speculated, he may be on coke.

With some 45% of voters presently locked in for Clinton, and about 38% mesmerized by Trump’s BS, it’s the roughly 17% in the middle who’ll decide the election.

As for these third party and undecided voters, the 3PUs as I call them, we won’t know for a few days how many were moved under the Clinton coalition umbrella to avoid the deluge of Trumpian lies and downright dumb Republican “policy proposals”. My experience says a seriously large chunk of the educated white independents have seen enough, and will not be voting for Trump. At the same time, their dislike for Clinton remains strong, even if she took real steps to mute it last night, so these “Republican Independents” will probably stay in the Libertarian or undecided ranks. For now.

But even without a slew of fresh national and Battleground state polls, one overnight fact jumps out from Trump’s disastrous showing: an instant CNN/ORC poll showed 62% of the debate watchers judged Clinton the hands-down winner, versus just 27% awarding the fight to Trump, leaving 11% undecided.

Given this data, here’s your insider analytical fact package of the morning.

The 27% nicely matches the 28% hard-core Trump supporters assumed by the Truthteller model. The eleven percent undecided matches my current 3PU number of 16%, minus the currently expected slippage in our model of at least five percent going to Clinton when the final tally is completed November 8th..

But here’s the tantalizing possibility: could the 62% equal a (now) new “Clinton core” of 57% plus the 5% switcheroos? If so, that would point to a potential landslide for Clinton. It makes my head spin, even though the brain inside assures me this cannot be true.

Watch this space!

Clinton vs. Trump uncertain, but poll junkies win big!

The terrific electoral vote mapping site 270towin.com has an excellent new page for seeing the updated national and state polls using simple pie charts. On one clean, uncluttered, easy to scan page, you’ll see how the accumulated recent averages of national and state polls stand as of that day. Each pie chart shows the current support for Clinton, Trump, and the “others”. You can start with the latest national numbers, then scroll across and down the page to see who has the largest slice of pie in each state. The folks at 270towin take the average of all available recent polls, so you need not drill down into the bottomless questions of poll credibility, etc. Below we’ll use the new page to gain some powerful state-by-state insights to this extraordinarily complex contest.

How to set up the web page

On the new 270towin polls summary page look for the SORT button (on a forest green background) just above the “National” pie chart on the lower left of the top row of the pie charts display. Above the SORT button is a check box to show the 3rd party and undecided breakout in each pie chart. Check the box and wait for the page to auto-refresh.

Now, select another useful option.  To the right of the green SORT button you’ll see a set of radio button choices  Choosing “Competitiveness” will bring the Battleground and other closely-contested states up toward the top of the array display, saving scan time. Select that button and wait for the page to auto-refresh again.

Now we’re ready to put this new 270towin tool to work.

Tip: As you scan down the page, watch the gold/green/gray slices of the Battleground state pies

The new all-polls-on-one-page illustrates how the combined third party/undecided “other” voters are making the estimation of “likely voters”, and the final November win/lose percentages so difficult this year. (Note that 270towin’s “other” is the same as my “3PU” group name.) In a recent post I’ve dwelt at some length on estimating the likely voting behavior of the 3PUs, so we need not belabor the problem again here. My “net-net” conclusion was that, when all the votes are in on November 9th, “slippage” from the 3PUs will be due to half the Stein, Johnson, and (some) undecided voters deciding that Clinton is safer for the country than Trump. These last-minute decisions will be the 2016 version of the expected traditional “natural” movement away from the third parties as voters decide they want their vote to count.

How can we use the pie-charts page to gauge the potential impact of the expected wave of last-minute voter bloc decisions, especially in the key swing states that will actually decide the national election?

To answer this question for a given state, you’ll first need to add the percentages and subtract from 100 to deduce the Green Party’s voter preference share in each pie chart. In Nevada for example, add Clinton’s 41%, Trump’s 43%, Johnson’s 8%, and the undecided (as of today) 7%. Subtracting from 100% yields Stein’s current share, 1%, and thus, a total of 16% 3PUs.

In past elections where there was a significant third party and/or a large proportion of undecideds, roughly half of the total 3PUs have gone to each of the two main candidates. So, if that happens again this year, who cares about the gold/green/gray “others” pie slices in 270towin’s terrific one-page array?

You do, if you’re a Progressive or Democrat.

Remember please, my conclusion a few days back was that very few of these 3PU switcharoo votes will go to Trump:

Trump has all the supporters at this point he’s likely to get. He has so poisoned himself in terms of character, competence, and temperament that very few 3PU voters are going to change their mind in the polling booth and vote for him. The Libertarians are uniformly opposed to him as are the Greens, so he can, at best, hope for a few undecideds to take him up on his “Whaddya got to lose?” offer.

Unlike in previous elections, where we’d expect the undecided group to split roughly evenly between the candidates, I suggest that the electorate this year is so exceptionally angst-ridden we could see the undecideds splitting 40% for Clinton, 30% for Trump, and 30% failing to vote. Combine this breakout with my assumption that half of the 3Ps will switch to Clinton while the other half stick with their 3P candidate, and we have a wholly different take on the likely final results in November than the simplistic reading of the current polls by the TV commentators would indicate. In a phrase, I’ll call this the “November surprise” of 2016.

