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A Reminder About Polling

Yesterday’s headlines included the news of three new Quinnipiac polls from swing states that show the race between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton to be tighter than many had expected. This prompted a response from polling and statistics guru Nate Silver:

Nate Silver thinks it’s time to pump the brakes on predicting the results of a Donald Trump-Hillary Clinton matchup in November.

“For f–k’s sake, America. You’re going to make go on a rant about general election polls — in May?” the editor in chief of FiveThirtyEight wrote as part of a tweetstorm on Tuesday.

Silver said Clinton has an about 6 percent lead over Trump nationally, but cautioned: “It’s early. Trump could win. Also, he could lose in a landslide.” He added that Trump’s presumptive nomination and Clinton’s ongoing battle with Bernie Sanders could be having an effect — “We’ll know more in June.”

(…)

“The election will go through a lot of twists and turns, and polls are noisy. Don’t sweat individual polls or short-term fluctuations,” Silver tweeted.

In addition to the fact that they are far too early, one of the primary reasons why these Quinnipiac polls may not be entirely reliable is the fact that they are being taken at a time when the political ground is arguably more advantageous to one candidate than another. The race for the Republican nomination is over, and, with the exception of a dwindling number of true believers, most Republicans appear to be clearly rallying around their party’s nominee just as they would in any other election year. The Democratic race is another matter. While it’s apparent to anyone capable of doing the math that Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic nominee, she still finds herself in an adversarial contest with Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, who continues to rally his supporters with the idea that he could somehow pull of the impossible and win the nomination. As a result, Clinton’s numbers are arguably still being deflated somewhat by the fact that Sanders supporters have yet to reconcile themselves to the fact that she is going to be the nominee. That will most likely happen at some point, of course, but right now it isn’t happening largely because the Sanders campaign is still acting as if it is trying to win the Democratic nomination. Until we’re at the point where both party nominations are settled, these head-to-head polls don’t really tell us much of anything. Trump is getting his boost in the polls right now, and will likely get another one after the Republican National Convention. The same will happen to Clinton. Once the dust settles later in the summer, it will make a lot more sense to look at these polls, especially at the state level, which is what really matters in the context of a Presidential campaign. With that in mind, these early polls should be taken with a grain of salt at the very least.

It’s also worth keeping in mind that not all polls are created equal, and that not all polling firms can be trusted. During the GOP primary battle, there were several first-time pollsters that put out polls that received far more media attention than they probably deserved, especially since several of them turned out to be outliers that were nowhere near being accurate when compared to the final election results. Generally, speaking the polling from the top media companies has proven to be the most reliable over the years, but even there we have seen plenty of examples of outliers that showed a candidate surging when no other poll was doing so. Given that, more attention ought to be paid to poll averages and to trends within individual polls rather than a single poll that the media is freaking out about because they need something to talk about. Finally, it’s worth remembering that polls are useful analysis tools but, in the end, they are at best snapshots in time that may not reflect last minute developments, and which could end up being completely inaccurate if they fail to pick up on a surge of new voters, which is something that we’ve seen on both sides of the ballot this time around thanks to the candidacies of Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump.

In any case, here’s all of Silver’s Tweetstorm, which includes other well-taken advice regarding polling:

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Hal_10000 says:

    We’re in a down new cycle. Of course, every twitch in the polls will be scrutinized. Polls are, generally speaking, invented news.

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  2. Todd says:

    Yes, let’s listen to the guy who was every bit as wrong as everybody else about Trump’s chances to win the Republican nomination. And by all means let’s do all we can to ignore the very real possibility that the general election may not be anywhere near the cakewalk that many Clinton supporters seem to be counting on.

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  3. Pch101 says:

    @Todd:

    I knew that you or one of the other Sanders fans were going to say this.

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  4. Tony W says:

    It may be too soon to poll the general election, but it is not too soon to wring our hands over the broken process that yields weak, injured candidates time and again.

    I despise the fact that my fellow Americans are apparently not bright enough to handle more than a simple dichotomy. Give me a slate of viable candidates and do away with primaries altogether – or at least implement a “Top Two” system nationwide so that we don’t have so much of the Red Jersey/Blue Jersey concerns, but instead more of an actual policy debate – which this year we heard only on the Democratic side.

    I know I’ll never see it, but a guy can wish….

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  5. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    Todd, we get it. You don’t like Hillary and she’s not being nice enough to Sander’s supporters. It’s time to move on. You’ve exhausted this point; move on to the next one in whatever sermon you are preaching. Please.

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  6. Scott says:

    @Todd: @Pch101: @Just ‘nutha ig’rant cracker:

    You don’t have to be a Sanders supporter to fear that Todd is right about this election not being a cakewalk. I’m not for Sanders but I fear the future if there is too much complacency about Clinton and Trump.

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  7. Pch101 says:

    @Just ‘nutha ig’rant cracker:

    Todd is just regurgitating a popular meme (which is why I made the point above that I did — it’s not as if he came up with this on his own.)

    Unfortunately, the reality is a bit more complicated than that. Silver posted a piece on January 21 — yes, four months ago — entitled “One Big Reason To Be Less Skeptical Of Trump”.

    There are also good reasons to be skeptical about Donald Trump’s chances of winning the Republican nomination:

    > His polling in Iowa isn’t great, and he’s probably still the underdog there.
    > There’s reason to doubt the strength of his ground game, in Iowa and other states.
    > Trump’s favorable ratings and second-choice numbers are generally inferior to Cruz’s and Rubio’s, meaning that other candidates might benefit more as the field winnows.1

    But the reason I’ve been especially skeptical about Trump for most of the election cycle isn’t listed above. Nor is it because I expected Trump to spontaneously combust in national polls. Instead, I was skeptical because I assumed that influential Republicans would do almost anything they could to prevent him from being nominated…

    …But so far, the party isn’t doing much to stop Trump. Instead, it’s making such an effort against Cruz.

    http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/one-big-reason-to-be-less-skeptical-of-trump/

    I doubt that those who are busy denouncing Silver are aware of the nuance of his comments. And some are just incapable of comprehending it.

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  8. Pch101 says:

    @Scott:

    The United States is blessed/cursed/etc. with not one but 51 presidential elections. It’s hard to see how Trump or any other Republican will do much to change the 2012 map. These days, it isn’t difficult to have a tight race on the popular vote combined with an electoral vote landslide.

