Trump and the Five Stage of Grief

It’s been about 36 hours since our collective gast was flabbered at the realization that Donald F. Trump was President-elect of the United States. Republicans around the country have rejoiced at their consolidation of the legislative and executive branches of government. The new executive, in particular, was seen as a huge coup. In January, Joe Everyman will finally have a voice in government thanks to the Oval Office’s billionaire occupant.

Democrats, meanwhile, have sought ways to console themselves in what has become the largest group therapy session since Roots (the first one). Depending on one’s coping mechanisms, negative emotions have run the gamut, from rage to disappointment to fear. (Is it normal to wake up in a cold sweat wishing it was a dream? Asking for a friend.)

It’ll take some time for them to get used to this unthinkable turn of events. That’s because they’re in the long process of Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’s “five stages of grief,” which usually deals with recently diagnosed terminal patients coming to grips with reality, whereas in this case it deals with a recently diagnosed country coming to grips with reality.

Let’s apply Kübler-Ross’s paradigm to the national state-of-mind of Democrats and other NeverTrumpers, of which I am one. We’re moving through these stages together, though not identically and not at the same speed.

Stage 1) Denial. This stage was completed by the time we went to bed, but it started months and months ago. We all denied he could get the nomination in the first place. Part of my calculus, I must admit, was I just couldn’t envision it, as if my tiny brain’s limited creativity was an argument against his chances.

When he did win the primary, most then proceeded to say that while he could win over the GOP, he couldn’t possibly win the general election. (For the record, I never, ever denied he could win in November. The primary emasculated me so bad I wrote in falsetto for months.) Heading into the election and even after the first hour of returns, we still felt that Clinton was the favorite. Then she fell behind in Florida and North Carolina, and somehow she couldn’t put him away in Pennsylvania and Michigan. By 9, it was a five alarm fire at PPFA. By 10:30, I called the race for him. Others, however, are still stuck in this stage.

Stage 2) Anger. Man, Democrats were furious yesterday! There were plenty of targets for their ire: lazy people who didn’t vote; third-party supporters who did (gulp); Trump voters for being so gullible; James Comey for the timing of his Congressional letter; Bernie Sanders for creating the wounds in the primary that Trump ripped open in the general; Clinton herself for setting up her stupid email server; Clinton herself for being a bad candidate; Clinton herself for any number of other reasons; Big Data; white people; men; white men; the list went on. Some have been angrier than others.

Stage 3) Bargaining. This stage started yesterday. As it progressed, though, it took an unusual form. To be sure, many Democrats are reassuring themselves with an “it’s only four years” type of consolation, a sad inversion of terminal patients who enter the bargaining stage and pray for more time, not less.

I’ve also seen another tempting form of bargaining: wondering if Trump will really be as bad as many fear. “How bad could he be?” many started asking. He was the most liberal Republican in the race on many issues, after all. “Maybe he’ll return to the ideas of his more liberal past. Maybe he’ll even move the GOP to the left.”

Finally, we’ve also seen Democrats try to remind themselves that this wasn’t a total repudiation of the party or national endorsement of Trump. They point to Clinton’s popular vote margin approaching one percent. “It’s Clinton who the people elected but Trump who the system did. Trump was right — it’s rigged!” That’s a kind of bargain with one own’s rationality.

Stage 4) Depression. Gradually, however, I think crestfallen Democrats should realize that their party and candidate was not good enough to beat Donald Trump, and now they have to live with that fact for the next four years. Democrats need to wrestle with the possibility that it wasn’t liberal, Democratic policy that America voted for in 2008 and 2012; it was Barack Obama. How else does one make sense of the fact that there must be millions of people who voted for Barack Obama and then Donald Trump? It’s a hard square to circle, but the most reasonable theory is that it’s not ideology and party they care about; it’s personality and promises.

Indeed, consider that once the President was no longer on the ballot, his coalition, according to NBC exit polls, fell apart. Against Romney, Obama carried 93 percent of the black vote and 71 percent of Latinos. Against Trump, Clinton only carried 88 and 65, respectively. To compound matters, Democratic turnout was way down. Nationally, Clinton is six million votes short of Obama’s 2012 total, with not that many votes left to count. It’s been reported that the Trump Campaign’s strategy was to discourage voter turnout, thus making the passionate Trump base even more proportionally potent. It’s hard to argue against its effectiveness; they turned the water so muddy that many people wanted nothing to do with the contest by Election Day.

With no Barack Obamas warming up in the bullpen, Democrats might be depressed at the state of their party for quite some time.

Stage 5) Acceptance. By February 2017 — after a couple weeks under President Trump — I suspect we’ll all start to see his presidency as bordering on normal. The world won’t end, nor will our republic. No law-abiding citizen will have been rounded up and deported or put into concentration camps. Congressional officials of both parties, a balanced Supreme Court, seasoned cabinet officials, and military brass will keep a close eye on the amateur, while the rest of us go about our daily lives. And if he does go crazy, those institutions and we, the American people, will stand in his way. Please reassure the most nervous among us.

In the meantime, some Democrats can even learn to have some fun with this. The burden of a president having to live up to his Messianic promises is now off their shoulders. If Trump flounders, Democrats can seize on every mistake, returning the favor of Republicans who rooted against Obama (who had returned the favor of Democrats under George Bush (who had returned the favor of Republicans under Bill Clinton (who had…))). If Trump succeeds, it’s good for America. If Trump fails, NeverTrumpers can gloat. (And boy, will they ever.) Plus, both parties can test the theory about whether someone with only business experience, which Republicans have long pushed as an ideal characteristic in a chief executive, can be a good president. And everyone loves testing theories, right?

Once NeverTrumpers accept what’s happened, they can move on from Tuesday’s shocking diagnosis and start looking forward. After all, 2020 is just four years away.


About Last Night

At 10:30 last night, Presidential Politics for America called the 2016 election for Donald Trump. In “I, For One, Welcome Our New Overlord,” I figured after 15 months of being wrong about president-elect Donald Trump (shudder), I might as well be among the first to eat humble pie. Unsurprisingly, I woke up this morning with considerable digestive distress.

I honestly thought I was done writing yesterday morning. Exactly two hundred posts? It was a sign.

But the greatest electoral upset since 1948 needs a few words. Is there any way to make sense of all this? And what can we expect now?

Let’s start with the polling — the accomplice to the murder of this site’s predictions and the predictions of so many others. The final four-way and two-way polls suggested just over a three-point victory for Hillary Clinton. She’s on her way to winning the national popular vote by about one-half of a percent. (For those cursing Americans, perhaps it’s small solace that more people voted for her than for him.) That means polling will end up being off by about three percent.

Believe it or not, that’s how much polling was off in 2012, when Obama was projected to win by nearly one percent and ended up winning by nearly four. The major difference, of course, is that 2012’s polling error did not reverse the projected winner, but 2016’s did. Technically speaking, the polls were about as off four years ago, it just feels colossally different.

