Don’t listen to pollsters. Don’t listen to people who can feel what’s happening on the ground. Don’t listen to anybody. If anything, trust your own gut, because you have as much idea as anyone what will happen Tuesday.
As I’ve watched and analyzed this race, I’ve come to the conclusion that there are just too many variables in play this year for anyone to make a serious prediction.
Even in normal years, the lack of foreknowledge can be striking. In 2004, John Kerry was certain, early on Tuesday evening, that he was going to win. In 2012, Mitt Romney was pretty certain of the same thing, also early Tuesday evening. Not Monday. Tuesday.
You know, President John Kerry and President Mitt Romney.
Let’s start with the polls.
I don’t think pollsters have figured out how to conduct surveys in the modern era. The golden days of calling everybody at home on the landline are long gone. Two new variables have been introduced — cell phones and online responses. I don’t think pollsters understand yet how to weigh these factors, which are constantly evolving as people’s habits continually change, and those with the oldest approach to technology die off while young adults who don’t even know what a landline looks like come of age. That’s one reason the polls are literally all over the place, sometimes even 15-20 points apart.
Anyway, even if you believe the polls, they show a very close race with a slight Clinton advantage. But so many big states are tossups, including Florida, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and perhaps Michigan, which leans Clinton, and Ohio, which leans Trump. Beyond that, New Hampshire, Nevada, Colorado, and possibly Iowa, which leans Trump, and New Mexico, which leans Clinton, are tossups. And maybe even a few others.
It’s true, more tossups have to break Trump’s way. But it’s still crazy close. Nate Silver, perhaps the nation’s best political prognosticator, gives Trump and a one in three chance to win.
But these polls mean little for other reasons. First of all, we don’t know how many people are lying when they say they don’t support Trump, particularly those in the undecided column. Lots of people don’t want to admit they back Trump. Clinton, for all her extraordinarily negative features, is generally held as the more socially acceptable choice. You support Trump, and a woman is on the phone asking you who you will vote for. What do you say? Proabably, you say you will support him. But maybe you don’t.
We also have no idea about voter turnout. Clinton and the Democrats no doubt have a well-oiled, superior ground game. But is it as good as Obama’s? I doubt it. A good ground game requires get-out-the-vote volunteers who love their candidate. Nobody loves Hillary except Chelsea and Huma.
How good the GOP ground game will be is anyone’s guess. And, balancing Hillary’s organizational muscle is what seems to be more passion among Trump voters. Will still-furious Sanders voters turn out in the needed numbers for Clinton? Will African Americans?
Nobody knows the answers to these questions. The answers could cause dramatic shifts to the poll numbers we see.
I believe this election could end up deadlocked, with recounts, lawyers, and even civil unrest. Or Clinton could win in a landslide. Or, yes, Trump could win in a landslide.
We simply do not know.