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  9. Dave D says:

    @Todd: If what I’ve seen is any indication he was wrong in thinking early polling of Trump leading was incorrect because he thought the clowns would all get their time in the spotlight as was the case in 2012. That said once he started modeling for individual primaries he has been back to getting things mostly right. If I remember correctly he wrote an article about how wrong he was in his initial post. That isn’t to say data journalism is the end all be all, but pointing out that he and every other pundit was wrong about Trump before any contests is a bit disingenuous. Once there was robust polling he was correct on Trump. And that’s the point of his rant wait until we know more.

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  10. Scott says:

    @Pch101: All it takes is a bunch of people not showing up to vote because they think it will be a landslide.

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  11. Pch101 says:

    @Scott:

    I’ve noted before that one of the greatest threats to the Dems is low voter turnout. But that has been true for decades. That’s why the Democratic ground game matters.

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  12. Jack says:

    @Pch101:

    the Democratic ground game

    In other words, paying people to vote.

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  13. wr says:

    @Todd: I know of no one who is suggesting that complacency is a good idea for the Democrats. But you seem to think that the opposite of complacency is posting message after message saying Hillary is icky. I respectfully disagree.

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  14. MBunge says:

    So, let’s review.

    1. Polls that show Trump getting crushed by Hillary = totally accurate for reals!!!

    2. Polls that show a competitive race = move along, nothing to see here!

    Mike

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  15. PJ says:

    @Todd:

    And by all means let’s do all we can to ignore the very real possibility that the general election may not be anywhere near the cakewalk that many Clinton supporters seem to be counting on.

    Feel free to ignore Sanders and his supporters whose only remaining argument is that current general election polling show that Sanders vs. Trump will be a huge cakewalk compared to Clinton vs. Trump and that means that super delegates should thwart the will of the voters. Feel free to ignore the blizzard of GOP attacks that would have hit Sanders if he had won the Democratic primary.

    Feel free, because, thankfully, Sanders has lost and Clinton is moving on.

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  16. KM says:

    @MBunge:

    2. Polls that show a competitive race = move along, nothing to see here!

    3. Polls that show Sanders soundly beating Trump = So accurate it’s eerie! Like looking into the future!

    4. Polls that have Sanders’ popularity winning him the nomination = A must read! Tru Fax Y’all!

    Honestly, if you’re gonna rag on blind faith in polling, you’ve taken out the last leg Sanders has to stand on. Why are you picking on that when it’s all some people have left till the convention?

    The whole point of this article is its too damn early for all this – people need to chill. The SuperBowl of politics is coming up. Rest up, hone your skills, practice your playbook but the game hasn’t started yet. Wait till the convention when we have the final player roster, then start the fantasy football arguments begin.

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  17. Kylopod says:

    The United States is blessed/cursed/etc. with not one but 51 presidential elections.

    I see that statement a lot, and it happens not to be true.

    Sure, in a technical sense the states run their own elections to choose their slate of electors, but in practice what’s going on nationally is the biggest and most important factor driving the results. Shifts in the national popular vote tend to affect the states in a more or less uniform way, so that, say, a 2% decline of national support for the Democratic candidate will result in roughly equal decline in all the states. (This is what’s called uniform swing, and it’s increased over time.)

    Let’s put it this way. Say Trump somehow manages to win 53% of the popular vote. Would you be confident that Democrats would still win the electoral vote, because of their so-called “blue wall”? If you believe that, you’re delusional. Of course you may find it unlikely that he’d ever win that much support nationally, but that’s exactly the point: it’s the national numbers you should be looking at the most. If it’s a very narrow election (within no more than 2%), there’s a possibility the winner of the popular vote might lose the electoral college, and if that occurs, the current electoral map suggests the Dems would have the advantage. But that sort of “split” has happened no more than three times in American history, out of 56 elections. That’s exceedingly rare, and not something worth counting on.

    The national popular vote may not literally be the thing that determines the winner, but for all intents and purposes it’s overwhelmingly likely to predict the winner. And while a lot of conventional wisdom has been scrambled in this election, I don’t see how it makes that sort of freakish outcome likelier; if anything it would seem to lessen it. Trump’s numbers could get close enough to Hillary’s that a popular-electoral split becomes a real possibility (and keep in mind the many narrow elections in history that didn’t lead to such a split–2004, 1976, 1960, and so on), but if he can do that, then he can also win outright. The problem with the “blue wall” argument is that too many Democrats seem to be clutching onto it like a security blanket where they can just ignore the popular vote, when in fact it’s highly relevant as a general indicator.

    After what happened in the GOP primaries, it’s possible we’ll see some really weird results in this general election. On the other hand, it’s possible the results will be a lot more conventional than we’re expecting. I wouldn’t be shocked to see Hillary beat Trump in a landslide. But I also wouldn’t be shocked to see an electoral map close or identical to the ones in 2008 or 2012 or (shudder) 2004.

    Of course those of us who underestimated Trump in the primaries need to be cautious about making the same mistake in the general election. But it’s just as much a fallacy to assume automatically that everything from here on will violate all the conventional rules.

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  18. Pch101 says:

    @Kylopod:

    in practice what’s going on nationally is the biggest and most important factor driving the results.

    In practice, most of the election results have already been determined.

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  19. Hal_10000 says:

    @Todd:

    Actually, Nate Silver was one of the few who took Trump seriously. He pointed out, when Trump was at 35%, that he had probably not hit his ceiling. He pointed out that Trump was winning even when turnout was low. He didn’t pronounce Trump dead when he lost Iowa or Wisconsin. And he’s correctly sounding notes of caution now.

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  20. Todd says:

    @Kylopod: I’m on board with just about everything you’ve said here. Of course you said it better than I would have.

    I really don’t think (and I certainly don’t hope) that Hillary Clinton will actually lose in the fall. But taking comfort in the 2012 and 2008 electoral maps is no great comfort. Hillary Clinton is not Barack Obama, and Trump is not Mitt Romney.

    If we get to September and polling averages show Clinton comfortably ahead in State polling, then we can probably be a bit more confident in the outcome. But polls, even early historically unreliable polls such as these, currently showing Trump essentially neck-in-neck with Clinton in swing States should be very concerning indeed. This is a unique election in that we have two candidates with very high name recognition, and very high negatives. I would imagine there are very few people in America who don’t know who Donald Trump is, and are not at least somewhat aware of the type of things he’s been saying during the primary season. If she’s not already blowing him out in even these early polling, there’s no logical reason to expect that is somehow going to significantly change as the general election campaign progresses.

    Bottom line, Hillary Clinton will probably win this election. But anybody who really believes it when someone says “there’s no way Donald Trump can win in November” is deluding themselves.