One more reason it feels different is because the popular vote winner, for the second time in five elections, was defeated not just by an opponent but by the Electoral College system. There’s a bit of irony that we’ve spent four years talking about the Democratic advantage in Electoral math, but we forget that the Electoral College, in general, favors Republicans by giving less populous states, thanks to every state having two Senators, more proportional representation than the larger ones. You’ll hear a clamor to abolish the Electoral College from Democrats. I’ve long held that position, but it would have been a more legitimate complaint had it been a constant drumbeat before this election.

One more word about polls: Hillary Clinton didn’t just do well with pre-election polls, she also seemed to do really well with exit polls. I was watching Brit Hume on FoxNews basically award Clinton the election before 8:00 last night when he noted that Trump won men by 9, Clinton won women by 14, and women outnumber men in presidential elections. Other exit data agreed. That seemed to be the end of it.

But it wasn’t. It was just the beginning of a strange night.

As an aside, imagine if the pre-election polls and then exit polls all suggested a Donald Trump victory, and then he won the popular vote by a sliver but lost the Electoral College. Would there be any talk of rigging the results today? Yes. Yes, there would be. Instead, we’re just trying to figure out how Trump pulled a Truman.

For loyal readers of this site, you know that PPFA was never as bullish about Clinton‘s chances as most other outlets were. To be sure, I considered her the favorite and picked her in my final pre-election post, but I always thought that Trump had a better shot than most were saying. The Comey Letter (By the way, how much do the Democrats hate James Comey right now?) erased her more sizable lead just as undecided voters were making their final decisions. Even when Comey’s Second Letter admitted there was nothing new, it was too late. Democrats cry foul, Republicans cry justice, and Facebook just cries.

Still, it was always going to be close. We’re a divided country, and both major candidates had huge unfavorable numbers, particularly from voters in the other party.

The tight results might make Clinton supporters want to choke Gary Johnson, Jill Stein, and their supporters. I request, out of self-preservation, that you only target the ones in swing states. But before you slip on your special strangle gloves, keep in mind that we have no evidence that Johnson and Stein voters, if there were no Johnson or Stein, would have overwhelmingly voted for Clinton enough to change the results. If I had to guess, many of Johnson’s votes were disappointed, fiscally conservative Republicans. Plus, there’s a good chance third party voters would have sooner left the presidential line blank than for Trump or Clinton. Leave them alone. A lot more blame falls on the hundred million eligible voters who didn’t vote at all, to say nothing of the Clinton Campaign itself for not finding a way to beat, of all people, Donald Trump.

A lot was made about how Trump was carried into the nomination and now the presidency (shudder again) by an anti-establishment wave. “Drain the swamp,” they said. Send a message to Washington.

But guess what: incumbent officials did extremely well last night. I can’t find the numbers yet, but we’re talking over 90 percent of incumbent House members, and just about every incumbent Senator running for re-election, won.

The anti-establishment argument, therefore, seemed like a way to justify a Trump vote, thought it was actually a proxy for other reasons.

Our first African-American president will vacate the White House for someone who was endorsed by the Ku Klux Klan.

Moving on.

Once it was clear Trump had a chance and then was actually the favorite, world markets, including Dow futures, plummeted. Just like Brexit, investors feared an unpredictable economic future and the promise of more protectionist, anti-free trade policies.

Before you stuff all your money in a mattress, however, keep in mind that markets slowly came back after the Brexit comeback. It’ll be okay. I think.

With the election behind us, what can we expect from President Trump? An incomplete list includes an enormous southern wall (which Mexico will pay for), a temporary Muslim ban until we figure out what the hell is going on, a special prosecutor to put Hillary Clinton in jail, the elimination of many government agencies and maybe some cabinet departments, Obamacare will be repealed and replaced, all entitlements will be protected, Planned Parenthood will be defunded, we will turn away refugees, we’ll kill the families of terrorists, rip up the Iran deal, fix America’s trade problems, bring back jobs from Mexico, get the coal industry going again, grow the economy by 5 or 6 percent, end birthright citizenship, and turn an apparently mediocre country great again.

Of course, every administration falls short of its campaign promises, so all of this won’t happen. That means we’ll get to experience PPFA’s favorite thing to hate in politics — hypocrisy on both sides! You know how Democrats complained about Republican obstructionism for the last eight years? Get ready for Democrats to return the favor! And you know how, when Obama didn’t fix everything, Democrats blamed Bush and the Republicans? Guess who will get the blame when Trump’s magic wand can’t deliver his many promises.

Our two parties have perfected this dance; the rest of us, just like my prom experience, can only watch.

Finally, the broadest explanation for last night is the simplest one: it was a change election. These two parties have passed the presidency back and forth after eight years for the third straight time. Third terms are rare. And the opposing party, which was clearly going to win no matter what, had the privilege of nominating the 45th President of the United States: Donald F. Trump.



I, For One, Welcome Our New Overlord

Donald Trump, the day before he became president-elect of the United States, said that if he lost, the last year would have been the “greatest waste of time.” After 200 posts — make that 201 — analyzing presidential politics, I know what he meant. Congratulations to the Trump voters, who have ushered in an age I once would have described as dystopic — a TV star with a cult of personality was elected President. Now it’s reality.

We will have a Republican president, a Republican Senate, and a Republican House of Representatives. The Republican President-elect claims he will appoint a Republican Supreme Court Justice. In one night, we chose to be represented by a Republican government.

It’s tempting to say that those voters now own the next four years, but we all do. Everyone stay calm, follow the law, love your neighbor, and prepare for Kanye West 2020. After all, he’s just as qualified as Donald Trump, our soon to be 45th President of the United States. (That’s the most absurd sentence written in the history of the English language. And that includes Beowulf.)


PPFA’s Election Night Preview

This is my 200th post on the WordPress site since starting it back in September of 2015. (The first post? Donald Trump and the Fragility of the GOP.) What a long, strange trip it’s been. Thank you to anyone who has read any of my approximately 200,000 words on the Craziest. Election. Ever.

Tonight it comes to an end. At least I hope it does. (I’m looking at you, Nevada.) I’d like to give you a sort of viewing guide. To best prepare yourself, you’ll want to know the following:

  • Poll closing times. Some states’ precincts close at different times, so I always go off the latest precinct. A state will not be called until polls close across the entire state.
  • Some states are called the minute all its polls close. That’s because exit polls show an overwhelming likelihood that the state has been won by one of the candidates.
  • I already predicted 48 states and DC, leaving only Florida and Nevada for today.
  • Remember, it’s a race to 270.

And now, it’s time for PPFA’s Election Night Preview.

All times are Eastern Standard.
States in red will be quickly called for Trump.
States in blue will be quickly called for Clinton.
States in purple will take time.

6:00 PM: Some of Indiana and Kentucky’s precincts close. No calls yet.

7:00 PM: Six states close: Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, South Carolina, Vermont, Virginia.