Is a “November surprise” a real possibility?

Yes, as can be seen when we do a state-by-state “flip-ability” estimate for the key Battleground and other closely-contested states.

Assuming our last-minute voter behavioral analysis model is basically correct, let’s scan the array of state pie charts on the new 270towin pie charts page. When we do, we see how, in state after state, a switch of just a small portion of the 3PUs (shown in the gold, green and gray slivers at the top of each chart) to Clinton in a few states would decide those states for the Dems. If this same “November surprise” effect occurred in just a few of the red-leaning states, it would turn the overall national contest from the so-called “dead heat” the TV media is selling to a Democratic rout of Trump and his Republican fellow travelers.

Again, let’s use Nevada for a test case. Above we saw that the projected tally based on polls is 41% for Clinton, 43% for Trump, with a total of 9% for the 3Ps and 7% undecideds. My analysis therefore is half of the 9% goes to Clinton, while the other half toughs it out. Meanwhile of the 7% undecideds, I’ll call 3% to Clinton, 2% to Trump, and 2% not voting, That would give Clinton 41 + 4.5 + 3 or 48.5% total to Trump’s 43 + 2 or 45% total, with 4.5% staying with the third parties and 2% not voting. From a 2 point deficit using today’s polls, Clinton pulls out a comfortable win on November 8th.

Now let’s examine the other truly key Battleground states using the new 270towin array.

  • If just one-third of North Carolina’s 15% 3PU voters decide at the end to be safe with Clinton, she flips the state’s 15 Electoral Votes (EVs)
  • Ditto with Ohio, where a quarter of the state’s 18% 3PUs would give her a squeaker, but a win is a win…
  • And in Iowa (!), now being Trumpeted as a likely win for the Orange windbag — a 25% Clinton final decision among the large 20% of “other” voters would move Iowa into the Clinton column
  • A 25% last-minute decision for Clinton among Florida’s 12% 3PUs would let her take Florida by a margin larger than President Obama’s in 2012.

And it may not end there. Look at solid red Texas (where Clinton is actually now leading in the registered voter polls): a last minute decision for Clinton by just 25% of Texas’ huge 27% “other” category would give her an even-money chance of nabbing the state’s 38 EVs. In Georgia, the same scenario is possible, if a third of the state’s 15% “other” voters opt at the last minute for Clinton — not inconceivable considering the Atlanta urbanites’ distaste for Trump, coupled with an expected surge in African-American turnout. In Arizona, the story is even worse for the Republicans, since just a twenty percent last-minute decision for Clinton among the state’s enormous 24% “other” bloc would flip this red state to blue.

What will drive 20 to 40 percent of 3PUs in these key states to change to Clinton? The deep Clinton ground game in most of them will be a huge facilitator, but mostly it will be the realization by voters of the likely dangerous consequences of allowing Trump to win. For most of these last-minute switchers, it will start and end with the Supreme Court, and the prospect of as many as three Trump appointments, turning our country into a fascist paradise for the super wealthy and their corporations.

Yeah, I understand: my “November surprise” scenario sounds too good to be true. And it may well be. Admittedly, my handy-dandy formula for estimating the average final split percentages in the state results will be “off” for any given state. And my estimate of 50% of the 3P votes going at the end to Clinton may be too high. Ah, but it could also be too low: if the fear of Trump in the Oval Office continues to grow, we’d see perhaps 70% of the combined Green/Libertarian voters switching. Considering the large proportion of 3P voters in today’s polls, a 70% average move of these voters to the Democrats would seal Ohio for Clinton, in addition to her wins in Florida, New Hampshire and North Carolina. Game over, Orange guy; back to the penthouse and your other reality show.

A warning for the faint of heart

We cannot predict with any certainty how large a percentage of the 3PU/”other” folks will, in the end, switch to Clinton in any given state. Nonetheless, IMO the argument that a) there will be a significant degree of “others” slippage in these final weeks and b) that the great majority of the switcheroos will go for Clinton are sound hypotheses.

But understand the nature of the last-minute decision process: whatever slippage comes Clinton’s way will not be evident until the votes are counted. It means the contest is likely to be a nail biter all the way to the end, with the results not fully known until the early hours of November 9th.

We also need to remember that the “likely voter” models of the various pollsters would be wrecked (statistically) if as few of 5% of Republicans stay home in disgust or protest. If an additional say, 5% of Trump’s core voters decide he’s hopeless beaten and don’t bother voting, that would further deflate the likely voter estimates for the Republicans. And if, say 5% more of his supporters finally realize what a ruthless, truthless con man he is, we can envision a shocking tidal wave of switches to Clinton. (I’m thinking primarily of the non-college white women here, especially the ones who have a daughter.) The combination of these three sub-bloc behaviors on Election Day would not only defeat Trump: they’d have a profound impact on the Republican candidates for the House and Senate. But we’ll deal with that prospect in a future post.