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  21. Todd says:

    p.s. I should not have let me tone sound so harsh about Silver … I’m generally speaking a fan.

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  22. An Interested Party says:

    In other words, paying people to vote.

    It’s idiotic lies like this one that are used as a justification for the ridiculous voter ID laws…this $hit needs to be thrown into its proper porcelain receptacle…

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  23. Jen says:

    The main problem with putting too much–or really any–stock in polling conducted right now is that there is just too much time between now and the election and too much can happen.

    We have not seen a single policy debate between Clinton and Trump–how will that affect voters?

    World events–global economic issues. Foreign policy considerations. National issues–how does each party fare if Zika virus takes hold, more Flint water crises pop up, etc. Terrorist attacks. I could go on and on, but bottom line is that there are a lot of things that could influence parts of the electorate, and that could matter nationally or regionally.

    We don’t know how 5+ months of hammering on the refusal to release taxes will play out, or any other potential negatives for Trump (mob connections, or any business/personal issues, etc.). The negatives for Clinton have been pretty much played out, nothing new there other than rehashing the same things in different formats.

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  24. Todd says:

    @Jen:

    We don’t know how 5+ months of hammering on the refusal to release taxes will play out, or any other potential negatives for Trump (mob connections, or any business/personal issues, etc.). The negatives for Clinton have been pretty much played out, nothing new there other than rehashing the same things in different formats.

    That is pure fantasy … the idea that Clinton is at her “negatives floor”, while Democrats will somehow be more successful than all of the Republicans were when it comes to figuring out how to knock Trump down.

    If anything, Republicans are probably better prepared for this fight, as most of them have no illusions when it comes to all the potential negatives that Trump brings to the table. On the other hand, too many Democrats still have their heads in the sand about Clinton; preferring the narrative that all/most of her negatives are merely the results of decades of “unfair attacks” … and because the way that many Americans feel about Clinton is “unfair”, it somehow won’t matter in the general election campaign.

    Prediction: the more that Clinton and her supporters complain that the media, the Republicans or the American people are being “unfair” (treating her worse and him better than they “should”), the more likely it is that she may lose the election. It’s just not a winning strategy.

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  25. Pch101 says:

    @Todd:

    You misrepresented Silver’s position, which is a pretty clear indication that you simply repeated what you read on pro-Sanders blogs instead of reading Silver’s articles for yourself.

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  26. Todd says:

    @Pch101: I’m not sure that I really read any “pro-Sanders” blogs … whatever that means. I do follow Robert Reich on FB, so I that may count. You are free to disagree with my ideas and opinion; I’ll be the first to admit that I sometimes get things wrong. But please don’t accuse me of “parroting”, as I am very capable of thinking for myself.

    In this case, I did jump a bit too quickly to what came off as a much more negative opinion about Silver than I had really intended … and I publicly admitted my mistake the next time I was here.

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  27. Jen says:

    @Todd: It’s not that she has a floor, per se, it’s that Republicans have for years tried to get something to stick. It’s not that out there–I’ve heard plenty of Republican campaign people interviewed who’ve basically said that they would have rather run against Sanders because he is a lesser-known quantity. In other words, since Republicans have been defining (or trying to) Clinton for decades, they have thrown everything they can at her.

    Sure, it’s possible that there’s something new out there. We’ll have to see. A quick reminder that I’ve worked in Republican politics, albeit decades ago. There really doesn’t seem to be too much new ground to tread.

    Unfair? Please. She’s a woman working in a male-dominated field. Nothing new there.

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  28. Pch101 says:

    There’s always another emailwhitewatermonicavincefosterghazi!™ around the corner.

    The Republicans excel at inventing scandals that appeal to their base, but not so good at closing the deal and making those alleged scandals stick. It’s hard to imagine that they’ll up their game between now and November; they have been trying to fashion a Democratic Watergate for more that two decades and have failed miserably.

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  29. Todd says:

    @Jen: Fair enough, time will tell.

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  30. PJ says:

    @Todd:

    That is pure fantasy … the idea that Clinton is at her “negatives floor”

    And what do you think the “negatives floor” would be for Sanders?
    Considering that he calls himself a socialist?
    Considering his massive tax hike? For everyone…
    And son on.
    And considering that fact that he has never really been attacked by the GOP…

    Or maybe you think he’s already hit it?

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  31. Todd says:

    @PJ: At this point, how Sanders might do in a general election is not something worth debating. Barring some extraordinary event, Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic nominee. We will almost certainly never know for sure how Sanders would have done against Trump. With Clinton though, we will get to see how this all plays out.

    For the good of the country, I will personally be very happy if all of my fears about Clinton prove to be unfounded at the end of the day.

    Knowing that, I find it a bit hilarious that some of you seem so invested in attacking anybody who dares to even express such concerns about Clinton.

    This whole thing reminds me a bit of debating some of my climate change denying friends. I freely admit that I would be thrilled if it turns out that concerns about climate change are overblown, and I was wrong. If on the other hand, the deniers are wrong, we all lose in the end.

    This is the same thing. If you guys are wrong and Clinton really does turn out to be a terribly flawed candidate, people like me don’t get a “prize” or anything … we all still lose. :-/

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  32. DrDaveT says:

    @Todd:

    That is pure fantasy … the idea that Clinton is at her “negatives floor”, while Democrats will somehow be more successful than all of the Republicans were when it comes to figuring out how to knock Trump down.

    You’re somehow totally missing the point that Clinton doesn’t have to be more successful than Cruz/Rubio/PeeWee at figuring out how to knock Trump down in the minds of Republican voters while preserving the Republican brand, which is what they all were trying to do. She has the much easier job of figuring out how to make the populace at large recognize what a buffoon Trump is. Her work is already more than half done.

    Does that mean success is certain? Of course not. But let’s be realistic about the challenge.

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  33. Todd says:

    @DrDaveT:

    You’re somehow totally missing the point

    No, I don’t think so.

    Obviously, I can’t predict the future. However, based on evidence from the primary campaigns, there is one candidate who is clearly more skilled at negatively defining opponents in a head-to-head exchange … and it’s not Clinton.

    I think there is very little chance that either candidate will have a net positive favorability rating by the time we go to the polls in November. But I don’t think it’s all inconceivable that after 6 months of attacking each other, Trump could actually end up marginally less unpopular than Clinton. He is a buffoon, no doubt. But he’s also a buffoon who is (or at least appears to be) much, much better at this game than Hillary Clinton.