  • Trump will sport a 44-3 lead. If you’re a Clinton supporter: don’t panic!
  • If you’re a Trump supporter, don’t gloat.
  • Virginia is the only state to monitor. If either candidate wins it early, that’s a tremendous sign for them, but we’ll probably have to wait a bit. I fully expect it to eventually go to Clinton, making it 44-16 from these states in the long run.

7:30 PM: Three states, with two biggies: North Carolina, Ohio, West Virginia.

  • Trump will continue his Appalachian dominance to get to 49.
  • North Carolina and Ohio, big but tight states that will take time to count, are must-wins for Trump. I expect him to win both later in the night (more confident in Ohio), but he won’t win them fast enough to have an 82-16 lead before the 8:00 states close.

8:00: Hello! Seventeen states close: Alabama, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Maine (3/4 for Clinton, 1/4 for Trump), Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Washington, DC.

  • With the 8:00 states, Trump tacks on 44 more electoral votes, giving him 86 EVs without North Carolina and Ohio but 126 if he has them.
  • Clinton climbs to 91 (counting Virginia).
  • Pennsylvania, Florida, and New Hampshire will take a long time.
  • If either candidate wins the purple states early, it’s very meaningful.
    • Eventually, I expect New Hampshire to go Trump (a very tough call) with Pennsylvania going to Clinton.
      • As I said yesterday, if Trump wins Pennsylvania, he’ll quickly become the favorite. The Keystone State is the lock he wants desperately to pick. It is the state for you to keep an eye on.
    • I’ll save Florida for later in today’s post.

8:30: Arkansas shares the spotlight with no one. Trump up 136 – 111 (including swing states).

9:00: Another big one: Arizona, Colorado, KansasLouisiana, MichiganMinnesotaNebraskaNew Mexico, New York, North Dakota, South Dakota, TexasWisconsinWyoming

  • Trump, with swing states, is up to 213.
  • Clinton rises to 145.
  • I expect Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin will ultimately tip to Clinton. Colorado is a tougher call, but I also see it as a Clinton state. If we give her all four, she’s up to 190 and still nipping at Trump’s heals.

10:00: Iowa, Montana, Nevada, Utah.

  • Trump extends his lead. With swing states, he’d be at 228.
  • Nevada was my other state I found too close too call yesterday. More on that later.
  • Clinton stays stuck at 190, but don’t worry, Democrats: Big Daddy Cali and the Pacific Coast is on deck.

11:00: California, Hawaii, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington.

  • Clinton surges into the lead. With allocated swing states, Clinton is on the cusp of victory, up 268 to 232.

1:00 AM: Alaskans give Trump three more electoral votes before resuming their contemplation of suicide.

It’s therefore 268 to 235 with Florida and Nevada still in play:


Florida and Nevada. Nevada and Florida. Each are dramatic in their own right.

Florida, yet again, is the biggest swing state. (It’s tied with New York for the third weightiest state overall, and I suspect after the 2020 census it will leave New York behind.) We know that in 2000 it proved to be the most dramatic state result in history. If Kerry won it in 2004, he would have become presidentIn 2008, it was the third closest state. In 2012, it was Obama’s smallest margin of victory at just 0.89 percent. Yesterday, I wrote about all the conflicting signs in the state, and polling now has Trump up by 0.2 percentage points. The margin of error needs a margin of error.

The source of Nevada’s drama is that it’s our westernmost swing state. Of the ten states to close after 9:00 EST, nine are basically decided. Therefore, if the eastern and Midwest states break closely enough, it’s Nevada that will determine the winner. If I’m right about all my states, for example, and Trump also wins Florida, our count is 268 – 264. Nevada could then put Clinton over the top at 274 or give Trump the victory at exactly 270.

But Florida won’t go to Trump. And neither will Nevada.

Four years ago, Obama’s re-election meant that Democrats had won the popular vote in five of the last six elections. In neither electoral win for the GOP — thanks to Florida in 2000 and Ohio in 2004 — did we know the result until after Election Day. That’s right — you have to go back to 1988 to find the last time Republicans could celebrate a victory on Election Night. When studying this startling trend after Romney’s loss, many pundits and the Republican Party itself wrote post mortems on the Republican presidential struggle. Among the most pressing problems: communicating better with Latinos about why a conservative government would be better for them.

Then they nominated Donald Trump.

Meanwhile, it was becoming increasingly clear that the Democratic Party excelled at running smart, prepared, organized national campaigns that focused on the ground game: analytics, microtargeting, arranging leadership down to the precinct,  and using social media in creative ways to do that. The Republicans needed to find a way to run a similarly organized campaign.

Then they nominated Donald Trump. He replaced microtargeting with hunches, preparation with winging it, and analytics with what I can only assume was a Magic 8-ball.

The GOP nominated the wrong guy to win this general election. If this election was about Clinton’s character or pliable relationship with the truth, Trump didn’t contrast enough. If this election was about knowledge, he didn’t have enough. If this election was about the GOP finally articulating a winning message to women, minorities, and young people in order to broaden the party base and become competitive again, they couldn’t have nominated a worse candidate. I once said of Marco Rubio that it was as if a laboratory created him for the express purpose of beating Hillary Clinton in 2016. With Trump, it’s like he was built for the express purpose of losing to her.

To be sure, Donald Trump came a long way through tapping into the broad anger across the country: anger toward trade deals, the establishment, the Bushes, the Clintons, the President, foreign entanglements, PC culture, porous borders, and all the trends that have steadily loosened the grip over the national and international economy that white, American workers had considered their birthright for generations. Through this understanding of the Republican electorate he took over the party, much to the chagrin of mainstream, neoconservative, free trade Republicans across the country. Through this understanding, he thrashed expectations to become a major party nominee and position himself remarkably close to the presidency.

But not close enough. After Clinton’s victory, pundits will opine that more Americans rejected his vision than embraced it. They’ll also point out that the superior Democratic ground game mobilized Latinos and early votes. Our two holdout states — Florida and Nevada — have plenty of both. Final prediction: Clinton 303 – Trump 235. (Popular vote: Clinton 49, Trump 45, Johnson 4, Stein 2, other + rounding 1)

Thank you so much for reading.


Electoral Math: Election Eve Edition

Six months out projection276-262, Clinton
Three months out: 320-218, Clinton
One month out: 272-266, Clinton
Ten days out: 333-205, Clinton
Hours later: James Comey sends a letter.

We’ll remember the morning of Friday, October 28 as “Peak Clinton.” We’ll remember everything since as “Peak Democratic Panic.” Well, everything until yesterday, that is.

In the last two weeks of this election, what many thought was a guaranteed Clinton victory has since turned into waiting to see if Trump has enough time to take the lead, and it was looking to be a photo finish. As of this morning, in a national four-way race, her average lead is down from about 7 points as of the third debate to about 2 now. In a two-way, the average lead is a scant 1.9. With 36 hours to go, the momentum was with the Republican.

Comey’s second letter will have no time to impact the polls, so it’s hard to know if Trump’s momentum will continue. My guess is that it does not, but we won’t know until ballots are cast. If Trump’s national progress does not subside, the question becomes: can the electoral map save Hillary Clinton’s campaign? We are gathered here today, on this sober occasion, to find an answer to that question.

