538: Hillary could still lose

FiveThirtyEight.com, one of the best poll analysts around, did an analysis yesterday of the recent historical comebacks during presidential elections, and concluded that Hillary Clinton could still lose the election.

Now, yes, Hillary currently has an 88% chance or so of winning. She’s doing very well. But as many have noted, it’s only the middle of August — the election is in November. Things could change between now and then, and historically, they have changed in several elections.

538’s first point is that the economy always influences the election (a good economy favors the incumbent party), and our economy is decent but not great. That means the polls should be expected to tighten between now and the election, if you buy the theory that the economy influences the election.

Second, 538 notes that there have been elections in which the person who’s behind made up a 6 to 8 point deficit in the polls — exactly where Trump is right now. They note that in 1980, Carter and Reagan were tied after the conventions — but Reagan won the election by nearly 10% points. And Trump is doing better at this point in the campaign than Reagan was.

For also pulled off a huge comeback, but ultimately lost.

Then there’s Nixon:

Perhaps the most interesting potential precedent for the 2016 campaign is 1968.3 Richard Nixon was up by 8 percentage points and opened an even larger lead in the fall. But Hubert Humphrey was able to consolidate a previously divided Democratic base (as Trump needs to do with Republicans) and cut into Nixon’s lead. Humphrey was also aided by President Lyndon Johnson’s rising approval ratings and the original October surprise (an announcement by Johnson that the U.S. was halting the bombing in Vietnam). Humphrey ended up losing in the second-closest presidential election of the 1900s. It’s not too difficult to imagine Republicans rallying behind Trump — perhaps Clinton is hit with a scandal or WikiLeaks drops an October surprise.

538 isn’t saying Hillary is going to lose. They’re saying that even though she right now has an 88% chance of winning in November, things can change — and they have before.

Andrew Breitbart, photo by Gage Skidmore.

Andrew Breitbart, photo by Gage Skidmore.

One final point: Breitbart.

Trump announced yesterday that he was making Stephen Bannon the new head of the Trump campaign. Bannon runs Breitbart, the far-right, alt-right, some say “white nationalist” (according to CNN’s Brian Stelter) Web site. Breitbart, for those unfamiliar, is basically a really bad blog. Think H.A. Goodman on steroids. Think Ann Coulter, with even more chutzpah and more racism. It cannot be overstated how nutty Breitbart is. They’re conservative bomb-throwers, but of the conspiracy wing of the GOP. Even most Republicans don’t like them or respect them.

If you thought Trump’s campaign was over-the-top and offensive at this point, you ain’t seen nothing yet.

And that worries me. From the beginning, my biggest concern about Trump was that he was willing to say things that no decent presidential candidate would dare. For example, he brought up Monica. And while to date Trump’s outrageousness hasn’t helped him in the polls, it’s still a wild card.

In the end, I’ve seen enough elections change in the final few months or even weeks. It’s great that Hillary is doing well, so far. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis — win a pony! (not really)


Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Instagram | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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