Monday, September 19, 2016

Why Hillary Will Win

Tom steps out of his "Machine" prediction persona and editorializes on the likely election outcome...backed by data, of course.

This title sounds like BTRTN is making a prediction, but we are not.  On November 7th, or even a few days before if we’re feeling bullish, we’ll announce our election predictions for the presidency (and for the Senate, House and state houses).  This is not that.  It is rather more of an editorial perspective on my part.  It may be splitting hairs to divine a distinction between a final prediction and an opinion about that prediction, but I am drawing that distinction nonetheless.

There is palpable concern among Clinton supporters that the race is even and thus that she could lose.  Over the last week, I have been bombarded by friends and readers with this concern and this article is a direct answer to the question posed:  will Hillary lose? 

It is certainly true that the race is closer than it was one month ago, and of course Hillary could lose.  But I don’t think she will, and here’s why.

THE FACTS

The race is actually not a “dead heat” or “tied.” After a very bad stretch in her campaign, with ongoing issues related to her emails and the Clinton Foundation, her “basket of deplorables” gaffe, her illness and the lack of disclosure about it, Clinton remains ahead in terms of the head-to-head national ballot, by about two points, which is NOT within the margin of error.  She has led in 10 out of the 11 national polls in September, trailing only in a FOX poll by one point.  In contrast, in 2012 Barack Obama led Mitt Romney in only 17 of the last 37 polls from between October 1 and the election (Romney led 12 and there were 8 ties).  Some of the hysteria in this year’s race has been caused by a single poll, the LA Times/USC tracker poll, which had Trump up by 7 and is skewing some polls aggregation results.  We do not include this poll in our aggregations because the polls from this pollster have been consistently hopeless outliers in favor of Trump.  (We exclude other polls for the same reason, including several that are hopelessly skewed toward Clinton.)

The race, while at its closest point, has oscillated throughout, as can be seen in the charts below.  At various times Trump has closed the margin, only to see it widen again.  The gap narrowed to 4 points in May and 3 points by the end of July, only to rise again each time.  

Weekly
Jul 30
Aug 6
Aug 13
Aug 20
Aug 27
Sep 3
Sep 10
Sep 17
Clinton
45.9
47.5
47.8
45.2
46.5
45.8
46.5
45.0
Trump
43.0
40.5
39.8
39.0
40.2
41.8
43.0
43.2
Other/NA
11.1
12.0
12.5
15.8
13.3
12.3
10.5
11.8
Margin
2.9
7.0
8.0
6.2
6.3
4.0
3.5
1.8
Monthly
Feb
Mar
Apr
May
Jun
Jul
Aug
Sep
Clinton
47.2
49.6
48.4
46.3
43.9
45.7
46.4
45.8
Trump
42.0
39.9
39.0
42.3
37.9
41.6
40.2
43.1
N/A
10.8
10.6
12.6
11.5
18.2
12.6
13.4
11.1
Margin
5.2
9.7
9.4
4.0
6.1
4.1
6.1
2.7

As for the states, some of the Hillary Anxiety can be traced back to a set of polls by Emerson, issued on September 5th that purported to show Clinton down to low single-digit leads in a number of eastern states (­including New Jersey, Rhode Island, and Maine) that Obama had won by double-digits.  But Emerson does not contact cellphones at all, and is not considered a high-quality pollster.  We do not include them in our aggregations for that reason. 

Here is our latest BTRTN snapshot.  Donald Trump has certainly made headway in the last two weeks, narrowing the Clinton lead from 339/199 to 287/251.  We have changed our BTRTN ratings in 7 states (details down at the bottom) and only two in Clinton’s direction – we have moved Virginia into the Solid D column from Lean D, and Colorado from Toss-Up D to Lean D.  We have flipped Florida and Georgia from Toss-up D to Toss-up R, and Nevada from Lean D to Toss-up R, and, of course, that accounts for the narrowing of the Clinton lead.  And two other shifts, while not flips, still favor Trump:  New Hampshire from Solid D to Lean D and Texas from Toss-up R to Lean R.  Having said all that, this is far from a “dead heat” on the Electoral College side.  The current snapshot remains significantly weighted to Clinton, though much tighter.

 ELECTORAL COLLEGE SNAPSHOT
Electoral College
September 3
September 19
CLINTON - TOTAL
339
287
Clinton - Solid
225
233
Clinton - Lean
45
35
Clinton - Tossup
69
19
Trump - Tossup
73
86
Trump - Lean
6
54
Trump - Solid
120
111
TRUMP - TOTAL
199
251

THE NOT-A-PREDICTION EDITORIAL:  WHY HILLARY WILL WIN

Hillary Clinton is leading the election – in both national polls and in the latest Electoral College projection.  All other things being equal, that is a large point in her favor.  If she is ahead now, her odds of winning are higher than Trump’s.