If you’re a supporter of her, there is plenty to be scared about. Whether the national margin narrowed naturally or because of The Comey Letter, the tightening has dragged battleground states along with it. The Blue Wall has weakened, while the Red Wall has withstood the earlier losses of Arizona and Utah. Recent polls have forced Real Clear Politics, from which I get my polling data, to categorize Michigan and Maine as toss-ups. Wisconsin and Minnesota, meanwhile, are only Democratic leans… and Minnesota voted for Mondale over Reagan! Part of what gave Clinton supporters confidence over the six months of this general election was that if states that voted Democratic in the last four to six elections just voted Democratic again, all she would need was either Florida or a combination of two or three of the ten smaller battleground states to go over 270. But now, on the eve of the most unforgettable election in recent history, RCP and other outlets say those ostensibly safe Democratic states are not guaranteed.

But before Democratic readers start googling Canadian realtors, let me assure you: Minnesota will stay blue. Wisconsin will stay blue. Michigan will stay blue. RCP, out of an abundance of caution, has determined that since Clinton is not blowing Trump out in those states, they are competitive. PPFA, however, throws caution into hurricane-force winds. If you look at the polls, we’re seeing consistent leads. In the last seven weeks, she has never led one of the 12 Wisconsin polls by less than four. Gravis had an anomalous tied poll in Minnesota, but aside from that it’s leads of 6 to, most recently, 10. And in Michigan, the “toss-up,” it’s all leads of 3 to 13 dating back about 30 polls into July. Clinton might not win them by much, but she’ll win them and therefore carry all their electoral votes. Those states are not going red in this election.

But plenty of swing states might. Let’s find out which ones. Since PPFA does not predict any changes to the “walls,” we again start at 239175 with ten battleground states in play. I call those states the Presidential Politics for America Purple Playing Field (or PPFAPPF), and it has 124 electoral votes up for grabs. Here are those states and their electoral values:

The Purple Playing Field: Florida (29), Pennsylvania (20), Ohio (18), North Carolina (15), Arizona (11), Colorado (9), Utah (6), Nevada (6), Iowa (6), New Hampshire (4).

And below is a prediction of how they’ll vote on November 8, which is, you know, TOMORROW.

Florida (29 electoral votes)
2012: Democratic
2008: Democratic
2004: Republican
2000: Republican
Six Months Out polling average: Clinton 46.5, Trump 42.2 (Clinton +4.3)
Three Months Out polling average: Clinton 44.7, Trump 42 (Clinton +2.7).
One Month Out polling average: Clinton 46.6, Trump 43.4 (Clinton +3.2).
Ten Days Out polling average: Clinton 46.8, Trump 45.0 (Clinton +1.8).
Election Eve polling average: Clinton 47.7, Trump 46.8 (Clinton +0.9).
Miscellaneous: Clinton is just barely hanging on in the biggest battleground prize of the 2016 election. In the last 13 polls, Clinton leads 7, Trump 5, and the most recent one had a tie. Three of those Clinton leads were merely by a negligible point, too. One or two more polls and Trump might finally have his Florida lead. Curiously, pushing the other way was a come-from-behind victory for Democratic ballots in early voting, though the win was only by 7,000 ballots among 5.7 million returned. Trump is expected to win voting day results, and the campaign claims to be doing better with Republican ballots than Mitt Romney did four years ago in Florida and other states. President Obama won Florida by just 0.89 percent of the vote, the closest state in the election. If Trump is indeed outperforming Romney, the state is probably his.
Current edge: Too close to call. It needs more examination between now and tomorrow morning.

Pennsylvania (20)
2012: Democratic
2008: Democratic
2004: Democratic
2000: Democratic
Six Months Out polling average: Clinton 45.8, Trump 38.8 (Clinton +7.0)
Three Months out polling average: Clinton 49.3, Trump 41.3 (Clinton +8.0)
One Month out polling average: Clinton 49.0, Trump 41.5 (Clinton +7.5)
Ten Days Out polling average: Clinton 46.8, Trump 41.8 (Clinton +5)
Election Eve polling average: Clinton 46.8, Trump 44.0 (Clinton +2.8)
Miscellaneous: Here’s another disturbing trend-line for the Clinton Campaign. This one dates back to the Three Months Out post: her average leads have been 8, 7.5, 5, and now 2.8. And the most recent poll out of Pennsylvania, just like the most recent one out of Florida, has it tied. Four of the previous six polls had Clinton’s lead inside the margin of error. But still, when Trump has yet to lead any of the last 50 Pennsylvania polls, I think we can expect Clinton to hold onto a state that has gone Democratic for the last six straight elections. Trump might pilfer some working class whites, but her leads in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, including in the all-important suburbs, are probably too big to overcome.
Current edge: Clinton
Running tally: 259-175, Clinton.

Ohio (18)
2012: Democratic
2008: Democratic
2004: Republican
2000: Republican
Six Months Out polling average: Clinton 45.5, Trump 42.5 (Clinton +3)
Three Months Out polling average: Clinton 42.6, Trump 41.8 (Clinton +0.8)
One Month Out polling average: Trump 45.2, Clinton 44.0 (Trump +1.2)
Ten Days Out polling average: Trump 46.2, Clinton 45.2 (Trump +1.0)
Election Eve polling average: Trump 46.6, Clinton 45.0 (Trump +1.6)
Miscellaneous: In Ohio, where Trump was never down by that much, his late momentum looks to be enough to give him the state. Clinton’s support has leveled out while Trump’s continues to creep up. Of the last 11 Ohio polls, Clinton has only won one, and that was by a single point.
Current edge: Trump
Running tally: 259-193, Clinton.

North Carolina (15)
2012: Republican
2008: Democratic
2004: Republican
2000: Republican
Six Months Out polling average: Clinton 45.8, Trump 42.5 (Clinton +3.3)
Three Months Out polling average: Clinton 44.0, Trump 43.5 (Clinton +0.5)
One Month Out polling average: Clinton 45.0, Trump 43.7 (Clinton +1.3)
Ten Days Out polling average: Clinton 47.8, Trump 44.8 (Clinton +3)
Election Eve polling average: Trump 47.8, Clinton 46.0 (Trump +1.8)
Miscellaneous: Wow, a dramatic reversal in a state that was surprisingly trending Clinton in the first place. There was a stretch of 23 polls, from mid-September to late October, where Trump only led one poll. He has since won three of the last four, the last two by 7 and 5 points. The momentum is his. As for early voting, you’ve probably heard that Hispanic voting is up in this election (way to go, Trump) while African-American voting is down (way to go, voter ID laws and Obama only getting two terms). While that helps Clinton in New Mexico and Colorado, it hurts in states like Georgia and North Carolina. With black turnout down in North Carolina, it makes it even less likely this late polling shift is inaccurate.
Current edge: Trump
Running tally: 259-208, Clinton