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  34. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @Scott: For the record, I’ve been getting downvotes for saying this election won’t be a cakewalk for the Dems (and that I wished that Hillary would keep her promise and decide to run for Gramma instead) since before either Trump OR Hillary announced. The difference is that I moved on to other topics.

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  35. Pch101 says:

    @Just ‘nutha ig’rant cracker:

    All presidential campaigns require work, and most are won on the margins.

    At the same time, the US has 51 presidential elections, 49 of which are winner-take-all, and most of those are already pretty well determined. And we only need to look back at the last election to see an example of a candidate who won the popular vote by a modest margin while simultaneously winning an electoral vote landslide. All things being equal, the Dems have the advantage.

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  36. Kylopod says:

    @Pch101:

    In practice, most of the election results have already been determined.

    The fact that today’s elections come down to a small group of swing states doesn’t fundamentally change the relationship between the popular vote and the electoral outcome.

    Consider this: In 2012, Obama beat Romney by 3.9% in the popular vote, but in Ohio he beat him by just 3.0%. In 2008 he beat McCain by 7.2% nationwide, but by just 4.6% in Ohio.

    What these results suggest is that the Democrats tend to do worse in Ohio than in the nation as a whole (at least that was the case in the past two elections), because Ohio has a larger share of Republican voters than the national electorate. The reason Obama won Ohio twice wasn’t because Dems have a lock on the state, but because he was ahead nationally by a big enough margin that he could get a smaller percentage of the Ohio vote and still win the state. If Hillary were to win the popular vote by just 1%, she’d probably lose Ohio (though she’d probably still win the election). If she loses the popular vote, then she’d almost certainly lose Ohio–and she’d also likely lose most of the other swing states, enough to flip the White House to the Republicans.

    The fallacy that so many political junkies make is when they say stuff like, “Democrats can lose several of the swing states like Ohio, Florida and Virginia and still win the election. Republicans have to run the table to win the election.” Statements like this make it sound like “running the table” is some Herculean task. It does look Herculean if you’re as far behind in the national popular vote as Romney and McCain were, but the disadvantage disappears if the GOP candidate pulls ahead in the popular vote.

    For example, you might be tempted to think that Romney’s 5.38% loss to Obama in Pennsylvania means the state is out of reach for Republicans. But Obama did just 1.38% better in Pennsylvania than nationally. This means that if Trump were to be at least 2% points ahead of Hillary in the popular vote, he could well win Pennsylvania. The idea that Pennsylvania is somehow “protected” from a GOP victory no matter what’s going on nationally is hogwash.

    And we only need to look back at the last election to see an example of a candidate who won the popular vote by a modest margin while simultaneously winning an electoral vote landslide.

    I wouldn’t call Obama’s 2012 win an “electoral vote landslide,” but let that pass. Historically, the winner-take-all races in each state (except Maine and Nebraska) have tended to magnify the popular-vote winner’s victory in the electoral college. They have not tended to make it remotely likely for the popular-vote winner to lose the electoral vote. So I don’t see how that confers any particular “advantage” for Democrats. The only advantage they appear to have is that in the unlikely event of a split, the Dems are apparently likelier to win the EC while losing the popular vote than the other way around. Other than that, it’s purely academic.

    None of this is to suggest that I think it’s likely Trump will win the popular vote, or the election for that matter. All I’m trying to do is dispense with this fallacy I keep seeing that the states which matter have somehow become a static force preventing a Republican from being elected president regardless of the national numbers. These states may have voted Democrat in the past two elections, and there is evidence in some cases that their demographics are increasingly unfavorable to Republicans. But the advantage these states hold is still relatively small, and a significant swing in the popular vote could easily throw at least some of these “safe” states into the GOP column. The Dems need to target these states, but they shouldn’t live under the delusion that their outcome is somehow independent of the country as a whole.

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  37. MBunge says:

    The significance of these polls isn’t that they hold any predictive value. It’s that just a week ago, our entire political establishment that had been utterly wrong about Trump was totally sure now that Hillary was going to beat Trump so badly it might give Democrats both the Senate and the House. The political conversation was 100% about what the GOP must do to “save” themselves from the Trump disaster.

    Less than a week later, we’ve got a series of polls that make it look like the elites were wrong again. I think the latest is an NBC poll that has Hillary up 5 nationally, which a decent lead against a normal candidate. Trump, however, is not supposed to be a normal candidate. He’s supposed to be the End of Days.

    Mike

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  38. MBunge says:

    @Jen: it’s that Republicans have for years tried to get something to stick.

    And they succeeded. That’s why Hillary is, before the general election campaign has truly begun, the second most unpopular candidate for President in modern American political history. If Trump weren’t the most unpopular candidate, if the GOP had managed to buffalo it’s voters into lining up behind a Rubio, a Walker or a Kasich…where would Hillary and the Democrats be right now?

    Mike

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  39. Pch101 says:

    @Kylopod:

    Again, most of the state election results have already been determined. Circa 2016, that inherently favors the Dems.

    If the candidates are well organized, then they will have ground games for the swing states that are driven by state and local demography.

    Ohio is about as black but is more white and less Hispanic than the rest of the country. If Clinton is smart, her Ohio team will push the black vote and mobilize female turnout, with some effort to get some Republican women to either sit this one out or else defect in reaction to Trump. The success or failure of her campaign should make a big difference (and one would hope that she inherits much of the technology and organization that went into Obama’s ground game.)

    Trump is surely going to win a majority of the white male vote, because Republicans always do and Trump obviously can appeal to that group.. If he does more to alienate women than he does to appeal to men, then that will benefit Clinton; we’ll see what happens.

    Again, it is possible to have electoral vote landslides with modest differences in the popular vote. And since we use electoral votes to elect candidates, that is where my focus lies.

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  40. Kylopod says:

    It turns out Harry Enten yesterday made the same argument I made here. I didn’t read the piece till now, but it goes into quite a bit more detail:

    http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/dont-worry-about-the-electoral-college-math/

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  41. Jen says:

    @MBunge: By “stick,” of course I meant actually finding that she’s done something illegal–but you are correct, Republicans have conducted a nearly 3-decades long campaign of innuendo that has had an impact.

    If the Republicans had managed to select one of the others, her campaign would be developing a strategy to show how far apart they are on a variety of issues–just like any “normal” campaign year.

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  42. Pch101 says:

    @Kylopod:

    I’m sure that everyone knows that the electoral vote tally and the national popular vote usually produce the same result.