Ironically, should the former Sanders supporters ultimately decide not to vote, the impact on Clinton would not be significant, since these hard-care voters are now supporting the Libertarians, the Greens, or are milling about in the undecided category. The larger point is that likely voter numbers are suspect this year, and could well have a bearing on my estimates above.

Understand as well that an “October surprise could throw off my “November surprise” estimates. But it’s not clear what such a surprise might be, nor can we say it would help Trump more than Clinton (as the TV talking heads and pundits mostly seem to assume.) I’d bet we’ll see more leaked emails, and that they won’t significantly affect the results. The possibility of a major external terrorist attack cannot be ruled out, of course. But such an event could turn out to be to Clinton’s benefit, as scared voters opt for the more stable, experienced, and competent candidate. My personal favorite October surprise.is that after two debates, or even just one, Trump whines the debates are rigged, and walk away from another face-off. That would definitely cost him permanently in the polls.

No way around it; there’s weeks of uncertainty ahead! But here’s a silver lining to keep you calm. Note that I’ve only listed eight of the states that could conceivably be in play, using my behavioral analysis of the “others” category in these states. Just one red-to-blue flip among these states due to pro-Clinton 3PU slippage would effectively block Trump from any path to 270 EVs.




Follow-up — Polling bla bla

As I tried to explain yesterday, panic by Clinton supporters is premature:

Check out Clinton regains momentum and read Perspective on the polls. And this deeper analysis, also from Stu Rothenberg: Clinton’s lead is bigger than it looks.

Note that none of the recognized pollsters and polling experts are using my “soft support” modifier concept, described yesterday, at least so far. This isn’t surprising — we’ve not seen an election where, out of disgust, a significant percentage of a candidate’s professed “likely” backers might in the end simply refuse to come out and vote for him (or her).

Be wary also of articles or TV talking heads claiming that 80% or more of voters “have made up their minds”. Either or both our flawed candidates could still drive allegedly “committed” supporters away, with more stupid lies or insulting comments by Trump, or newly-leaked emails by her. This election is a war of attrition, folks.

Finally, for today’s edition, see this stunning experiment by the NYT Upshot team. The same Florida polling sample was given to five different pollster teams, and they came back with a range of answers, from Trump up one percent to Clinton up 5% — a six point spread within one state sample! Without spinning or obfuscating, the NY Times crew showed us the deep flaw in our assumption that polls can be trusted.

The tightening — dead heat or simply more media muddle?

Watching the latest rounds of Pundit Pinball over the past two weeks, with the media’s death-spiral emphasis on emails, Putin mania, Deploramania, Clintonian health panic, Trump’s I-was-against-it-before-I-was-for-it-before-I-was-against-it babble, the “I’ve got a secret plan to defeat Isis, but the useless Generals I’ll be inheriting from useless Obama next January haven’t told me what it is yet” gambit, and the “I’ve got more Generals and Admirals than you do — so there, fat boy!” counter thrust, one could be excused for giving up on this election altogether.

Thanks to the Washington Post for what will likely prove a vain attempt to call for an end to the “which email was that?” witch hunt. Not that any press or TV news organizations are going to suddenly become professionally responsible again anytime soon.

And thanks even more to Kim Jong Un, for blowing a five kiloton hole in his own country, and reminding us that the election is about very real and very scary issues.

And then, just when I thought things would be getting back to normal, meaning another week of the campaigns sniping at each other over concerns of personal competence and character instead of debating the issues, we learn from General Powell what he really thinks, and not just about Trump, and the media are off to Kandidate Kiddyland again.

On cue, along comes the Birther nastiness, as if we needed another dose to go with our pneumania pills. I’ll save you the time and cut to the chase. Friday we saw Trump’s casual concession, tossed off during a promo event for his new hotel, that, yes, the President is really an American. Offered without any mention of the five years of racist madness he led and fostered. Offered without any apology to our President and our people. Offered in fact with another lie about Clinton, and hence, a justification in Trump’s adolescent mind, where he believes his own lies, for his five year attempt to sabotage the legitimacy and effectiveness of the Obama administration.

Then we get another forty-eight hours worth of home-grown terrorism, if that’s what it was. Another two days down the media gutter, during which we’ll learn nothing of any substance about the most momentous election facing us since 1964. Media muddle, indeed.

Please, can we get back to the polls?

Spoiler alert: Clinton and Trump are not “tied”.

Given the way the TV and online media hype every poll result that comes in, readers may be forgiven for having that impression. I’ll say this for hopefully the last time this cycle::

  • Poll results may tell us how voters would vote if the election were held now, but they are not a “prediction” of what will the results will be seven weeks from today
  • “How voters would vote now” is itself a misleading phrase, my apologies: so many voters in this 2016 contest will probably be making up their minds as they enter the polling station, every “this minute” poll would probably be significantly wrong
  • Some polls are more accurate than others; it’s your job to learn which tend to be accurate over (long stretches of) time — if you don’t care to do this, and my sympathies are with you!, then you should simply not listen to “news” reports based on the latest poll
  • Similarly, many polls tend to be biased over time toward the Republicans and a smaller number toward the Democrats — as I’ve suggested in a previous post, go to 538’s polling organizations ratings table to see a given polling organization’s credibility
  • State polls are the ones that count, since they assess today’s voter opinions at the state level, where, thanks to our obsolete Electoral College system, Presidential contests are won or lost
  • But for technical (not “conspiratorial”) reasons, state polls lag national polls, meaning the latest national poll result may not reflect the current preferences in a state, or a group of states
  • Polls of even the same voter population can change dramatically in a short period of time, due to events, surprises, discovery of new information, or an external threat to the country.