This is after a terrible stretch in her race, and we know that all races oscillate.  She will not continue to commit gaffes, cover up illnesses, and the like.   She is a disciplined candidate who will more than likely stay out of the headlines for at least a spell, and even learn from her mistakes.  Thus the polls are likely to revert back at least in part in her direction, as they did after the FBI report hurt her initially and then faded.  This reversion back to some kind of norm would likely happen even if she had a more stable opponent. 

And to that point, Donald Trump, while improving as a candidate, is hardly reliable, and it is not difficult to imagine more controversy ahead.  And apart from his motor mouth, any number of issues could move front burner again, notably his taxes, charitable giving (or lack thereof), the outlandish math of his economic proposals, his racist and misogynist history, Trump U, his flip-flopping on immigration, his lies about, well, everything.  Need I go on?  For example, just this morning on FOX, Trump made a specific and passionate case for profiling in police work.  Let’s see how big this becomes.  But the point is, it is highly likely that Trump himself will trigger some negative news cycle.  (Also: today he took credit for “breaking” the New York City Chelsea bomb story, gloating that he used the word “bombing” before the police did.)

Keep in mind that there is media bias at work here – not what you are thinking -- and it is being oddly reinforced by campaign communications.  CNN, FOX, MSNBC, the networks, The Times, The Post, Politico, etc. all agree on one thing: is that a “close race” narrative is far more compelling than a rout.  So, reporting angles that focus on the closing gap tend to be wildly popular among media decision-makers who want to sell ads.  There is a frenzy of “dead heat” reporting going on but, as pointed out, that storyline is inaccurate.  As for the campaigns -- the Clinton campaign finds that “doom and gloom” headlines work best in raising money, and they are deathly afraid of low turnout, so there is an odd partnership amongst them and the media.  Trump, of course, is eager of for “dead heat” headlines so he is working to reinforce them.  But I have already begun to see a story or two on how Trump’s comeback is stalling and I’m sure we will see more.

And now let’s get down to brass tacks:  the Electoral College math.

  • Hillary has a “Solid” 233 delegates in her column while Trump has only 111.  That means that Hillary can concentrate her efforts on “paths to 270” that require a mere 37 more electoral votes, and she has many paths to get there.
  • Trump is not really challenging Hillary in any of the Blue Wall states but is playing “defense” in a bunch of states that he should own because they have been going Red for many election cycles.  Arizona, Georgia, Mississippi, South Carolina and even Texas are in play – none of these are typical “swing states” and they account for 80 delegates.  And that means he has to visit them, build strong organizations in them, and spend money in them – and every resource he expends in those five states cannot be spent where the game in usually played….the swing states.
  • Even if Trump successfully defends each of those five red states in play, that gets him up to 191 delegates, and thus he needs 79 more from the swing states.  That is quite a gap.  Even if he took the Big Two, Florida and Ohio, that nets him only 47 more, leaving him 32 short.  Throw in North Carolina, Nevada and Iowa and he is still short (at 265).
  • In short, Trump would have to win most – 11 or 12 -- of the 14 swing states, which is extremely difficult, like shooting an inside straight.  Nearly impossible to envision.  Trump has NEVER, EVER led in Michigan, New Hampshire, Wisconsin or Colorado – and he has to win one or two of them.
  • Why?  For starters, Hillary has an enormous, first-rate and battle-tested field organization, while Trump’s is anything but.  He is really scrambling here.  For example, in Florida, Clinton has 51 field offices up and running.  Trump has exactly three.  That is not a typo.  He promised to have 25 opened by Labor Day but has fallen short of that.  And his end goal appears to be to add only 24 more, for a total of 27.  This is a good microcosm of the Trump problem.  He has thought for a long time that he has created a new campaign model based on celebrity and Twitter followers, but actually winning an election requires an organization.
  • It also requires money, and he is trailing badly. He did raised $90 million in August, which was viewed as good progress, but Clinton raised $143 million.  She also had $152 cash-on-hand at the time of the September 1 disclosure, whereas Trump had $74 million.  These order-of-magnitude differences are incredibly important.
  • And one more thing:  Hillary has a secret weapon, and his name is Barack Obama.  With an approval rating of 50%+, Obama is an asset.  But he is particularly strong, of course, among the very audiences that Hillary needs to energize – the aptly named “Obama Coalition.”  These are African-Americans, Latinos and young people who Hillary needs to turn out to vote, even if they don’t love her.  Trump has no one he can turn to to do the opposite – get the moderate Republicans he needs on his side.  Would be surrogates like John McCain, Mitt Romney, John Kasich and, of course, the Bush family, will go nowhere near him and most of them have disavowed him.

Thus, I cannot see a “path” to a Trump victory.  That hardly means it cannot happen – it can.  Various services currently have her odds of winning in the 60-75% range, based on their mathematically-generated formulas.  Statistically, that is probably about right.  But I think, intuitively, that a better number, frankly, begins with a “9.”