    But successful candidates make a point of operating state-oriented ground games for a reason. And the spreads in the electoral vote and popular vote are now diverging greatly due largely to demographic shifts.

    Democrats should be counting their blessings that Virginia has gone from blue to purple, that Nevada and Colorado are more reliably Democratic and that younger Cuban-Americans are less likely to be Republican than their parents and grandparents. That provides a lot more opportunity to Clinton than what Gore had in 2000, when electoral votes didn’t correspond with the popular vote and the Dems had no chance of winning states such as Virginia.

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  43. MBunge says:

    @Jen: she’s done something illegal

    And this, more than anything else, is why I hope Hillary goes down in a flaming disaster. Our political leaders should be held to a higher standard than arsonists, rapists and mob bosses. That you…

    1. Think not being convicted of a crime is something that makes Hillary look good.

    2. Think the Republicans actually need to prove Hillary broke the law for their criticsm to be legitimate.

    …is sad and an example of how Democrats and liberals have played their own role in bringing us to the point where Donald Trump could be the next President of the United States.

    Mike

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  44. Kylopod says:

    @Pch101:

    I’m sure that everyone knows that the electoral vote tally and the national popular vote usually produce the same result.

    The problem in this case isn’t ignorance, it’s a conceptual fallacy that many political junkies make. They understand how the system technically works, but they miss some of its larger implications. Their reasoning goes as follows: presidential elections in the US are determined by electoral vote, and therefore the “popular vote” must be some kind of a meaningless abstraction that one can safely ignore. This already fallacious conclusion leads them to downplay the regular shifts in the popular vote that occur from one election to the next, when in fact those are the single most important factor driving the election outcomes. Obama won the popular vote by a solid margin twice, and so he won the electoral vote as well. If Dems lose the popular vote in this or any upcoming election, they will probably lose the electoral vote as well. Not definitely, but probably. They do have demographic and other advantages in many of the swing states, but those advantages are relative and not absolute, and a shift in the popular vote could easily overwhelm them. The idea that these states somehow make Dems immune to defeat no matter how popular or unpopular they are with the nation as a whole is nonsense.

    And the spreads in the electoral vote and popular vote are now diverging greatly due largely to demographic shifts.

    There’s no evidence for that. It’s nothing new that the winner’s electoral margins often seem magnified compared to his popular-vote ones. For example, in 1960 Kennedy was just 0.17% ahead of Nixon in the popular vote, but his electoral margin was 303-219. And you find similar levels of divergence in other elections of the past. It’s largely an effect of the states using a winner-take-all system, not “demographic shifts.”

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  45. KM says:

    @MBunge:

    bringing us to the point where Donald Trump could be the next President of the United States.

    Well hoping Hillary goes down in a flaming disaster is certainly going to add to that possibility. Cognitive dissonance and all that….

    Think the Republicans actually need to prove Hillary broke the law for their criticsm to be legitimate.

    Ummmm… considering the “criticism” is an actual accusation of criminal action and intent, yes they do! If you accuse someone of a crime and want them hauled off to jail then take legal actions regarding it, then yes you damn well better be able to prove it. They’re not criticizing her best practices, they’re not leveling ethical violations, they are outright saying she broke the law. And they are making things up to do so – that makes their entire legitmacy under question when you need to lie to prove your point.

    Claim she’s dirty, fine. Claim she’s skeezy and in bed with Wall Street, fine. Claim her tenure as SoS was flawed, fine. These can be legitimate criticisms, up for debate on their veracity. A good example of this is Sanders himself; he’s offering plenty of criticism with the intent to draw attention to her flaws. But to flat out call her a murderer by naming a particular person(s)? Prove it. Say she broke the laws with the servers? Name the law and show your evidence. People are allowing their personal dislike of her to cloud their judgement and fail to realize the vital difference between criticism and accusations. Criticisms don’t involve Congressional hearings. Accusations do and have intent to destroy; that obviously what the Republicans are aiming for.

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  46. Jen says:

    @MBunge: Whoa, whoa.

    You’ve made a few leaps there with my comment.

    Republicans have been trying to pin something, anything, on the Clintons for decades. Trump, who has had years of dubious business connections to the mob (pretty pro-forma for someone building a casino in Atlantic City) is now back squawking about the cattle futures. Now, if we reduce the standard to “makes the candidate look bad” that’s a standard that almost NO modern politician can live up to. Romney strapping his dog to the top of the car, driving for 5+ hours, and then touting that as some problem-solving example might not be illegal (it is in some states though), but it sure makes him look bad.

    In short, “what Clinton did might not be illegal but it sure looks bad” is not a standard that is unique to Clinton.

    Their criticism would probably be perceived as more legitimate if they stopped pursuing things once the arguments have been dispatched with–but they don’t. They can’t help themselves, and it undermines their credibility.

    How much has Rep. Gowdy wasted on his vendetta? Have you read the letter that Asst. Secretary of Defense Hedger sent to Gowdy’s committee? Republicans are so utterly convinced that there’s *something* there they have demanded that the Dept. of Defense chase down random “John from Iowa” callers to radio talk shows, as if the DOD doesn’t have anything better to do with its time–or with our tax money.

    Clinton does seem overly guarded, and has made some bad decisions to ostensibly protect her privacy, which makes her look sneaky. I get that. But I also wonder how any of us would behave if every.single.decision. we made in our personal or public lives were scrutinized to the extent hers are. I’m an intensely private person–I know I wouldn’t be able to handle it. The fishbowl is not for me.

    What part of Republican criticism of her do you feel is legitimate?

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  47. Pch101 says:

    @Kylopod:

    Their reasoning goes as follows: presidential elections in the US are determined by electoral vote, and therefore the “popular vote” must be some kind of a meaningless abstraction that one can safely ignore.

    You’re strawmanning. I don’t hear anyone claiming that the popular vote is meaningless.

    But the national popular vote doesn’t provide us with any insight about how outcomes can be changed; the spread are too narrow for that.

    Ground games matter, and they are driven by state and local demography. If you want to understand the numbers, then you need to understand demographics at that level.

    It’s nothing new that the winner’s electoral margins often seem magnified compared to his popular-vote ones.

    I didn’t say that it was new. I said that it is happening right now.

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  48. Scott says:

    @Jen:

    What part of Republican criticism of her do you feel is legitimate?