OK, Mr. Truthiness, all well and good, but WHO’S LEADING?

Given the above, we don’t actually know who’s ahead in the “if we voted right now” case. As far as November 8th is concerned, however, Clinton is still ahead. According to Dr. Wang, Clinton has an eighty-five to ninety percent chance of winning more than 269 Electoral Votes. In the national polling, of the approximately 80% of declared Trump or Clinton backers nationally, she has about 41% to his 39%.

Loyal readers and true Patriots, bear with me, please. Political polling in the U.S. is really complicated. The producers of TV news programs are not going to spend the hours required to explain why. 99% of voters don’t really care to know. So here are some tips to get you through the coming six weeks:

  1. Until roughly the final two weeks before Election day, polls should be treated as one would any other information resource. Obsessing over them is a waste of time.
  2. In every election, a significant number of voters remain undecided or seemingly committed to a third party until the last moment, roughly five percent. Right now, I’m betting this number is at 29%, give or take a few percentage points. No, I can’t prove this, since the polls are more unreliable than in prior years.
  3. The debates may or may not persuade folks that Clinton’s competence and real qualifications outweigh Trump’s bluster and snake-oil salesmanship, but we probably won’t know the full polling impact of the three debates until the middle or third week of October.
  4. There probably will be more revelations of damaging emails, or of Trump’s shoddy business and financial practices, and we won’t know what impact, if any, these have on the voters’ choice process, but I’m betting any such impacts will prove to be minor.
  5. For all the wise-sounding back and forth by the TV and press commentators, we don’t know who’ll actually turn out to vote, or mail in their ballot. “Likely voter” polls try their best to screen out those registered voters who will, or may probably not vote, but this is not an exact science. This year, with roughly two-thirds of the electorate intensely disliking one or both major candidates, it’s especially challenging to predict who will actually show up to vote, and how relatively firm they are at that deciding moment about their essentially negative choice.

The complications of “soft support” mixed with two independent parties

At least seven — I’m guessing nine — point’s worth of “decided” voters are “soft” on their seemingly chosen candidate. Trump and Clinton are, people tell the pollsters, the two most disliked candidates in modern history. We know that many of Trump’s and Clinton’s backers prefer their candidate as the lesser of two very poor choices. It’s reasonable to assume therefore that, conservatively, perhaps 5% of Trump’s stated supporters and 4% of Clinton supporters fall into this “soft” category. These queasy supporters could easily abandon their stated choice in the final days, and simply stay home. How they’ll actually vote, if they do, is a once in a lifetime headache of enormous proportions for pollsters.

Now, add in the Libertarian and Green supporters, who poll nationally at roughly nine and four percent respectively. Include the truly undecided seven percent, and my back-of-the-envelope estimate is that the true national numbers today are 37% Clinton, 4% “soft” Clinton, 34% Trump, 5% “soft” Trump, with 9% Johnson, 4% Stein, and 7% truly undecided bringing us up to 100% of likely voters. Clever readers will note my estimate of twenty-nine percent of soft supporters and undecideds would suggest that the nationally quoted 80% combined committed Clinton and Trump voters is actually just 71%. Yes, that is what I’m saying. Note that this says just 71% are hard-core committed to a major candidate. If my reading of the inherent softness and confusion among those polled is correct, it means that the 29% will decide the contest in November.

This election is the most difficult to poll or “model” than any in our modern history

We’ll deal with the softies in a bit, after we consider the independent Parties and “truly” undecideds:

  1. Expect that with no Gary Johnson in the debates, his roughly nine percent at the moment of the national polling averages will fall to as low as five or less percent of the final total. Your Truthteller’s magic cigar box says recognizing at the end how crucial this contest is for our country, about forty percent of his voters will vote for Clinton, while no more than a few percent will vote for Trump. Bitter to the end, perhaps fifty-five percent will doggedly stick with him.
  2. As for the Greens, perhaps half of Stein’s three to four percent will switch to Clinton, and exactly zero will go for Trump.
  3. The bigger mystery is how the presently truly undecided seven percent or so will split, since we won’t have data until the late evening of November eighth. The smart approach I suggest is to assume two points to Clinton and one to Trump, with the remaining four sitting it out.

How do I expect the 29% to break?

Potentially almost a third of likely voters could change their choice in the four weeks after the debates. Yikes! We got here thanks to two highly distrusted major candidates and two independents whose only actual contribution would be to help the totally unqualified Trump get elected. Nasty. Unprecedented. Frightening. Impossible to model. And yet, the very same massive pool of 29% “effectively undecided” voters that makes this election so difficult to analyze is the 29% that offers us a strong hope for a positive outcome.

