There are plenty of justifications for losing sleep ahead of Election Day. But five key indicators tell us Hillary Clinton is still the favorite to win.
By: Michael Tomasky -- The Daily Beast
Worry? Hell, yes, worry. A man who just got the official endorsement of the Ku Klux Klan is close to becoming president of the United States. If that doesn’t worry you—and if it doesn’t make Republicans finally and fully ashamed—then nothing will.
Hillary Clinton isn’t running against just that man. She’s running against the Kremlin—yeah, I know, our government just said that those hacking into our electoral process aren’t necessarily favoring a candidate, they’re just trying to make mischief; but it’s a funny thing, isn’t it, that they didn’t hack any Trump campaign email accounts.
She’s running against Julian Assange, who claims neutrality but obviously despises Clinton because she was secretary of State when WikiLeaks got started and she opposed what he was doing (in other words, because she was doing her job as the world’s most important diplomat).
She’s running against right-wing legislatures and governors and electoral black-arts operatives in a number of states who’ve done everything they legally could—and, as we’ll no doubt learn on Election Night, illegally, too—to keep black people, who will back her at a rate well north of 90 percent, from voting.
And she’s running against a rogue FBI director about whom more devastating information came out Wednesday morning. We now learn that the bureau refrained from issuing subpoenas over the summer in probes involving both the Clinton Foundation and Paul Manafort because it was too close to the election. But Oct. 28 wasn’t too close to the election for Jim Comey to try to derail Clinton’s campaign.
So yes, worry.
But don’t panic.
Clinton’s still the favorite, and there are reasons why. Here are five of them:
1. Early voting. Those going to the polls before Election Day tend to favor Democrats, in some states to such an extent that Clinton and down-ballot Democrats are building leads that may be close to insurmountable. The most striking example so far seems to be Nevada, where Clinton’s early-voting lead, says FiveThirtyEight, is enough that Trump would have to win by a huge margin on Election Day.
North Carolina is another state where Clinton has zoomed to an early-voting lead. Around 1.8 million people have already voted, out of a total 4.4 million expected to vote. The Upshot estimates that Clinton leads by 11 percentage points among those who’ve voted so far. If that’s accurate, again, Trump would have to over perform the polling by pretty huge margins to overcome that.
The news wasn’t as good from Florida, but one poll popped late last night showing Clinton with an 8 percentage-point lead among early voters, propelled by her getting 28 percent of early-voting Republicans. I don’t know. It doesn’t seem crazy that her GOP crossover vote in Florida would be higher than in most states—Florida has a lot of Jeb-like, country-club Republicans in places like Boca Raton and in the wealthier cities of the Suncoast. If that number is right, the race in Florida, and nationally, is a done deal. But of course we won’t know til Election Night.
One early-voting problem: Black turnout is low. This is probably because of the voter-disenfranchisement issues I cite above. The Clinton campaign and its surrogates will need to be sure that word circulates in black communities that states are trying to block them from exercising their right to vote against the man with the KKK endorsement. (The Trump campaign renounced this endorsement, which is lovely, considering he spent more than a year earning it).
2. The Electoral College math. It remains daunting for Trump as for any Republican. Unless something really weird happens, Clinton has 246 Electoral Votes she just shouldn’t lose (I’m counting Michigan and Wisconsin here, and Pennsylvania, but not Virginia, which is probably being generous to Trump). Trump has 180. Of course crazy things could happen. People are worried about voter suppression in Wisconsin, and Clinton will need a solid black turnout in Michigan. But just remember: Clinton can lose Florida, Ohio, North Carolina, Colorado, Arizona, and Iowa and still hit 270.
3. Latino turnout seems to be going through the roof. Hispanic voter-registration numbers spiked like crazy all through the spring and summer. And early signs are that Latino early-voting turnout is wild high. If the pattern holds on Election Day, it should make a difference in the obvious states: Florida, Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, and New Mexico. If you read “Florida” and are thinking “but Cubans,” bear in mind: In 2012, Obama and Romney split the Cuban vote roughly 50-50. Also the Cuban vote is about half the state’s Latino vote. The other half is mainly Puerto Rican. So Clinton should get half of the first half and 85 percent of the second half for an overall margin among Florida Latinos of about two-to-one.
4. Black turnout should spike on Election Day. Some states are making it as hard as they can for black people to vote, but there’s little evidence to suggest that means black voters just won’t bother. Black turnout has been increasing steadily with every presidential election in recent years. There will probably be some falloff because Barack Obama isn’t on the ballot, but experts like Ruy Teixeira think it will be small (or perhaps won’t happen at all). And if anything, Trump is going to do worse among black voters than even Romney, who got 5 percent.
Warning note here: If black turnout is heavy on Election Day itself, this will lead to really long lines, because in addition to early-voting suppression, these same states usually put far fewer voting machines in black neighborhoods than in white ones. This means people will be standing in lines well after the polls close. Under law, anyone who shows up before closing time has a right to vote, even if it takes three or however many more hours. This always involves court orders and the like. And this year, given Trump’s vicious rhetoric, it might involve violence. I hope the Clinton people and local leaders are ready for this in every way they need to be.
5. Ground game. Clinton hired campaign manager Robbie Mook basically to do this—run the most extensive and sophisticated ground game in presidential history. It seems as if a formidable machine is in place. And it seems as if the Trump campaign hasn’t built anything like the same kind of network.
If swing voters are put off by Clinton in these closing moments by what Jim Comey did, that makes pulling out the base voters all the more important. Again, we’ll have to wait until Election Night to see. But the Obama track record from 2008 and 2012 would suggest that the Democratic ground game—which at the local level will involve many of the same party and union and other activists who powered Obama’s operations—generally works as advertised. This was especially so in Florida, where, in polling, Obama was tied with or actually trailed Romney by a point or so on the morning of Election Day.
Feel better? You should. I do! But only a little. We’re in a dark place as a country, and strange things can happen in the dark, but the numbers tell us that a hell of a lot of them would have to happen for disaster to befall us.