How could she lose?  I think another hugely damning revelation would do it.  I have said many times to people that if the FBI actually ever finds an email like this, she could lose:  “To: Chris Stevens.  From: Hillary Clinton.  Re:  Security at Benghazi.  Chis, stop bugging me about more security.  Not happening.  Best, Hillary.”

That is called a “smoking gun.”  No one has found one of those.  That’s what it took to bring down Nixon, and that is what it will take to bring down Hillary. 

So, Hillary fans, don’t get complacent.  Do the work and do it well.  But don’t break out in hives.  She is going to win.

‘*******************************************

Here is the 50-state snapshot as of today.  Note the asterick next to Maine’s “solid” rating.  Maine splits its four electoral votes:  two to the statewide popular vote winner, and one each to the popular vote winner in each of the two congressional districts.  Trump is ahead in one of the districts, so we have given him that one vote and Clinton the other three.

ELECTORAL COLLEGE SNAPSHOT
Democrat Minus Republican
2016 Electoral Votes
2012 Margi'n (D-R)
Avg Margin Last 4
Latest 2016 Polls as              of 9/19/16
BTRTN    Prior    Rating
BTRTN Current Rating
DC
3
84
82
none
Solid
Solid
Hawaii
4
43
29
Clinton +30
Solid
Solid
Maryland
10
25
20
Clinton +30
Solid
Solid
Massachusetts
11
23
25
Clinton +29
Solid
Solid
Vermont
3
36
26
Clinton +28
Solid
Solid
California
55
21
17
Clinton +25
Solid
Solid
New York
29
27
24
Clinton +20
Solid
Solid
Washington
12
14
11
Clinton +16
Solid
Solid
Illinois
20
16
16
Clinton +15
Solid
Solid
New Jersey
14
17
14
Clinton +15
Solid
Solid
Delaware
3
19
16
Clinton +14
Solid
Solid
New Mexico
5
10
6
Clinton +14
Solid
Solid
Oregon
7
12
8
Clinton +13
Solid
Solid
Connecticut
7
18
17
Clinton +12
Solid
Solid
Rhode Island
4
27
26
Clinton +10
Solid
Solid
Maine
4
15
12
Clinton +9
Solid
Solid*
Pennsylvania
20
5
6
Clinton +7
Solid
Solid
Minnesota
10
8
6
Clinton +6
Solid
Solid
Virginia
13
3
-2
Clinton +6
Lean
SOLID
Michigan
16
10
9
Clinton +5
Lean
Lean
Colorado
9
5
0.2
Clinton +4
Toss-up
LEAN
Wisconsin
10
7
5
Clinton +3
Lean
Lean
New Hampshire
4
6
4
Clinton +1
Solid
Toss-up
N. Carolina
15
-2
-7
Clinton +0
Toss-up
Toss-up
Nevada
6
7
3
Trump +1
Lean
Toss-up
Florida
29
1
-0.3
Trump +1
Toss-up
Toss-up
Georgia
16
-8
-10
Trump +4
Toss-up
Toss-up
Arizona
11
-11
-9
Trump +1
Toss-up
Toss-up
Ohio
18
2
0.2
Trump +1
Toss-up
Toss-up
Mississippi
6
-12
-15
Trump +2
Toss-up
Toss-up
S. Carolina
9
-11
-13
Trump +3
Solid
Lean
Texas
38
-16
-18
Trump +6
Toss-up
Lean
Iowa
6
6
4
Trump +8
Lean
Lean
Indiana
11
-11
-11
Trump +7
Solid
Solid
Alaska
3
-13
-23
Trump +8
Solid
Solid
Nebraska
5
-23
-25
Trump +11
Solid
Solid
Kansas
6
-22
-21
Trump +12
Solid
Solid
Montana
3
-14
-15
Trump +13
Solid
Solid
Missouri
10
-10
-5
Trump +13
Solid
Solid
S. Dakota
3
-18
-18
Trump +14
Solid
Solid
Utah
6
-48
-40
Trump +15
Solid
Solid
Louisiana
8
-17
-15
Trump +15
Solid
Solid
Tennessee
11
-21
-13
Trump +18
Solid
Solid
Idaho
4
-32
-34
Trump +20
Solid
Solid
W. Virginia
5
-27
-15
Trump +21
Solid
Solid
Alabama
9
-22
-21
Trump +21
Solid
Solid
Kentucky
8
-23
-18
Trump +23
Solid
Solid
Oklahoma
7
-34
-29
Trump +24
Solid
Solid
N. Dakota
3
-20
-21
Trump +28
Solid
Solid
Arkansas
6
-24
-15
Trump +28
Solid
Solid
Wyoming
3
-41
-39
Trump +38
Solid
Solid



3 comments:

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