On Wednesday, Nate Silver of fivethirtyeight.com released his first general election forecast, which shows Hillary Clinton with an 80 percent chance of beating Donald Trump. If you like numbers and you know Silver’s track record in presidential elections, this should be something of a relief.
Silver’s model gives Trump a 19 percent chance of winning the election. Right now he has Clinton taking the popular vote by seven points and absolutely crushing Trump in the Electoral College, 353 to 184. Considering that the polarized electorate means each candidate is starting out with a floor of probably 50 million or so votes, these numbers indicate Trump is performing no better against Clinton than a rock covered in orange spray paint would. The GOP’s only chance might be to toss him overboard at the convention and nominate an inanimate carbon rod.
If nothing else, the reduction of this election to the numbers for each candidate reminds us that, for all the sturm und drang up to this point, this election is, like every other presidential election, a fight between two candidates and two competing visions. (As much as Trump can be said to have any vision anyway.) For anyone exhausted by the screaming and unpleasantness of this Democratic primary campaign, it is nice to now catch our breath beneath the solid foundation of math before the conventions and the official general election kick-off sprays us all with its stink. Because Trump’s ego isn’t going to take losing very well. And if the NRA’s new anti-Clinton ad is any indication, neither are the lunatics who have thrown their support behind him.
But if the poll numbers aren’t enough for you, there is the reaction to them by Trump dead-enders, who at this point are the equivalent of flight attendants passing out peanuts and ginger ale while oxygen masks are dropping from the ceiling, the pilot is openly sobbing over the intercom and both wings are on fire.
For example, Roy Edroso points us to this post over at the conservative blog Powerline, which contains this gem of a paragraph:
One thing is worth pointing out, however: even in this outlier poll, Trump holds a ten-point lead among white voters, 50%-40% (down from 57%-33% in May!). It is remarkable that even at his low ebb, Trump wins by a near landslide margin among white voters, a majority of the electorate. Not many years ago, that would have assured him of victory.
It is a bit early to be pulling out the “Our candidate would have this election in the bag if we just allowed only white people to vote” line. Mitt Romney at least had the decency to wait until after he lost the 2012 election to take that data point for a walk in public.
Or take this one, from National Review’s Rich Lowry, who finds it “remarkable” Trump is competitive in battleground states considering that he is not running a real campaign. For one thing, this is not true. Polls show Trump getting crushed in battleground states. For another, Lowry’s evidence for Trump’s “remarkable” effort is that Clinton has spent $140 million on ads in battleground states while Trump has spent – wait for it – nothing. Literally, he has spent less on ads in battleground states than I spent on lunch on Wednesday.
What Lowry misses is that the $140 million is mostly “reserved time” in the future. Clinton spent $26 million running battleground state ads in June. The remaining $114 million has been spent on airtime for ads that will run in the future. In other words, Trump’s numbers are already sinking and the Clinton campaign has yet to unleash a good 80 percent of its ad buy to date.
Of course, Silver has been wrong before, mostly because he didn’t want to believe his own polling model. This time he is actually accepting what the polls are telling him. And there is plenty of evidence to back him up. National polls consistently give Clinton the lead and show Trump’s support cratering.
All of that said, of course, there are always unknown or unforeseen events that could throw everything into chaos. But at the end of the day, this is still a choice between two people, one of whom is wildly unpopular, terrifying and embarrassing to the majority of voters. For all the easily panicked liberals who worry about not taking Trump seriously, right now the signs point to a comfortable Clinton win. That’s not wishful thinking. It’s math.
Everyone take a deep breath. There may be four months and lots of ugliness to get through, and it is imperative that the electorate still goes out and demolishes not just Trump but the toxic brew of nativism and xenophobia that is Trumpism. But the end of this whole mishigas of an election is almost in sight.