Monday, October 31, 2016

Why Hillary Will Still Win, Post-Comey

In the wake of Comey-Gate -- in which FBI Director James Comey decided it was a good idea to break policy and inject himself into the presidential race with a mere 11 days to go with the announcement of the 'Weiner-emails' -- the reasonable question is:  can Hillary Clinton now lose?  While the post-Comey polling evidence is thin, we at BTRTN believe she is still the heavy favorite.

But first -- I have been hearing a great deal about the “damned if he did, damned if he didn’t” defense of Comey in the past several days.  That is, while is being castigated now (by the Dems), he also would have been castigated (by the GOP) if he had “withheld” an announcement prior to Election Day when it was (inevitably) discovered (post-ED) that he knew of the Wiener-mails before ED.  In that scenario, he would have been accused of participating in a cover-up, and in cahoots with the Department of Justice and the Clinton campaign.

This is the “damned if he did, damned if he didn’t” argument.  To which I answer: if you, or anyone, was faced with a “damned if I do, damned if I don’t” decision, is it not the wisest and most prudent course of action to follow policy, precedent and protocol, not to mention the advice of your boss?

As for the impact – on September 19th, at the low point of the Clinton campaign, when Clinton’s lead in the national polls had narrowed to less than two points (after a bad week), we wrote a piece called “Why Hillary Will Win.”  It basically focused on four factors in making the case that Hillary’s chances of winning at that bleak time were actually north of 90%, at a time when most statisticians were showing the odds in the 50-60% range:

·         That the narrow 2–point margin would revert in time to its long-haul norm, which had been Clinton by +4-5 points – that is, even bad news has a relatively short shelf life
·         That Trump was far more likely than Clinton to commit future gaffes and have more skeletons emerge --and this included the three debates, which were still ahead of us at that time, and we believed Clinton was more likely to do well in those debates (or less likely to do poorly)
·         That the vaunted Clinton ground game – she simply has a far larger, more organized and more seasoned campaign staff state-by-state to get out the vote – would favor Clinton once voting was permitted, and this factor was not reflected in the polls
·         And that the enormous money advantage that she has could only be a positive for her, and this was also not reflected in the polls

The first and second points turned out to be true.  Even before The Tape emerged, Clinton’s lead had gone back up from 2 points to 4-5 points.  After The Tape, the Debates (Clinton won all three) and the ensuing Trump Meltdown, the gap ballooned to 9 points – but, true to form, has since receded to 4-5 points again.  And the third and fourth points continue to go unchallenged and continue to be major factors.

I will add three new points:

·         Approximately 20 million Americans have already voted, out of a total of approximately 120 million to be cast.  Thus Trump has to overcome, in weighted-average fashion, the advantage Clinton already has in the early going, with votes from the remaining balance.  Democrats tend to vote early in greater numbers, which is why the GOP works so hard to limit early voting.
·         The limited data thus far does not indicate Comey-Gate is having a major impact on the election.  Below is a chart showing, as best as possible, three pre/post reads.  The Morning Consult one is “pure,” since all of the surveying was done cleanly, one survey conducted before Comey-Gate and one after.  The ABC News/Washington Post and IDB/TIPP polls are issued daily but the surveys are conducted over 5- and 6-day period, respectively, meaning that only parts of each are post-Comey.  Nevertheless, the results of all three seem to indicate about a 1-2 point move thus far for Trump.  (Also note that while all three of these polls show a very close race, there are other polls – FOX, Pew, CNBC, The Economist – that were showing larger Clinton leads, anywhere from 3-7 points pre-Comey.  If the 1-2 point change holds for these polls as well, we can extrapolate that Clinton’s true national lead is in the 3-4 point range.)

Two-Person Polling
Morning Consult
ABC News/Wash Post
Dates >>>
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·         There has been little state polling since Comey.  But if the national impact has been 1-2 points, that will not make too much difference at the state level.  Trump has to win all the Leaning and Toss-up states plus one-two Clinton Solid states to get to 270, and 2 points will not do that.

So, I am still quite convinced Clinton will win, barring another negative bombshell.  We will have a complete summary of all the races tomorrow (presidential, Senate, House, Governors).

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