    You know it doesn’t really matter whether criticism is legitimate. Sad to say but it’s true. The years of pounding, innuendo, lying, etc on the Clintons have taken their toll. Exit polls show that character and honesty is a concern. Heck, just the fact that the networks are asking questions on character and honesty demonstrate how baked in these perceptions are. The fact that even Clinton supporters have to comment on character and honesty show how deep this issue is. And I don’t think it can be reversed. The only solution is to go after Trump and run his negatives up. And again, it does not matter whether they are factual or not.

    This will not be a fun 6 months. Depresses me already.

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  49. Kylopod says:

    @Pch101:

    You’re strawmanning. I don’t hear anyone claiming that the popular vote is meaningless.

    I have heard people make that claim outright, but in any case it’s implicit in most versions of the “blue wall” argument.

    Ground games matter, and they are driven by state and local demography.

    Actually, research suggests the ground games in general presidential elections only matter at the margins. They’re still important (marginal shifts can have a big impact in close races), but they’re overrated.

    I didn’t say that it was new. I said that it is happening right now.

    Nate Silver blew this argument apart last year:

    Wasn’t Barack Obama’s margin in the Electoral College in 2012 — 332 electoral votes, to Mitt Romney’s 206 — awfully impressive given that he won the popular vote by only a few percentage points?

    Actually, it was pretty much par for the course. The nature of the Electoral College is to accentuate small margins in the popular vote; Obama’s electoral vote tallies have been fine, but historically ordinary….

    Based on the past century’s worth of data, you’d expect a Democrat who won the popular vote by 3.9 percentage points — as Obama did against Romney — to win about 330 electoral votes. That pretty much exactly matches Obama’s 332.

    The article’s worth reading in full.

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  50. Pch101 says:

    @Kylopod:

    Actually, research suggests the ground games in general presidential elections only matter at the margins.

    Elections are won on the margins, hence the need for the ground game.

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  51. Pch101 says:

    Nate Silver blew this argument apart last year

    He hasn’t negated anything that I said.

    I’m pointing out how demographic shifts are impacting the electoral vote for 2016. I’m not claiming that there have never been demographic changes prior to this year.

    You seem to be hankering for an argument for the sake of it.

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  52. Kylopod says:

    @Pch101:

    Elections are won on the margins, hence the need for the ground game.

    Actually, the majority of elections are not won on the margins. 2000 and 2004 were, but besides those you have to go back to 1976 to find a really close election (within 2% of the popular vote), where the marginal stuff may have mattered. Other elections in the past four decades have been determined primarily by larger matters such as the economy and the popularity of the incumbent president. Obama’s ground game in 2008 and 2012 was impressive, but he would have won both elections without it. That’s not to suggest he should have forgone it; far from it. It’s rarely easy for candidates to predict how close an election will be, and in both 2008 and 2012, for well into the cycle it looked like it was going to be much closer than it turned out.

    He hasn’t negated anything that I said.

    Here’s what you did say:

    And we only need to look back at the last election to see an example of a candidate who won the popular vote by a modest margin while simultaneously winning an electoral vote landslide. All things being equal, the Dems have the advantage.

    As Silver pointed out, Obama’s margin of victory in the EC as compared with his popular-vote lead was historically normal, and therefore does not suggest any EC “advantage” on the part of Democrats. There is evidence that in the event of a “tie” election like 2000, the Dems would have the advantage. Obama’s 2012 victory has nothing to do with it.

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  53. Pch101 says:

    As Silver pointed out, Obama’s margin of victory in the EC as compared with his popular-vote lead was historically normal, and therefore does not suggest any EC “advantage” on the part of Democrats.

    Of the two of us, the only one who cares whether or not it is “historically normal” is you.

    Feel free to rebut a point that I made. But you should end your ongoing effort to attribute points to me that I did not make, i.e. strawman arguments.

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  54. Kylopod says:

    @Pch101:

    Of the two of us, the only one who cares whether or not it is “historically normal” is you.

    Whether or not you care about it, it refutes your point that Obama’s 2012 win suggested Dems had an EC “advantage.” If it’s in line with normal historical patterns for how popular-vote wins translate into electoral victories, then by definition it doesn’t reveal any advantage. If Obama had won, say, 385 electoral votes with a 3.9% popular-vote margin, then you might have had an argument that he over-performed in the EC. Silver’s chart proves that he did not over-perform, and therefore your claim that he did is bogus. His results in the EC were magnified compared with his popular-vote lead, but that’s simply a normal, predictable effect of the EC itself (particularly the winner-take-all nature of the state results). It is not evidence of a Democratic “advantage” beyond the advantage of winning more votes than the other party.

    Furthermore, what difference does it make if the EC results are magnified? Winning is still winning. Perhaps it helps the winning candidate claim a larger mandate, but that’s questionable. EC results tend to be treated by the press as exactly what they are: artificial numbers that are not a particularly good measure of the will of the voters. Bill Clinton in 1992 tried to claim a “mandate” because of his 370 electoral-vote win, but most people didn’t buy it; they just focused on the fact that he got into the White House with just 43% of the popular vote (and the belief that Perot played a spoiler role–which is a myth, but it was definitely the conventional wisdom). The whole concept of “mandates” is a fiction, anyway.

    Like I said, the only “advantage” Dems can claim to have with regard to the EC is that in the very, very unlikely scenario that the popular-vote winner is not the same as the electoral-vote winner, Dems are more likely to be the electoral-vote winner. That’s it. Literally. As long as the EC and the popular-vote produce the same winner, which is the vast majority of the time, then all this talk of an “EC advantage” is meaningless. By all means, examine the electoral map, but don’t act as though the states where Dems have done well in recent times constitute some kind of an unbreachable barrier against a popular-vote shift against the Dems nationally–which is what the “blue wall” argument amounts to.

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  55. Pch101 says:

    it refutes your point that Obama’s 2012 win suggested Dems had an EC “advantage.”

    In 2012, Obama won 51% of the popular vote and 62% of the electoral vote.

    In 2004, Bush won 51% of the popular vote and 53% of the electoral vote.

    See the difference?

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  56. Pharoah Narim says:

    @Todd:

    You can’t convince Hillary supporters of how there is really no comparison between she and the President because they view them, incorrectly, in the same light.

    She loses a minimum of 10% of the Black vote right off the bat. There will probably never be another Candidate in our lifetime that garners 96% of the Black vote. President Obama was a one-time phenomenon. If Trump focuses on how her and her husbands “law and order” initiatives in practice ended up with millions of Black Men being incarcerated as a cottage industry to bring jobs to rural towns that lost manufacturing because of Trade loopholes—she goes even lower than 85% Black support.