How could this be?

Because, patient reader, Trump is unlikely to gain more than a few additional supporters in the final seven weeks before November 8th. And a very substantial proportion of the 29% are going to realize the prospect of a disastrous Trump presidency is not a risk worth taking. What looks like a tooth-and-nail fight for Clinton right now could actually be a landslide in the making..

Let’s break out the 29% and test this hypothesis:

Trump — I expect 3% of his softies to sit out the election, and 2% to pray intensely and then vote for him, while he picks up 2% of the undecideds; he’ll get zero from Stein, no surprise, and zero from Johnson (whose supporters came to the Libertarians to avoid the bitter nightmare of Trump).

Clinton — I’m confident she’ll keep three of her four percent soft supporters, with the one percent staying at home (but certainly not switching to Trump); she’ll pick up 4% from Johnson, 2% from Stein, and 3% of the 7% truly undecided.

The final tally on the back of my envelope?  Trump at 38%, Johnson at 4%, Stein at 2%, with Clinton at 49%, and 6% not voting. No, she wouldn’t win a national majority, but she would trounce Trump in most of the Battleground states, making for a very large Electoral Vote majority. On the safe side, I’ll go all-in: Clinton will win the Presidency if she takes Virginia and Pennsylvania.

This outcome will be the result of the (completely warranted) fear of Trump, not of any sudden outpouring of trust in Clinton. So be it; we’ll take it. Instead of talking about the “enthusiasm gap”, media mavens should be discussing the “riskiness factor”.

But what about the issues?

Thanks to the disruption of the Trump candidacy, the serious issues of governance have been shoved out of the arena this year, so we’ve heard next to nothing about the challenges that face our country. Trump’s clever methods of grabbing the spotlight with bluster, lies, personal and cultural insults, provocation and controversy have forced the Clinton campaign to try and respond to and cope with this whirlwind of disinformation, instead of presenting her policies and having a rational debate.

The Clinton team was fully aware of the kind of nasty fight they would face if Trump became the nominee, and prepared for it by at least publishing her policies and positions in detail on her website. They’re there for all to see, clearly presented, free of BS and boilerplate. But very few voters have taken the time to read this information. Trump has done nothing like this, since he knows his supporters don’t care about the issues, and since he doesn’t want to be pinned down on anything specific.

In spite of this, your faithful Truthteller will discuss the serious issues soon, as we approach the first debate. We can but hope…

Papers, please

climate, warming, hoax, republican

Blinders Reince: How’re you coming with that form, Pokey? I haven’t started mine yet.

Mumblin’ Mitch: It’s kind of, umm, invasive.

Blinders Reince: How so?

Mumblin’ Mitch: Like here, where it asks “Who do you fantasize about when you’re having sex?

  1. Your fifth grade Creationist teacher
  2. Melania
  3. Paul Ryan
  4. Paul Ryan and Vladimir Putin
  5. Vladimir Putin and his horse
  6. Just the horse
  7. An anime octopussy
  8. Kellyanne Conway
  9. Exceptionally ludicrous comb-overs

Note: Applicants who selected #2 or #9 will be deported on Day One”

Blinders Reince: Who knew Baldy had such a droll sense of humor? That list must have been made by Eric Trump.

Mumblin’ Mitch: I don’t understand.

Blinders Reince: The old mother-in-law joke, Pokes. Oedipussy.

Mumblin’ Mitch: This is all so confusing. Where’s the Speaker?

Blinders Reince: Hiding out from the campaign in Wisconsin.

Mumblin’ Mitch: Oh. Maybe I should go home to Kentucky.

Blinders Reince: And leave me here to handle Orange Baldy all by myself? No way, Mumble Magic.

Mumblin’ Mitch: Call Paul, OK? I need to know what he put for question number seven.

Blinders Reince: Let me see…“Have you ever confessed publicly that Obama’s birth certificate was genuine?” Wow! That’ll probably knock out at least a half dozen Republicans in the Senate, plus maybe three House members.

Blinders Reince, reaching for his tablet phone: Just in time! Here’s Ryan — I’ll put him on my tablet speaker.

Denyin’ Paul: Hey! How’s it look for Baldy in the polls, guys?

Blinders Reince: He’s catching up in a few swing states. Lots of us are getting really nervous. What if he wins this thing?

Denyin’ Paul: No chance, period. Full stop. She’ll crush him with her ads and ground game; probably chop off that monster comb-over and frame it as her first scalp. Not to worry, Whiney. What’s Pokey up to?

Blinders Reince: He’s filling out the application from CEO Bannon. I attached a copy to an email I sent you yesterday.

Denyin’ Paul: I don’t accept emails now. Period. End of stories.

Blinders Reince: Well, you better see it; it’s an application for all Republicans who expect to remain in office after Orange Baldy is elected, or work for his administration.

