Monday, September 26, 2016

Maybe On Thursday We'll Know Who's Ahead? Or Sunday? Or Nov.9?

Just over a week ago, when Hillary had been skidding sharply down, Nate Silver, best of the political numbers analysts, said it appeared her slide in the polls had stopped but that we would know in a week if she was now doing okay. The week was up a couple of days ago, but all he could say then was "I don't know". Well, at least he's an honest dude.

But now he's putting us off again."Whatever arguments we’ve had about the polls this week will soon be swamped by the reaction to Monday’s presidential debate." Silver's arguments were off-stage somewhere. What's to argue anyway if it's all getting swamped tonight?

So when will we actually know something, Mr. Silver? Again, Mr. Silver puts us off, "I’d expect us to have some initial sense of how the debate has moved the numbers by Thursday or Friday based on quick-turnaround polls, and a clearer one by next Sunday or so, when an array of higher-quality polls will begin to report their post-debate results as well." At this rate he will make a firm prediction the day after the votes are counted.

This is a strange year for all of us who are politically-hooked, but most surprisingly it has also been a doozy of a year for the usually super-cool-and-collected Nate Silver. Normally he puts his feet down somewhere and will not be moved, confident in his methods. When the chorus of "experts" said Obama was losing in 2008 and said so again in 2012, Nate Silver said Obama was winning and would continue to do so. The GOP attacked him on TV and everybody was wondering, "Who in the hell is this Nate Silver guy?" At times in both those campaigns it seemed only three people thought Obama would win: Obama, Nate Silver and me. And I would get squishy sometimes.  

Now I am very squishy indeed. Hillary has just slipped a couple of points in a couple of polls in Pennsylvania. Frankly, I couldn't understand these past two weeks why she still had an average 6 point lead in Pennsylvania when most of the other swing states were slipping away. But then I had to remember that I spent 2015 and one-third of 2016 noting the fact she is a terrible candidate. That was my reason for supporting Bernie Sanders. So it's been her race to lose and, as I warned back then, she apparently is losing it. At least she's lost her comfortable margin. Now I'm back in squishy land. Way back.

Let's double-check something. Why is she so vulnerable to shrinking support? The Pew Research Center, the gold standard of political research, just published this chart of why voters support the two candidates. It tells us some of what we need to know. 

In simple terms, Donald Trump has better glue. More of his supporters have compelling reasons to support him than Clinton's supporters have for supporting her.  Number One is hate. They are close to having the same percentage of supporters who are bound to them by hate for theother candidate but, in light of how outrageous and hateful Trump is, it's astounding more of the pro-Clinton support isn't strongly anti-Trump. Maybe less would have drifted away if they had hated Trump as much or more as Trump's people hate Clinton.  Always remember that hate is a powerful glue.

(For some reason, in the published version of  this entire next section, it slipped into a smaller font, sort of a slip downward like Hillary. I'm not going to fiddle with it. It would probably get wrose. I'm going to have apple pie instead.)

But oddly enough, Trump also has what we might consider "good glue".  He has more supporters than does Clinton who are with him because of his policies and positions. They are terrible policies and positions — ever-shifting, spiked with doom and gloom and hate, unclear on specifics.  But come on, folks, who can doubt that Trump has succeeded in delivering a powerful message. It's not nice and tidy, but everybody knows what he represents.  It's as plain as that wall he would build.

I don't know what Hillary Clinton stands for. I don't know why she's running for president. I don't know her mantra. The experienced old-time campaigners keep exhorting her to enuciate two or three things she will do and stop running off at the mouth with lists of 20 or 30 things. Campaigns don't take place in the weeds. Campaigns are about "hope and change", "a city on a mountain",  "a chicken in every pot".  I don't know what "I'm With Her" is supposed to mean. Or "Better Together." Come on! I dare you! Tell me right now two or three things Clinton is going to do.  How's about jobs? Sure, she has proposals for job programs. All very detailed and all buried within a mound of her other "position papers".

Without enough good glue and not enough bad glue, many of Clinton's would-be or sort-of-are supporters have nothing compelling to keep them with her.  It's turning out to be that "I'm with her" means "but not for long".

Can Clinton change all this with the debate? Winning the debate point by point isn't the issue. In fact, you can't play a tennis match with someone who doesn't play. Donald Trump does not play. He is on a different court. That's why no one could touch him in the GOP primary debates. So Clinton being heralded as a good debater isn't very hopeful.

Being the emotional winner is how campaign debates matter. Will more people like her? Will some clear reasons emerge to vote for her? It's a measure of her weakness that many people are saying it's Donald Trump's debate to lose, that he will possibly blow up or blow off to such a degree that he destroys his chances.

What kind of a game is it when you have to count on a win being gained only by your opponent shooting himself in both feet and then putting the barrel in his mouth?

Like I said, it's a doozy of a year.  And I so hate feeling squishy!

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