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  57. Kylopod says:

    @Pch101: In 2004, the five states that Bush lost by the narrowest margins were Wisconsin (0.38%), New Hampshire (1.37%), Pennsylvania (2.50%), Michigan (3.42%), and Minnesota (3.48%). If he’d won the first three, he’d have gotten 321 electoral votes, or 59% of the total. If he’d won all five of them, he’d have gotten 348 EVs, or 64% of the total–a larger share than Obama got in 2012. And that could very easily have happened if he’d been just a couple of percentage points higher in the popular vote.

    The point is that even a seemingly tiny increase in the popular vote (say, a percentage point or two) can translate into a substantially larger gain in electoral votes, simply because of the winner-take-all apportionment in each state. And it’s not going to happen in an exactly uniform way every time. John Kerry won Wisconsin by 0.38% but received all 10 of the state’s electors. A very small effect (say, a change in the weather) could have knocked it in the other direction, giving Bush the 10 electors. In any presidential election, the more the winner gets in the popular vote, the likelier he or she is to win states that award a disproportionate share of electors. It has nothing to do with “demographics” or a “Democratic advantage.” It’s just the way the system works.

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  58. Pch101 says:

    @Kylopod:

    The point is that even a seemingly tiny increase in the popular vote (say, a percentage point or two) can translate into a substantially larger gain in electoral votes, simply because of the winner-take-all apportionment in each state. And it’s not going to happen in an exactly uniform way every time.

    Again, I never claimed that it would happen every time. This “counter-argument” of yours is based upon a point I never made.

    I’m trying to assess the 2016 election. I have no idea what you’re trying to do, although you are clearly fixated on a series of strawmen of your own creation.

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  59. Kylopod says:

    @Pch101:

    I’m trying to assess the 2016 election. I have no idea what you’re trying to do, although you are clearly fixated on a series of strawmen of your own creation.

    You made a claim about the 2012 election–that Obama’s outsize win in the electoral college compared with his popular vote proved that the Dems had an electoral-college advantage. I made three points:

    (1) I brought a quote and article from Nate Silver in which he addressed the exact argument you made (almost verbatim) and cleanly refuted it with a mass of historical data.

    (2) I explained to you how these EC/popular discrepancies are normal and are a reflection of the winner-take-all nature of the EC, not the winning party’s “advantages.”

    (3) When you tried to use Bush’s narrow 2004 win as a point of contrast with 2012, I again pointed out the flaws in your reasoning.

    You have so far addressed absolutely none of this. The problem isn’t that I’m “strawmanning” you, it’s that you’re literally unable to comprehend any evidence which contradicts your beliefs, and your instinctive response when confronted by such evidence is that it’s somehow changing the subject.

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  60. Pch101 says:

    You made a claim about the 2012 election–that Obama’s outsize win in the electoral college compared with his popular vote proved that the Dems had an electoral-college advantage.

    Not quite. What I am claiming is that it will be very difficult to change the 2012 map in 2016. And you haven’t demonstrated otherwise.

    I brought a quote and article from Nate Silver in which he addressed the exact argument you made

    No, I never argued that there is no history of electoral vote wins that were vastly different from the popular vote. Not only did I not say that, but I had no reason to bother making such a claim, since it wasn’t relevant to my points. Your reading skills could use some work.

    I explained to you how these EC/popular discrepancies are normal

    Their normalcy or lack thereof were not relevant to my argument about the 2012 map being the starting point for understanding 2016. Again, work on your reading skills — I have already corrected you about this about your inability to understand the points that I have made.

    When you tried to use Bush’s narrow 2004 win as a point of contrast with 2012, I again pointed out the flaws in your reasoning.

    You didn’t address any flaws. I noted two statistical facts.

    Next time, try to comprehend what you’re reading instead of debating points that other people didn’t make.

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  61. charon says:

    @Kylopod: @Pch101:

    Correlation is not causation.

    (1) I brought a quote and article from Nate Silver in which he addressed the exact argument you made (almost verbatim) and cleanly refuted it with a mass of historical data.

    That article and “the mass of historical data” are bogus BS that ignores this very basic principle:

    Correlation is not causation

    Watch what actual presidential campaigns run by professionals do – do they:

    A) Try to run up the national popular vote totals, or

    B) Concentrate on getting votes in swing states like FL and OH?

    Are those people stupid? The EC may not matter if the vote is 51.5 to 48.5, but it is the Electoral College, not the popular vote that counts when the vote nationally is 50.3 to 49.7.

    Maybe Nate Silver is overrated?

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  62. Pch101 says:

    @charon:

    Watch what actual presidential campaigns run by professionals do – do they:

    A) Try to run up the national popular vote totals, or

    B) Concentrate on getting votes in swing states like FL and OH?

    I think that smart people understand the obvious answer to that question.

    In any case, one of the implications of this is that there is no opportunity at this time to run a successful 50-state campaign.* We already know how most of the states are going to vote, and there isn’t a campaign gimmick on earth that is going to change most of them.

    *Before someone rushes in to misinterpret me yet again and offers some longwinded rebuttal to a point that I didn’t make, note that my comment is a reflection on election conditions right now, not the totality of US election history. And this may change in the future, but not prior to November 2016. I’ll type that again slowly if it will help.

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  63. DrDaveT says:

    @Todd:

    However, based on evidence from the primary campaigns, there is one candidate who is clearly more skilled at negatively defining opponents

    Yes, you missed my point.

    Within the Democratic primary campaign, Clinton was sharply constrained in what tactics she could use against Sanders, because she had to be careful to neither damage the Democratic brand nor lose Sanders’s senate seat in the process. It’s a balancing act.

    In the general, she doesn’t have to care how much damage she might do to Trump’s reputation or the GOP in general. It’s a much, much easier task.

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  64. DrDaveT says:

    @Pharoah Narim:

    You can’t convince Hillary supporters of how there is really no comparison between she and the President because they view them, incorrectly, in the same light.

    See, there you go again, saying things that are flat-out wrong.

    Of course there’s a huge difference in both popularity and charisma between Obama and Clinton — probably at least as big as the difference between JFK and LBJ. If the GOP were running anyone more attractive than Goldwater, I’d be a lot more worried.

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  65. Monala says:

    @Pharoah Narim: I don’t know where you get the 10% loss off the bat for Clinton. It’s true that it’s unlikely any candidate would see Obama’s historic highs, but Kerry garnered 93% of the black vote, and Gore received 95%. Link

    Nor do I get why you think African-Americans would turn to the horrifically racist Trump instead. Sit out, maybe, but vote Trump in large numbers? Nope.