Arizona (11)
2012: Republican
2008: Republican
2004: Republican
2000: Republican
Ten Days Out polling average: Clinton 43.5, Trump 42.0 (Clinton +1.5)
Election Eve polling average: Trump 47.0, Clinton 43.0 (Trump +4.0)
Miscellaneous: That didn’t last long. Trump has led the last five straight polls (by an increasing margin, to boot).
Current edge: Trump
Running tally: 259-219, Clinton

Colorado (9)
2012: Democratic
2008: Democratic
2004: Republican
2000: Republican
Six Months Out polling average: We had no relevant polling (only a November one).
Three Months Out polling average: Clinton 45.0, Trump 35.5 (Clinton +9.5).
One Month Out polling average: Clinton 44.3, Trump 40.8 (Clinton +3.5)
Ten Days Out polling average: Clinton 45.8, Trump 39.0 (Clinton +6.8)
Election Eve polling average: Clinton 44.0, Trump 41.0 (Clinton +3.0)
Miscellaneous: Not a good ten days for Clinton here, either. After 11 straight polling wins for Clinton since early October, Trump pulled even with a tied Gravis poll last week. Two other polls counted in the RCP average only had Clinton up one. Early voting Republican ballots also stormed back into a near tie. This state is a lot closer than we expected during the summer, when Clinton sported a commanding lead. However, thanks to the Latino surge, a state like Colorado, which is 15 percent Latino, should help Clinton hold onto her 3-point polling lead.
Current edge: Clinton
Running tally: 268-219, Clinton

Utah (6)
2012: Republican
2008: Republican
2004: Republican
2000: Republican
Ten Days Out polling average
: Trump 31, McMullin(!) 25.2, Clinton 25.2 (Trump  +5.8)
Election Eve polling average: Trump 37.4, Clinton 27, McMullin 25.0 (Trump +10.3)
: It was fun while it lasted.
Current edge
: Trump
Running tally: 268-225, Clinton, but she’s having trouble putting Trump away.

Iowa (6)
2012: Democratic
2008: Democratic
2004: Republican
2000: Democratic
Six Months Out polling average: Clinton 45, Trump 41 (Clinton +4)
Three Months Out polling average: Clinton 41.3, Trump 40.8 (Clinton +0.5)
One Month Out polling average: Trump 45.3, Clinton 40.5 (Trump +4.8)
Ten Days Out polling average: Trump 44.0, Clinton 42.3 (Trump +1.7)
Election Eve polling average: Trump 44.3, Clinton 41.3 (Trump +3.0)
Miscellaneous: I’m proud to have called this state for Trump three months ago (and ever since) even while Clinton held a lead. I cannot say, however, that I’m proud of Iowans.
Current edge: Trump
Running tally: 268-231, Clinton. Here’s a good time to remind you that I didn’t call Florida. If Trump wins that coin toss of a state, right now it’s 268-260 with two states remaining.

Nevada (6)
2012: Democratic
2008: Democratic
2004: Republican
2000: Republican
Six Months Out polling average: None.
Three Months Out polling average: Clinton 43.0, Trump 40.7 (Clinton +2.3)
One Month Out polling average: Clinton 44.2, Trump 43.0 (Clinton +1.2)
Ten Days Out polling average: Clinton 45.8, Trump 43.8 (Clinton +2)
Election Eve polling average: Trump 46.5, Clinton 44.5 (Trump +2)
Miscellaneous: In ten days, Clinton’s 2-point lead flipped to Trump. In the four polls used to calculate their averages, Clinton led the first by 2, then there are two Trump leads of 6 and 4, and then a tie. Trump seems to have the momentum and edge here, but early ballot reporting and the pop in Latino voting might negate his advantage.
Current edge: Too close to call. Needs further examination.
Running tally: Still 268-231, Clinton, with one state remaining.

New Hampshire (4)
2012: Democratic
2008: Democratic
2004: Democratic
2000: Republican
Six Months Out polling average: Clinton 44.8, Trump 35 (Clinton +9.8)
Three Months Out polling average: Clinton 45.0, Trump 38.0 (Clinton +7)
One Month Out polling average: Clinton 45.0, Trump 39.8 (Clinton +5.2)
Ten Days Out polling average: Clinton 45.0, Trump 38.8 (Clinton +6.2)
Election Eve polling average: Trump 44.4, Clinton 42.4 (Trump +2.0)
Other factors: Say WHAT?! I just had to re-check my link to make sure I wasn’t still on Iowa or Nevada or something. Trump has turned a 6.2-point deficit from ten days ago into a 2-point advantage today. Clinton never trailed a New Hampshire poll before The Comey Letter. In the five polls since, however, Trump has led four of them (leads of 5, 2, 2, and 1) with a tie in the other. Bernie Sanders should have been parked in the Granite State for the last week just to protect it, but alas. There has been no early voting in New Hampshire to give Clinton a lead to protect on voting day itself.
Current edge: Trump
Running tally: 268-235, Clinton. Neither gets to 270 without Florida and Nevada.

General Thoughts

1) Here’s a pretty good place to link to my “What If It’s a Tie?” piece. It could happen. In the above scenario, I had given Trump the electoral vote from Maine’s Second Congressional District, but it’s close and could easily go to Clinton. That would give her 269. Then we give Florida and Nevada to Trump. The combined 35 electoral votes get him to 269, too. Boom. Tie.

2) “But what if the polls are wrong?” Many outlets are still predicting a comfortable Clinton victory, but Trump supporters insist the polls are wrong or unfairly skewed in some way. And they just might be. I do want to remind everyone, however, that the same charges were made by Romney supporters four years ago, but it was Obama who ended up doing a bit better in the actual results compared to the polls. Still, I’ll answer the question. What if the polls are wrong? Well, Trump might win, I guess. Or Clinton might win by a landslide. But polls have been pretty good at predicting national winners for some time now.

3) Trump’s path to victory: if he starts at 175 and we give him Florida, Ohio, North Carolina, Arizona, Utah, Iowa, Nevada, and New Hampshire, he gets to exactly 270. That’s his path. If he loses any of those states, he needs to make it up elsewhere. (Most likely candidates: Pennsylvania, Colorado, Michigan.) In other words, he needs to run the table on his winnable states or earn a surprise somewhere else. Clinton’s path, by contrast, is much, much easier. She just needs to win one of those toss-up states while not losing states that are leaning toward her. It’s very likely that she does that.

I therefore see Pennsylvania as the state to keep an eye on. If Trump steals a surprise 20 electoral votes, Clinton would then need to win Florida or two to four other states where I’ve given Trump the edge.

