Monday, November 7, 2016

Tuesday Thoughts

I have no grand predictions about the outcome of tomorrow's vote.  The polls this cycle have been inconsistently inconsistent.  At times, right on target; at other times, way off the mark.  In perhaps one of the largest divergences of polling from election results, polls of the Democratic primary in Michigan had Hillary Clinton up by 20 points on the eve of the election, but Bernie Sanders ended up winning.  Now, most of the primary polls were more accurate than that, but the Michigan result should perhaps give some pause to pundits who want to project the election with supreme confidence.

As Sean Trende argues, there are many reasons to doubt that early voting offers a perfect window into the electorate, either.  That's one of the reasons I'm skeptical of the claims advanced by Jon Ralston (a very astute Nevada political observer) and others that early voting in Nevada conclusively proves that Hillary Clinton will win the state tomorrow; without definitely knowing the breakdown of independent voter preferences, we can't project how much of a lead Hillary Clinton has in Nevada going into tomorrow.  The Silver State may already be decided, but we'll only know that after the votes are counted.

If you are looking for projections for tomorrow, you could do worse than Henry Olsen's extensive projection over at NRO.  Olsen thinks that Hillary Clinton has the edge but that this election could be closer than many anticipate.  One of the more helpful aspects of Olsen's projection is his use of ranges for the popular vote and the Electoral College:
Popular Vote
Clinton 48 (range 46–48.5)
Trump 47 (range 44–48.5)
Johnson 3 (range 2–4)
Stein 1 (range 1–2)
Others/Write-ins 1 (range 0.75–1.5)
Electoral College
Clinton 278 (range 248–323)
Trump 260 (range 215–290)
Whether one agrees with the precise breakdown here or not, the ranges seem relatively sensible.  They also capture something of the dynamic of the race: in terms of the Electoral College, Clinton's ceiling and floor are higher than Trump's.  For instance, I doubt there's a plausible scenario where Clinton falls under 200 Electoral Votes, but Trump could definitely go underneath 200.  Likewise, Trump scoring over 300 EVs would be a tremendous surprise; Clinton getting over 300 EVs wouldn't be that striking.  This difference in their floors and ceilings suggests, I think, Clinton's advantage heading into Tuesday.  But it's still possible to see how Trump could still get to 270, as Nate Silver has argued.

Once the results start coming in, there could be some telltale signs.  Polls close in North Carolina at 7:30 pm EST.  If Hillary Clinton is declared the winner shortly afterward, that's probably a dire sign for Trump; barring some earthquake in the Rustbelt, North Carolina is pretty close to must-win for him, and an easy Clinton victory there could be a sign that he'll be in trouble in other swing states, too.  On the other hand, an early call for Trump in Ohio should probably make Brooklyn, the site of Clinton's campaign HQ, nervous.  Polls close by 8 pm EST in most of the major swing states.  If Trump wins Ohio, Florida, and North Carolina (or if those states are still too close to call) while Michigan and Pennsylvania remain in the Democratic column, the nation will turn with increased interest to Iowa (10 pm), Colorado (9 pm), and Nevada (10 pm).

In the battle for the Senate, here's a range to keep in mind: 7-8.  With the exception of Nevada, most of the closely contested Senate races this cycle feature Republican incumbents.  According to my calculations, incumbent Republican senators outperformed the GOP presidential nominee by, on average 7-8 points in 2008 and 2012 (technically, it was about 7.8 points in 2008 and 7.2 points in 2012).  If 2016 is anything like 2008 and 2012, that precedent suggests that, if Trump can be within 7 or 8 points of Hillary Clinton in crucial states, the Republican incumbent has a good chance of winning.  So pay particular attention to Trump's margin in Wisconsin (Johnson), New Hampshire (Ayotte), North Carolina (Burr), Pennsylvania (Toomey) and Florida (Rubio).  Again, that's 7-8 points on average; some senators will outdo that margin, while others will fall short of it.  It looks at the moment that Rob Portman is going to outperform substantially Trump's margin in Ohio and so seems likely to win no matter what.  Conversely, Roy Blunt represents Trump-friendly Missouri and is still locked in a neck-and-neck battle with Jason Kander, his Democratic challenger.

Whatever happens on Tuesday, the challenge of civic rejuvenation and restoration remains to be faced.

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