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  66. Todd says:

    @DrDaveT:

    Within the Democratic primary campaign, Clinton was sharply constrained in what tactics she could use against Sanders, because she had to be careful to neither damage the Democratic brand nor lose Sanders’s senate seat in the process. It’s a balancing act.

    LOL, I’m sorry, but the lengths some of you will go to to try to explain why Clinton had a much more difficult primary challenge than almost anyone expected is hilarious. There’s this idea out there among Clinton supporters that if someone would only “let loose” on Sanders he’d *obviously* be viewed by the electorate even more unfavorably than Hillary. There’s absolutely no evidence to back this up (and no, what happened to a guy who ran almost 50 years ago is not indicative of today’s electorate), but that doesn’t seem to matter.

    Where your comment really rises to the level of absurdity though, is to even imply that the Senator who is by far the most popular among his own constituents (https://public.tableau.com/s/gallery/approval-ratings-us-senators) would be at risk of losing his seat if Hillary Clinton had only attacked him more forcefully.

    Back to the main point though, I stand by my original observation that of the two candidates, Trump clearly has more skill when it comes to effectively defining his opponents in negative terms than Clinton does. Her campaign would be wise not to try to engage in any sort of personal back and forth with Trump. Every “punch” her campaign throws will open her up for a potentially more devastating counter-punch … which will be covered extensively by the media.

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  67. Monala says:

    @Monala: @Pharoah Narim: Remember that this is the Trump who ran a full page ads calling for the death penalty in 1989 for five young black and Latino men who were falsely accused of rape – and then called the settlement NYC paid to the young men after more than a decade of their imprisonment “a disgrace.” Who retweets blatantly false statistics created by white supremacists about supposed black criminality. And speaking of Obama’s popularity in the black community, has grossly disrespected President Obama on multiple occasions.

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  68. DrDaveT says:

    @Todd:

    LOL, I’m sorry, but the lengths some of you will go to to try to explain why Clinton had a much more difficult primary challenge than almost anyone expected is hilarious.

    I have no idea why you think my comment had anything to do with how strong a challenge Sanders made, unexpected or otherwise.

    Are you seriously claiming that Clinton did not need to care whether, in beating Sanders, she turned avid Sanders supporters into Hillary supporters, Trump supporters, or no-shows? Why would you think that?

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  69. Pch101 says:

    @DrDaveT:

    The Sanders fans don’t grasp that there is no correlation between the results in a competitive primary and the general election.

    You don’t have to believe me, of course. Go ask Presidents Kerry and Goldwater how having commanding leads in the primaries helped them to win the White House.

    In the alternative, one could ask Bill Clinton and Barack Obama how barely squeaking through their first primaries killed their chances for winning the presidency.

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  70. Todd says:

    @DrDaveT:

    Are you seriously claiming that Clinton did not need to care whether, in beating Sanders, she turned avid Sanders supporters into Hillary supporters, Trump supporters, or no-shows?

    Of course not. Sure she cared/cares. But again, if we look at evidence rather than wishful thinking, it would be hard to say that her campaign has so far been very effective in achieving such a goal.

    It’s also a bit disingenuous to imagine that Sanders was somehow treated with “kid gloves” during the Democratic primary campaign. While the candidate herself was relatively careful about allowing any sort of direct quotes that might make unity more difficult later, many of her surrogates (including in the media) really didn’t hold back all the much. For instance, whenever Claire McCaskill was on television talking about Senator Sanders it almost wouldn’t be a stretch to say that it seemed like every other sentence out of her mouth contained the word socialism. :-)

    @Pch101: I’m not relitigating the primaries, I’ve stated several times that I accept the outcome. Clinton is the nominee. And really, it’s probably also kind of silly to “debate” about how she will likely do in the coming campaign against Trump, as we’ll get to see the results in real time.

    I may very well turn out to be wrong, but I just have a hard time getting my head around the idea that so many Democrats not only fail to acknowledge that Hillary Clinton is a weak campaigner … but some even imagine that she’s actually above average, to the point that she will be able to take on Donald Trump and “put him in his place” like no other candidate yet.

    While there may be some validity to the idea that the Democrats didn’t go all out slinging mud at each other, on the Republican side, most of the candidates did fire at Trump with both barrels … it just didn’t work.

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  71. Pch101 says:

    @Todd:

    I just have a hard time getting my head around the idea that so many Democrats not only fail to acknowledge that Hillary Clinton is a weak campaigner

    I’m not a Democrat. And Clinton isn’t great, she’s just a better option than Sanders, who would go down in flames if he was under the general election spotlight as a tax-hiking socialist.

    I suspect that Biden would be a much better candidate than either of them. But he isn’t running.

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  72. Todd says:

    @Pch101:

    I suspect that Biden would be a much better candidate than either of them. But he isn’t running.

    There you go. We can end this back and forth on a point where we are in agreement. :-)

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  73. Kylopod says:

    @charon:

    Maybe Nate Silver is overrated?

    Or maybe the chances that a statistics expert would confuse correlation with causation are just a wee bit smaller than the chances that you’ve misunderstood his point.

    What’s next, are you going to accuse Neil DeGrasse Tyson of not understanding calculus?

    Silver never suggests that campaign professionals should throw out their swing state-targeted strategy and focus only on the national popular vote, and anyone even passingly familiar with his writings would never accuse him of holding such an absurd position. That he doesn’t hold such a position can be seen just by reading one of his tweets quoted at the beginning of this thread: “Looking at Electoral College is great once you have rich data — multiple recent polls of each state.” When you chose to pop into this thread, why didn’t you bother to first read Doug’s piece before laughably trying to “school” Nate Silver on elementary statistical concepts?

    What Silver is attacking in the article I linked to is analysis that ignores the popular vote altogether and acts as though the swing states constitute a barrier against a GOP victory simply because of how they have voted in recent presidential elections.

    Disagree with him all you like, but don’t lob some cheap shot when it’s clear you haven’t even bothered to listen to what he’s saying.

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  74. DrDaveT says:

    @Todd:

    But again, if we look at evidence rather than wishful thinking, it would be hard to say that her campaign has so far been very effective in achieving such a goal.

    I never said she was particularly good at it — just that it’s a much harder task than pointing out the glaring holes in Trump. You can’t point to the fact that someone can’t solve differential equations* very well as evidence that they won’t be able to do arithmetic when the time comes.

    *Even on a plane…

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