Denyin’ Paul: Baldy-dash. He has no legal right to demand such an application from me; I’m the Speaker of the House. Full Stop, unless your bill is something I approve of. Tell Mitch to forget that thing.

Blinders Reince: In a sec; now he’s calling his wife; says it’s urgent.

Denyin’ Paul: I’m in a hurry. What’s up, Mitch Bitch?

Mumblin’ Mitch: I, uh, I, ahhh, need to talk to my Sweet Patootie. I need to get her to dig my personal papers out of the secret shoe box.

Denyin’ Paul: Why?

Mumblin’ Mitch: Because it says right down here in small print: “Applicants must provide a copy of their birth certificate and a sworn affidavit that they are certifiable.” But it’s not clear what I’m supposed to be certified in.

Blinders Reince: I’ll need to look it up to be sure, Pokesy, but “certifiable” doesn’t mean like you’re certified for anything.

Mumblin’ Mitch: Well, it’s worrisome, Mr. Chairperson. It says right here, “Only certifiable, born in the USA Republicans will be welcome in the Great Trump Pacification and Unification Administration.”

Denyin’ Paul: Don’t worry, Poke-a-Dope. It’s something you can swear to without hesitation. Same as just about all the rest of us.

Mumblin’ Mitch: Bu, bu, but suppose he makes me pass a bill forcing us to fill this out and sign up?”

Blinders Reince: Or, just suppose, Paul, Bannon and Trump ram this rumored “Andrew J. Breitbart Memorial Freedom of Approved Speech Act” up Mitch’s butt? How can you stop that, once your Freedom Caucus brainiacs climb on board?”

Denyin’ Paul: Not gonna happen, Whiney. The loony-tuners can’t vote on a bill that’s never allowed out of committee, right? Relax. Anyway, I have to go out and mow the lawn.

Blinders Reince: And wave at the reporters, no doubt.

Denyin’ Paul: Sure. Gotta seem to be accessible, right? At least, out of microphone range.

Blinders Reince: But you’re not wearing a shirt!

Denyin’ Paul: Yeah, I’m going to be pretending I just had my workout. See? I put on my athletic shorts. At least I look better than Putin.

Battleground update — Deplorable results

The polls taken just after Clinton made her derisive “deplorables” comments are in, and they show a net two to four point reduction in her national lead over Trump. I’m aware that the media bobble-heads and many commentators insist that the “tightening” is mostly due to her team’s clumsy handling of her recent health problems; they’re kidding themselves. Most people in this often mindless country, like most people in every other country, have some sort of Underdog Gene, which causes them to immediately sympathize with little people who are disdained by the powerful. Clinton is now paying the price of invoking this powerful irrational impulse on the part of millions. Worse, unlike the health silliness, the negative effects of her words will not go away.

Let me be clear: I’m not judging the truth or overreach of her characterization of the Deplorables. I don’t care, since the greater truth is that truth has little to do with determining the winner of an election. The question before us is not whether she was justified in insulting (from their point of view) about 25 million lower-middle class white Americans, but how she can cope with the aftermath.

If that’s even possible.

Like the rest of her hard-core supporters, I’m struggling to think how she might recover her solid lead going into the debates. Failing that, what are the odds of Trump saying or doing something to cut his own polling numbers?

I’ll make my suggestions in a day or so. In the interim, I’ve been forced to amend my Battleground forecast from the last update one month ago.

Estimating the worst case for Clinton

Since so many Clinton supporters are panicking at the moment, I’ll show the worst case Electoral College scenario, and my own expected worst-case result for Clinton if I had to “call” the November vote today.


Notice that I think Clinton will win 272 EVs minimum, including New Hampshire. Even if Trump wins all other swing states excepting Virginia and Pennsylvania (which polling indicates are probably safe for Clinton), she still reaches 272 EVs. Yes, the race in New Hampshire is tight, and in the worst case scenario she could well lose here. But it’s a safe bet that she will win at least one of the other nine Battlegrounds, and any one will put her over 269 EVs.

To repeat, I am not predicting the final EV tally will be this close. But the earlier forecasts of mine are not likely either, barring some Trump blow-up in the debates, or an improbable string of positive Clinton news that would let her rebuild her polling lead in the key Battleground states. For example, learning Colin Powell’s true, blunt appraisal of Trump will make many Republicans on the fence drop to the Clinton side, or, if not, at least keep them there, their nose safely up in the air when they finally decide to stay home or vote Libertarian. Similarly, Trump’s failure to reveal his tax returns will surely help Clinton among the white voters she is having trouble persuading. Possibly the same could be said of the recently reported Trump financial scams and secret deals, but with just seven weeks to go, that would require aggressive follow-up by the media, and we’re probably unwise to assume they’ll do their job.

But she, and we who support her, cannot count on luck. It’s clear that this election is the least predictable one in at least five decades, not just due to Trump, but to the potentially major variable that more damaging emails will be leaked between now and early November. Or that Clinton may fail to go after Trump aggressively in the debate, calling him out as an adolescent bully and wholesale liar. The chances are good, and scary, that she’ll try and play the debates safe. Trying to protect a lead that can evaporate with a single leaked email would be ill-advised. Correct that: it would be stupid, and a betrayal of the millions who want her in the White House, warts and all.

