Trump: Always Be Closing

You need take only one glance at the swarming Trump rally in Butler, Pennsylvania over the weekend to consider that something is not right with this election.

Almost 60,000 at that rally alone. Pro-Trump caravans zigzagging across the highways. The weekend, even in pockets of cerulean blue California, a festival of Trump.

Yet, experts insist the president is set to lose handily on Tuesday. Something doesn’t chime with the narrative.

The wonks are partially right: crowd sizes and rallies, caravans and carnival do not necessarily translate to all-important votes.

But they are forgetting a few things. For all the intricacy and sophistication an election model may possess, it doesn’t know people. It doesn’t account for history. No model, not in my lifetime, will ever come close to doing so.

Consider this: On the admittedly fun swing-state generator at FiveThirtyEight, Joe Biden’s odds are around 90 percent. Hand Florida over to President Trump, and Biden is still strongly favored with 69 chances in 100.

Yet Florida has picked the winner in every presidential election except one since 1964. Without Ross Perot in 1992, Florida’s record would be unblemished.

More remarkable than Florida is Ohio. The Buckeye state has backed the loser once since 1944, picking with the winner every time since 1972.

On the FiveThirtyEight generator, Joe Biden can lose both Florida and Ohio, and still enjoy a 59 percent chance of winning the presidency—his current odds with bookmakers.

I don’t pretend to know what goes into these models. But I do know this scenario makes little sense to the human brain. For Joe Biden to lose both Florida and Ohio, and yet still capture the White House is highly unlikely. It’s never been done before.

According to Nate Silver at FiveThirtyEight, and the Democratic media in his religious devotion, this scenario is perfectly plausible.

Current polling, even at the Washington Post, finds Trump edging ahead in Florida with a two-point gap, which that newspaper calls “roughly even” unless Biden is winning. That same poll finds a margin-of-error tie in Pennsylvania.

The Trafalgar Group has Trump winning Ohio by five points. The RealClearPolitics average has Trump leading in Ohio, and within one point in Florida.

Which brings me to that Iowa poll. The final Des Moines Register/Selzer survey finds President Trump leading Joe Biden by 48 percent to 41 percent. In September’s poll, the candidates were locked at 47 percent each.

If accurate, that poll portends a race which looks nothing like the narrative, with late-breakers, independents, and women shifting toward Trump.

After a mild breakdown, election forecasters shook it off. “We’ve run our presidential forecast 38 times since yesterday morning and at no point have Biden’s odds been lower than 88.8 percent or higher than 89.8 percent,” Nate Silver said Sunday. “Trump can win but polls that people are getting very excited about/mad at/etc. aren’t really changing the picture much.”

Of course. But what if that poll presents the new normal of this race? The answer: models stuffed with earlier snapshots are worthless.

Indeed, the Investor’s Business Daily (IBD)/TechnoMetrica Institute of Politics and Policy (TIPP) presidential election tracking poll seems to agree, on Monday finding just three points between Donald Trump and Joe Biden, down from last week’s consistent five-point gap.

President Trump now leads with independents by two points, breaking Biden’s 20-day streak, and has widened his advantage with rural voters and men. Biden’s 68-point lead with black voters is far short of Hillary Clinton’s 85-point gap in 2016.

Last week, at Rasmussen the black Trump vote averaged 30 percent. On Monday, that settled to 26 percent, while 44 percent of non-white likely voters say they’re voting for Trump.

Rasmussen’s daily tracking poll on Monday found President Trump slashing Joe Biden’s three-point lead to one point with Biden leading 48 percent to 47 percent.

Last week, the pair swapped places almost daily, sharing identical margins and leads.

The same poll on the Monday before 2016’s election found Hillary Clinton held a 45 percent to 43 percent lead over Trump.

Biden was 12 points ahead according to that same metric four weeks ago.

President Trump’s approval rating at Rasmussen climbed to 52 percent, two points higher than President Obama in 2012.

Across the figures, President Trump’s approval rating is around the ballpark for reelected incumbents and some eight points higher than losing incumbent presidents.

George W. Bush won reelection in 2004 with 48 percent job approval. The elder George Bush and Jimmy Carter both lost with approval ratings much below 40 percent.

The Democracy Institute finds Trump’s approval rating at 52 percent, chiming with Rasmussen and Gallup who found 46 percent of Americans approve of the president. 

Meanwhile, Trafalgar finds President Trump has increased his lead in Pennsylvania from under one percent to two percent.

Even Nate Silver admits Joe Biden would be the “underdog” without Pennsylvania. Judging by that Butler crowd alone—as unscientific as that may be—Biden can’t be feeling too confident about taking the Keystone State from Trump.

It might not be in vogue, but my old-fashioned brain tells me Joe Biden cannot win without Florida and Ohio, and Trump will win around 320 electoral college votes and four more years.

And the big media polling industry could be all but finished.

About Christopher Gage

Christopher Gage is a British political journalist.

Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

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