4) Finally, though I’ll want to save most of this for tomorrow’s election night preview, here’s an appetizer:

  • East coast results will set the table. If we see Clinton on her way to winning Pennsylvania and Florida by 9:00 EST, she’s your president-elect. If Trump is winning both, we know that the polls indeed missed Trump’s movement, and Trump is your president-elect, particularly if he’s up in Ohio and North Carolina, too.
  • If Clinton leads Pennsylvania and Trump Florida, we start taking a closer look at Ohio, North Carolina, Iowa, and New Hampshire.
  • If Trump wins Florida and the rest of my predictions hold, Nevada will determine the president of the United States some time after midnight. I tried to warn you of this scenario at the Six Months Out mark, mostly because The West Wing and Veep tried to warn us about it before that.

See you tomorrow for more on election night’s timetable, including my Florida and Nevada calls. (And maybe a reversal elsewhere, if new information presents itself.) It’s almost here!


PPFA’s Endorsement for America

Making an endorsement is a scary prospect for a political website. Frankly, it’s a scary prospect no matter the context. If I were to endorse one of the two major candidates, nearly 60 percent of the country would think I’m some combination of misinformed, uneducated, gullible, and immoral. If I endorsed one of the two next most popular candidates, that number would grow to over 90 percent.

Now, I don’t deny that I might embody one or more of those adjectives, but I do think that just because two people disagree politically doesn’t mean one of those adjectives explains why. If I ever had to sum up my ideology, it’s that one’s intelligence or morality is not measured by the extent to which they agree with you on politics. We live different lives with different experiences while trusting different media sources of varying accuracy. There is virtual certainty someone out there is smarter and more informed than you and yet disagrees with your politics.

I might not be that person, but please go easy on me anyway. Apologies in advance to any readers I disappoint. To make up for it, I’ll try to keep this under 2,000 words.

This decision wasn’t easy. You know how people make fun of undecided voters this close to an election? Those people have been making fun of PPFA.

I’ll start with the easy one. It should come as no surprise to this blog’s limited readership that I do not endorse Donald Trump. I’ve written before about how Trump put me in a tough spot this general election. I really do want to write an unbiased political blog that sets to objectively evaluate the candidates and their chances at success. I don’t think I’ve ever promoted an ideology on here; I just talk about the race.

During the Republican Primary, I was never too critical of Republican contenders Rubio, Cruz, Christie, and Kasich, each of whom I thought could become the party’s nominee. However, there were two candidates toward which I was repeatedly detracting: Dr. Ben Carson and Donald J. Trump. It’s not that I rule out the possibility that a non-politician can be a good candidate and president, but these two did not have the background or knowledge I would want in such a candidate. Unfortunately, when one of them became the nominee, I had lost the ability to write objectively about him in the general election. My frustration with Trump in the primary undermined my evaluation of him in the general. I’ve been critical of Clinton on here, but it has been with Trump that I’m more often captious.

That’s not to say there’s nothing to like about his candidacy. Frustrations with the establishment are legitimate, as is contempt toward politicians who are largely controlled by interest groups and other big donors. His term-limit proposal is something Americans of all political stripes get behind. His positions on trade and America’s role in the world have brought some Democratic positions into the Republican Party, a surprising but healthy cross-ideological positioning I’ve enjoyed and would like to see continue in both directions. (It’s such an awkward platform that if we were still in late October, this is where I’d stumble through some metaphor about his campaign resembling Frankenstein’s stitched together monster, but I missed my chance and can’t think of any turkey analogies.)

But there’s a reason I’m not endorsing him. There are, in fact, many. And there are reasons why Republican leaders that don’t need Trump voters — like all former presidents, who know the job, and the last Republican nominee — aren’t endorsing him. And there are reasons why he’s landed remarkably few official endorsements from more established publications than PPFA:


These publications, mind you, aren’t all part of the liberal media conspiracy. Trump has almost entirely alienated the conscientious editors of all print media, including those that almost never make an endorsement and those that almost exclusively endorse Republican candidates, like the Dallas Morning News, Arizona Republic, and Cincinnati Enquirer, among others. We can’t say that these conservative sources were ever duped by the liberal media in the past, and yet they’ve endorsed Hillary Clinton, citing reasons like competency, preparedness for the office, and the dangerous prospect of America withdrawing itself from the world stage. The last concern is echoed by many national security experts, including Republicans, top brass, and think tanks. (Trump counters that he’s earned some high-ranking endorsements of his own, but it’s a tiny slice of the pie and, by comparison, Romney had several times more.)

What are my reasons? I’m sure, whether you agree with them or not, you’ve heard them all before, including on this website. My biggest frustration with him is a broad one that infiltrates so many of the smaller concerns: I perceive a fundamental lack of curiosity out of him. Even when he’s made solid changes to his campaign strategy — changes that provided us stretches of a more even-tempered candidate who avoided gaffes despite the media’s highest hopes for them — the level to which he was informed never, ever changed, no matter how real the prospect of a victory became. I’ve never seen a BS artist rise to such heights. It’s often clear he doesn’t know what he’s talking about beyond the first few lines. He’s been the cable news candidate — he sees the Breitbart, Alex Jones, or fake news headline and then runs with it. What he does not do is read up on it further. Indeed, as I once half-joked, he constantly resembles one of my students who did not finish the whole reading and is searching for ways to re-word the one paragraph he did.

So, even though he’s not totally without skills or merit, he lacks enough merit that I think he’d make a lousy president.

However! Here’s a good time to say something controversial: voting for him merely to block a Clinton presidency, if you think he’d be better at the job, is an acceptable reason to vote for him. Clinton and third party supporters want you to believe it’s necessary to vote for someone instead of against someone else, but if you buy into Republican and Trumpian rhetoric that a Clinton president leads to an apocalyptic future (Clinton, by the way, uses similar language), then you are forgiven for voting for Trump, especially if you’re in a swing state.

But that works both ways. I also don’t think that the popular argument for Clinton — that she denies Trump the White House — is illegitimate. Of course, it’s not the proudest argument to make. I understand how dispiriting it is that Clinton’s best quality is that she’s not Donald Trump, but it should nevertheless be seriously considered.

Like the arguments against Trump, the arguments against Clinton don’t need to be rehashed here, except for the big one: she’s possibly the scummiest politician in America. A modern day Nixon, she’s the ultimate insider, the quintessential backroom conniver, an incessant exploiter, an admitted two-faced grandmaster of political chess, and an obsessed seeker of power.

Of course, Nixon was, in many ways, a pretty effective president, and many people would vote for him over Trump, too. Last week, the hilarious, straight-shooting, PC-hating comedian Louis CK, in a surprisingly full-throated endorsement of Clinton, said that Clinton is exactly the kind of person we need in charge of the country. Among other arguments, he quipped that, in the White House, “We need a two-faced, conniving… crazy… somebody who’s got a million schemes.”

If you agree with Louis, or if you think a President Trump is among the more ridiculous prospects this country has ever faced, you need to vote Hillary Clinton, especially if you’re in a swing state.

But what of those people, like me, who are not in a battleground? My home state of Connecticut is almost assuredly decided, as are about 35 other states. Might my vote, and the votes of citizens in those states, be more meaningfully placed for other candidates?

