Well, the time has come. And I figured that I should live blog election day — the whole day. Because I’m going to be obsessing about it anyway. It won’t be like the debate live blogs. I’ll just post things as I find them.
But before I get to that, I want to tell you how I’m thinking the day is going to go. And it isn’t as wonderful as I would hope. Not that I think it is going to be catastrophic.
The good news this election day is that I think that Hillary Clinton is going to be the next President of the United States. And I think she will win by a clear margin. Her polling average went way down at Real Clear Politics. On 2 November, she was ahead by only 1.3 percentage points. Yesterday afternoon, she was back up to 2.9 percentage points. In a four-way race, she’s up by 3.2 percentage points.
And in the electoral college, Trump’s pathway to victory is ridiculously narrow. If he loses Florida or North Carolina, he loses the election. And yesterday afternoon, FiveThirtyEight had Clinton with narrow margins in both of those states. Really: the only way that Trump becomes president is if he wins every state that is close. It could happen, but I find it really hard to worry about it.
Where I don’t feel good this election day is in the Senate races. This should be a great year for the Democrats. The Republicans are defending 24 seats and the Democrats only 10. And assuming that Clinton does win, the Democrats only have to pick up four seats. That doesn’t sound like much. The Democrats are certain to pick up two seats: Wisconsin and Illinois. There are 5 close races where they could pick up seats: North Carolina, Missouri, New Hampshire, Indiana, and Pennsylvania. But they are only leading in the polls in New Hampshire and Pennsylvania, and it isn’t by much. Meanwhile, the Republicans are leading comfortably in North Carolina and Indiana — at least according to FiveThirtyEight.
The problem with this is that all these elections are not independent. It isn’t like a random walk. The truth is that the close races will probably all go one way. And that could be great! Theoretically, the Democrats could get 53 seats. But I think two of those are too far gone. So the best we are looking at is 51 seats. If I wanted to be really generous: 52. But it means if things go really wrong, the Democrats could end up with just 48 seats. If the Republicans maintain control of the Senate, they will force a constitutional crisis on the country. Really, they already have by refusing to allow Obama to seat a replacement for Scalia.
Most of this gloomy analysis comes from FiveThirtyEight. But I do have my doubts about it. When I look at the data they are using, it doesn’t make sense. Taking into account the time when the polls were taken, biases that FiveThirtyEight has calculated, and the grades of the pollsters, I just don’t see where they get some of their numbers.
For example, in Pennsylvania, they give Katie McGinty a 61 percent chance of winning. Since mid-Oct, there have been 19 polls. McGinty has been winning in 16 of them. The median is 2 percent. I think that’s a solid lead. But in North Carolina, they give Richard Burr a 71 percent change of winning, when his median is just 1 percent.
I know that there is more to the FiveThirtyEight model than polls. But these strike me as odd. Meanwhile, Sam Wang gives McGinty a 3 percent advantage, and Burr a 0.5 percent advantage. So it isn’t that I’m crazy. I’m clearly looking at the election the way that Wang is and not the way that Nate Silver and company are.
But I worry, because FiveThirtyEight is really good. They were far more accurate in 2014 (and earlier) than Wang was. If this were all I had to go on, I’d be despairing. But I’m not.
We do know that Hillary has a cutting edge get-out-the-vote (GOTV) operation. And Trump has almost nothing. I don’t know if this is showing up in the polls or not. I do know that political science tells us that a good GOTV operation can improve a candidates vote total by between 1 and 5 percentage points. So it is still possible that Clinton is going to win really big and drag not just the Senate but the House with her. But I am more a “prepare for the worst” rather than a “hope for the best” kind of guy.
It should be an interesting election day! I’ll see you throughout it.