Two additional well-intended, potentially disastrous complications

This election is a forecaster’s nightmare thanks to the two third party candidates. As of now, they’re providing undecided voters with a sanctimonious place to hide from the great challenge to our country’s future posed by the Trump candidacy.

Your Truthteller happens to be a specialist in global warming mitigation, but is not supporting Stein. She has a very real possibility of “Naderizing” Clinton. Even if Clinton wins the Electoral Vote contest, Stein will probably cut the Democratic popular vote total by two or three points. This will result IMO in the failure to flip at least one Senate seat to the Dems, and likely limit the success of the House take-back effort. Those who vote green to “send a message” or simply feel superior will be setting back the very cause many thousands of us have spent decades working for.

For those angry progressives voting for the Libertarian ticket, they need to think very hard about the kind of Supreme Court resulting from a Trump victory. If he is elected, we can forget any hope for a very long time of reversing Citizens United, securing women’s rights and income equality, reforming the criminal justice system, and a dozen other crucial legislative goals. I am a radical progressive, but I can recognize the disaster facing the millions of Americans who make up the 99% if Trump wins.

The time for moving the progressive cause forward faster is after we have stopped the Republicans and their blowhard buffoon from dragging the nation back fifty years into the past.

Words matter

In directly calling half of Trump supporters names and labeling the other half as defeated or hapless, Hillary Clinton has managed to do in a few minutes what we who support her would never have thought possible: she’s put her candidacy at risk. One of the oldest rules in campaigning is go ahead and attack your opponent but never attack their followers. Her unforced error will have consequences.

Progressives and Democrats are rushing to her defense, but the damage is done:

  • Where Trump stupidly attacked one Gold Star family, Clinton has labeled millions of voters as bigots of one form or another
  • She’s seriously undermined her own campaign’s ability to stay on offense against Trump, since anything they say about Trump will now be turned back on Clinton — “Yes, he’s unstable, but Hillary is mean“, just the sort of “logic” ignorant Americans use in deciding whom they want as a leader
  • She has confirmed what many millions, including many more millions who are not Trump supporters, will describe as her elitist leanings, by taking in millions from rich, hip, snooty, laughing liberal New Yorkers while trashing average folks
  • She’s indelibly stained her claim to be a unifier of our people instead of a divider — every time she or her supporters say that from now on, the other side will say, justifiably, “Yes, but only of the liberal left, not all Americans”‘
  • She’s given cause to millions of doubting Republicans to accept Trump after all, as Deplorable as he is
  • In communications terms, she’s replaced her message of lifting up with one of putting down
  • For many thousands of her volunteers, she’s taken the wind from their sails; for others, she’s made it harder to support her enthusiastically, since these people have relatives and parents and neighbors who will number some percentage of Deplorables among them
  • She’s succeeded in making herself even more unlikable, not easy to do when one is already disliked by nearly two thirds of the electorate.

Where are we now?

My assessment is based on experience, not numbers, since we won’t see any on this momentous mistake for several more days. But it’s a safe bet to predict:

  • Clinton will win the election. Her version of Romney’s “47%” won’t cause her to lose, because she’s in a far stronger position
  • The Trump supporters will be much more energized, raising turnout for him, but the absence of a ground game and a limited TV budget will limit his team’s ability to fully exploit her predicament
  • Her ability to slam Trump in the Debates is now severely impeded, since, by labeling his supporters so broadly, everything she says can be undercut with a one-liner attacking her sincerity
  • So yes, she’ll win, but, her margin of victory, state-by-state, will lose one or perhaps two points, on average — not enough to lose the state’s Electoral Votes, but enough to lose a tight Senate contest, or enable a shaky Republican House member to barely retain his seat.

And it’s in the House where the true cost of her remark will be felt. Her decline in the general popular vote will make it difficult to gain more than half the 30 House seats needed to have an effective first half of her term.

Words matter, as the Clinton campaign has so often reminded Trump after one of his offending insults, comments or rants. This one remark of hers, whether one thinks it justified or not, will define and limit her victory, and, by weakening her Presidency, will change our history.

Is Trump trying to lose? — Part One

Over the past two months, this question has occurred to me several times. Other commentators have raised it, too, and I’m not speaking of the many joking suggestions that Trump is actively scheming to throw the election so he won’t have to stop playing golf.

For me, the nagging suspicion he might not want to be President began with his apparent disinterest in working on a campaign launch in the weeks after locking up the Republican nomination. Trump boasts endlessly about his skill as a builder. The planning and preparatory steps before a major building construction project can begin are time-critical. But in spite of his alleged savvy as a builder, Trump showed no evidence he was even thinking about the urgent tasks that were required to run a professional campaign.