The Green Party’s Jill Stein and her loyal two percent of the country (and 40 percent of my Facebook feed) insist they are the way forward for this country, and if you don’t agree with their far left progressivism, you’re just not paying attention. The best argument to make for Stein, if you’re a true blue liberal, is that she agrees with you on most or all of the issues. It’s a compelling case, to be sure. After all, isn’t that how one should determine which candidate deserves one’s vote?

Call me crazy, but I believe a vote is more complicated than that. Consider all the people you know that almost totally agree with you on the issues (we do a pretty good job surrounding ourselves with them). Would all of them make a better, more prepared president than a more qualified candidate who doesn’t agree with you on everything? I say no. The relative, friend, or neighbor who shares my ideology isn’t inherently a great candidate for the most pressure-packed job in the world. This is an argument against both Trump and Stein; neither seem to have the relevant experience, background, or relevant education to be president — just ideologies that might resemble your own.

I’ve also been slightly bothered by the Green movement this time around. (For the record, in my younger days, I was a Ralph Nader voter.) After Bernie Sanders’s exit passed the dark blue baton into the eager green hands of this third party, they promptly dropped it. In July, Stein was measured at an average of five percent nationally — a crucial threshold, as a party that earns five percent in the election qualifies for federal funding in the next one — but is now down to just two percent. The dream of five is over.

Part of that swoon is due to an aggressive, shameful courtship by a Clinton Campaign earnestly flanked by Sanders himself, but part of it also stems from ineffective recruitment techniques. So righteously intransigent are the Greens that you dare not tolerate TPP or fracking unless you want to be bludgeoned by eye rolls, memes, and accusations of having designs on the rubble that will accompany civilization’s end. The Steiners are probably, person for person, the most well read and passionate (as opposed to being one or the other, like many others) constituency in the election, but they underrate compromise, humility, and incrementalism as viable tools of discourse, recruitment, and progress. By not supporting the Democratic ticket, Sanders liberals hope that Trump/Pence leadership for 4 to 16 years does not blunt the progressive cause that has made some headway lately. That’s a risky roll of the dice.

And that leaves the Libertarians’ Gary Johnson and just 300 more words to fulfill my promise. Unlike Stein, he has a fighting chance at five percent nationally. Like Stein, he peaked months ago, reaching about nine percent, and he has since fallen to 4.8, right on the cusp.

In August’s quasi-endorsement of Johnson (I just wanted him in the debates), I noted some of his attractive qualities. Unlike the three other candidates, he has actually governed — a Republican governor reelected by double-digits in a diverse, purple state no less. He balanced budgets, cut unnecessary spending, left with a 1.1 billion dollar surplus, and could have had a third term were it not for the state’s term limits. Unlike both major parties, each of which promote freedom of choice and state’s rights about half the time, Johnson is for both almost always. Whether you agree with the Libertarian platform or not, it’s ideologically consistent. Plus, if you really think it’s time to shake up Washington, don’t vote for one of the wealthy, major party nominees — vote for the third party candidate who never stepped foot in a Washington fundraiser.

I must admit, I’ve been disappointed with his lack of foreign policy knowledge. A governor isn’t expected to know the ins and outs of Syria as well as a man who claims to know more than the generals or a former U.S. Senator and State Secretary, but one running for president should. However, Trump has shown no more knowledge than Johnson in that area, while Clinton’s superior knowledge is weighed down by myriad other concerns.

I also don’t agree with everything he says and have sizable policy disagreements. Remember, though, that I have this weird belief that the candidate with whom one agrees most isn’t necessarily most deserving of one’s vote. I have broader, dare I say more transcendent, characteristics that I look for. Two, in particular, work in Johnson and the Libertarian’s favor.

First, I’d love a more viable third party that would force the two major parties to worry about losing supporters to them. The Libertarian ticket has a chance at five percent of the national vote, which would earn them federal funding in 2020. They might accept it, bolstering their recruitment efforts through events and advertising. Even more interesting, however, is if the Libertarians, citing their small-government philosophy, decline the federal funding. That has potential to be an even better recruitment tool: we’d have our two hypocritical and ideologically inconsistent parties continuing to block each other in their agreed upon zero sum game, and then we’d have the third option, which means what it says. If you live in a non-swing state, your vote won’t do anything for Trump or Clinton tangling at 45 percent or so, but it can be much more meaningfully place trying to get Johnson from 4.8 percent to 5.

Similarly, as I also wrote about in August, I love that the Libertarians allow for the idea that Republicans are sometimes right, as the Democrats are. I don’t like the suggestion by both major parties that members of the opposition are more frequently wrong or immoral. It’s an implicit (and sometimes explicit) denouncement of a hundred million Americans and the representatives they elect. As I said when I started today’s lengthy column over two thousand words ago (yes, I failed), such a position contradicts my guiding principle. Gary Johnson and the Libertarians, regardless of the extent to which I agree with their platform, is the clearest reminder that we are not a country with only two ways to approach politics.

Therefore, to paraphrase Hamilton: if you were to ask me who I promote…

Johnson has my vote.

Before I go, I want to leave with a couple parting points.

Clinton supporters want you to think a vote for Johnson or Stein is a vote for Trump. Trump supporters want you to think a vote for Johnson or Stein is a vote for Clinton. PPFA wants you to think about how absurd the combination of those assertions are. A Johnson/Stein voter is not casting three ballots. (And if they were, wouldn’t those extra two votes negate each other?) Vote for who you want, despite the desperation of the two parties. After all, two parties is just one step away from one party.

That being said, I must admit that if I were in a swing state, I really don’t know if I’d be endorsing Johnson. It is an important election. I can’t fault anyone in a battleground state for responsibly choosing between the two candidates who might actually end up working in the Oval Office. If you think Clinton must be stopped and Trump won’t be as bad, or vice versa, vote that way. In essence, today’s endorsement targets despondent voters in the 35 or so states where we basically know the result. (It is not lost on PPFA that if everyone in a decided state took my advice and voted third party, all of a sudden the Trump and Clinton vote in that state would be pretty close. I assure you, however, that PPFA doubts its ability to swing so much as a conference table, to say nothing of a state.)

Two columns left: my final electoral projection on Monday, then an election night preview on Tuesday. I hope to see you then.


One… Week… Left

There’s an old Confucian proverb: “When James Comey sends a vague three-paragraph letter to Congressional leadership, all hell breaks loose.”

Below are seven PPFA thoughts with seven days remaining in this historic, embarrassing, depressing election that pits, as Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson put it, “a candidate under FBI investigation, and Donald Trump.” In other words, a spot between a rock and a hard place is looking pretty cozy.

1) Where else could I start? We have our October surprise! A week ago some outlets liked Hillary Clinton’s chances to win the presidency at more than ninety percent. PPFA did not. Such a flawed, unlikable candidate should never have been so heavily favored in the craziest election in memory. With huge unfavorable and untrustworthy numbers for the Democratic nominee, it feels like the country is begging for a reason to vote the other way. Of course, the country had stayed sober long enough to realize the main “other way” is the most absurd nominee in American history. Clinton and the Democrats, however, are not making it easy to lay off the bottle.

At this point, it’s like undecided voters are working through a calculus problem on a chalkboard. They figure if they keep squinting at the equation the answer will become clear, but it’s just giving them a headache. If undecideds were indeed looking for a reason to vote for Trump, these developments may have been the nudge they needed.

2) “It’s rigged!” -Democrats.

I mean, this is hilarious, right? After months of praising the steady, fair leadership of FBI Director James Comey, Democrats have summoned every remaining bit of their collective indignation at his partisan wilting under Republican pressure. Yes, he’s a Republican, but that didn’t matter in July, when Democrats sung his praises as a principled arbiter of an overblown scandal. To now say that he’s some lackey carrying Republican water is a clear deflection of responsibility from Democrats Clinton and Weiner, the actual people who got them into this mess. Clinton herself dabbled in Comey-shaming, at the end of her brief press conference, implying that Comey was only in direct contact with Republican committee leaders. (Not true, says Politifact.)

Since this dark cloud loomed long ago, Democrats should not be surprised with this development. This is what happens when your party nominates someone under FBI investigation. Democrats complain about the unprecedented nature of Comey’s interference, but Clinton’s circumstances make her an unprecedented nominee.

Still, the Democratic apoplexy is not totally baseless. A former chief White House ethics lawyer under George W. Bush similarly raises concerns that Comey is influencing the election without having given or found sufficient evidence to do so. Some, like Democratic Senator Harry Reid, accuse Comey of having violated the Hatch Act, which prohibits the FBI or other federal employees from showing favoritism in elections.  I think that’s a bit extreme and Democrats should back off; after all, it’s their candidate who’s the potential criminal, and I’ve never cared for the “I’m rubber and you’re glue” defense. However, the timing of this thing is quite the head-scratcher. Three former Attorney Generals, including two from the Bush White House, have been critical of Comey’s decision.

3)”Comey is a nonpartisan hero who did the right thing!” -Republicans

Meanwhile, the Republicans have given us plenty of hypocrisy of their own. For them, it was Comey who lacked the backbone in July when he buckled under the bright lights of an election. Trump Campaign manager Kellyanne Conway complained that Comey had zero accountability when he gave Clinton a pass, but now says it’s dangerous for Democrats to be critical of him. Remember when I cited Politifact under #2? Republicans didn’t care for their fact-checking when it repeatedly calls out Trump for his half-truths and full-lies. But when the site scrutinizes Clinton’s oscillating relationship with truth and deception, it’s a much cited source from the right.

4) Amazingly, Comey has united both sides of the aisle on something: we want — we need! — more information. If there’s been a huge development, tell us. If it’s not huge yet and might never be, make that clear, too. The American people need to know the status as they vote.

Of course, it’s the lack of information presented to the American people that has allowed both sides to interpret this development any way they want. Republicans are saying that of course this is a huge deal — clearly something is in the works! Democrats, on the other hand, remind us that he did not find new Clinton emails, this has nothing to do with her server, and Republicans aren’t fair! They emphasize the lack of specifics in Comey’s letter and instead focus on the fact that this is a tangential connection through Weiner’s scandals. Both sides have since pointed to reporting and “sources,” named and unnamed, who support partisan theories. Comey, in essence, has given us a national Rorschach test. You see what you want to see.

Thus, Democrats want more information, but only if it downplays Clinton’s role. Republicans want more information, but only if it makes her look more guilty. If new details give either side the opposite of what it wants, it will long for these last few days of opacity.

5) Nevertheless, I think Comey deserves a bit of a defense here. A skeptic can say the timing is suspicious, but I actually think he’s been pretty clear that he has proceeded as cautiously as possible since hearing reporting from lower agents. The letter mentions that they need to “review” new emails, “assess their importance,” and “the FBI cannot yet assess whether or not this material may be significant.” This is not an indictment, legally or figuratively. The letter does not convey a bombshell.

Although he should have anticipated the dramatic response and may have indeed dropped a ball that the media picked up and ran with, the text of his letter clearly does not suggest a national overreaction. It’s not his place to urge the media and electorate to remain calm. The media, when it finds a new toy to vigorously shake with its mouth, just can’t help it.

We should also acknowledge that it was a lose-lose situation for the Director. If this were a minor development that has the potential to turn into a major one, but out of fear of tipping the scales of the election he withheld the development until after the election, and then it turned out to be a major development for the president-elect… wouldn’t that be a lot worse than this procedural letter that was spun out of control in the media? In other words, not saying something could have been just as impactful on the race and the next administration as saying something.

I join the parties in begging for a clarification, but we shouldn’t expect one. The FBI has a job to do, and the American people are going to have the burden of trying to pick the better presidential candidate before it’s done.

6) Considering this huge news from Friday afternoon, I’m really glad I did electoral math projections on Friday morning. Clearly Comey has no love for PPFA. (Maybe I shouldn’t have defended him after all…)

Projecting the effects of this news is tough, but I do want to caution against reading into the narrowing national polls that we’ve started to see. Recall my post from Thursday that anticipated a Trump rise in the polls as the election neared. Clinton’s lead was inflated and unsustainable. Her lead was already shrinking before Friday, and the tight weekend polls did not have the time to factor in Friday, either.

The question is: does this news do nothing to shake Clinton voters, who would probably be enough to win the election, or does it prolong Trump’s polling momentum to the point where he takes the lead? Past “October surprises” suggest polling is not as volatile as Republicans are hoping, but there are some scary early statistics for the Clinton Campaign. An ABC/ Washington Post poll found a third of voters were now less likely to vote for Clinton. An NBCNews/ WallStreetJournal/ Marist poll in Florida found that Clinton was up 54-37 among voters who had already voted, but down 51-42 to the majority of voters that didn’t.

We won’t know the full ramifications for a few days, but these are already troubling numbers for Democrats. PPFA still expects that the electoral advantages and superior Democratic ground game will win enough states to get to 270 electoral votes, but the popular vote total has never been more vulnerable. Barring a second Clinton exoneration before the election (extremely unlikely), I expect Trump to get the national polling to near even in the next week with a puncher’s chance of eking out the popular vote win in the election. This, of course, might be the scariest scenario of all. A Trump loss in the Electoral College paired with a win in the popular vote, after a campaign that railed against the rigged system and undermined his supporters’ faith in the election process, could prove to be an impossible pill to swallow for many Republicans. Memories of the College working in their favor in 2000 will not be enough to assuage many of them of a crooked election. The next four years would be gridlock to end all gridlocks.

Ultimately, as someone who worries about a Trump presidency, this was a terrifying development. But as someone who writes a political blog, it was pretty awesome. This race already had the crown for most interesting primary and general election combination in history. Now it’s just lapping the field.

7) I’m busy again, but I’m hoping to squeeze out three more before the election: an endorsement, a final electoral projection, and then an Election Night preview. If I pull it off, that third one will be my 200th post on WordPress since starting the site last September.

And then I can get some sleep.