  • He put off the replacement of his Primary campaign manager, who was not qualified to run a full general election campaign
  • When he finally did appoint a “Campaign Chairman”, he selected a lobbyist with no campaign management track record
  • He neglected to build a professional, proven campaign team that could potentially rival the top-grade legion Clinton’s managers had already assembled in Brooklyn
  • He repeatedly bashed polling professionals, saying he didn’t need them
  • He trashed the Republican National Committee and the Republican leadership in Congress — an odd thing to do since he sorely needed their support and material help
  • He failed to establish and foster a relationship with the RNC on the workaday staff level
  • A self-styled media and TV giant, Trump twiddled his thumbs as, all through June and early July, the Clinton organization pounded him with devastating TV ads in the swing states
  • He was content to make overblown promises about the fast-approaching Republican Convention, while doing little to ensure the show would be successful
  • Most incredulous of all, Trump failed to field an effective fund-raising machine and failed to secure funding from traditional Republic wealthy donors — Trump’s constant crowing about being “self-funded” was turning out to be true, and, after an alleged $50 million investment, Mr. Self was backing away from being Mr. Funding.

As the convention approached, the Trump team, what there was of it, was in full disarray. The antagonistic relationship with the RNC was deteriorating. Trump had no policies, no powerful surrogates, no plan, no swing state ground strategy, no advertising, and, we soon saw, no top-name supporters for the convention. What the Trump team had was baseball caps, which he wore proudly to rallies, with little evidence of a serious brain in the head underneath.

As a manager with national project roll-out experience, my conclusion became firm: Donald Trump had become the Accidental Candidate, and was not sure what to do about it. In spite of his decades of bluster, I remain convinced Trump knows he is a terrible manager, not very bright, and incapable of learning. He dare not confess any of this, but the record of his actions, failures, lashing out like an adolescent, and dumb remarks shows it to be true.

By the end of June, he had found himself faced with a mountain of work and hundreds of decisions to make. Trump does not like to work, nor has he the patience with reading or learning enough to make a rational decision. Licensing his name is not “work”, and requires no more than a few accountants and lawyers to do the actual thinking. Donald can simply fly around in his jumbo jet and play golf in his own country clubs, all in the name of “promotion”.

Life as President would be a form of imprisonment, by contrast.

His wife was not happy with the crazy notion of trading their isolated, private, leisurely luxurious life for the 24/7, minute-by-minute regimented, fishbowl existence of a President and his First Lady. His children may have been opposed, too, but we’ll never know the truth since they’re totally intimidated by their authoritarian father. Not to mention they have the prospect of receiving a hundred million dollars or more each for going along with him.

He was being pulled, maybe dragged, along by his advisors and associates, each of whom had a great deal to gain on the remote chance he could win in November, and as much to lose if he dropped out. Would Trump want to run if the only potential beneficiaries were a bunch of sleaze merchants and political opportunists? I very much doubt it.

All these factors must have given Trump grounds to simply walk away from the nomination before the convention bestowed it in mid-July. But, in my view, all these arguments to quit while he still could paled before a much larger reason.

Along with all his other personal characteristics, like them or dismiss them, Trump is a fighter. He has gotten himself into positions since he was a young man where he had to dig himself or lie his way out from under. In many cases, these situations ended up (or began) on the front page of New York’s tabloid newspapers. He loves publicity, especially when he’s winning a fight, or thinks he is, or thinks he can persuade his fans and detractors alike that he is.

But he’s had enough scrapes in the public eye to know that running for President would be the biggest fight he’d ever face. No doubt, back in the early primaries days, he relished this new kind of battle. Mano-a-bunch of manos! Wow! Knocking them off like so many dumb animals, trophies for his photo wall, proofs of his manliness. It must have been highly energizing for this self-centered, egoistic TV “star”.

Then, after Clinton secured her nomination and turned the focus of her army and her dozens of bigly backers and surrogates on Trump, his view must have changed.

He must have finally understood that the fight with her was not going to be anything like his lightweight battles with the Stumbling Sixteen. He surely realized that every little screw-up or fraudulent or shoddy business deal, and his trail of bankruptcies was going to be brought to light by Clinton’s people or a ravenous media, hungry for signs of the mucky clay under Trump’s feet. He may have suddenly recalled all his bigoted, misogynistic, racist, sexist, mean-spirited remarks that were recorded or videotaped, and that would be dredged up and sprayed on him until even he had to hold his nose. Months of calling Hillary Clinton names were about to return to haunt him. Rally-fuls of absurd claims and lies were now going to be paraded by the national media, and in ads from Florida to Ohio. Years of casting doubts on our President’s citizenship were now going to be used as so many missiles of truth, making him nothing but a cheap White supremacist buffoon, and delivered by the very President he had tried for five years to humiliate.

Mocked mercilessly in his own words as he went down to possibly the greatest loss in American political history — that is what Trump faced as he looked down from his golden palace on the millions of people beneath supremely important Him. The vision of how all those millions he had dominated for so long now seeing his naked shallowness, greed, and utter fecklessness as a person, and worse, laughing at him where once they trembled in his presence: that vision is what, in your Truthteller’s judgment, gave him the most pause in the disorganized weeks before the Republican convention.

We will likely never learn how he mastered his anxieties and continued the quest. But we should not assume that his fears and frightening visions of the coming war were buried forever…