Oct. 24

Pres map

Pres polls: FL OK TX
Dem pickups: AZ NC
GOP pickups: IA OH

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Clinton Is Running Ahead of Obama 2012

Election Day is two weeks from tomorrow. That is not a lot of time for things to change, right? Well, wrong. Remember, in politics a week is a long time. One thing we do know now is how much change there was from Oct. 24, 2012 to the election (Nov. 6), from Oct. 24, 2008 to the election (Nov. 4), and from Oct. 24, 2004 to the election (Nov. 2). Note that Election Day this year is later than in recent years. By law it is the Tuesday following the first Monday in November. It isn't just the first Tuesday in November because then it could be Nov. 1, the day after Halloween, and two scary days in a row could be fatal for the weak of heart (in truth, Nov. 1 is All Saints Day, which is a religious holiday).

Here are the electoral vote scores for these years for Oct. 24, Oct. 31, and the final results.

Oct. 24
Oct. 31
Year Dem GOP   Dem GOP   Dem GOP
2016 334 204   ? ?   ? ?
2012 281 244   280 206   332 206
2008 375 157   364 171   365 173
2004 253 254   283 246   251 286

You can see from the table above that there was a large change in 2012 from Oct. 24, 2012 to Nov. 6, 2012. Barack Obama picked up 51 electoral votes (Colorado, Virginia, and Florida). In 2008, Obama lost 10 EVs from Oct. 24 to Election Day, by losing Missouri but winning 1 EV in NE-02. In 2004, John Kerry ended about where he was on Oct. 24. To see the day-by-day scores (and news) for 2008 and 2008, click on "2012" or "2008" at the bottom of the legend box to the right of the map. The 2008 page has a link to the 2004 page. (V)

ABC News Poll Gives Clinton Double-digit Lead

An ABC News poll released yesterday shows Hillary Clinton breaking the 50% mark for the first time in a four-way race. She is leading Donald Trump 50% to 38%, with Gary Johnson at 5% and Jill Stein at 2%. Getting more than half the vote would give Clinton a much stronger mandate to try to carry out her program. If Trump ended up with 38%, it would be the worst showing for the losing candidate since George H.W. Bush got 37% in 1992. In modern politics, a 12% difference is a landslide. Such a result would even put the House in play.

The poll also showed something that astute political observers have long known: Third-party candidates fade as the election approaches. In the summer, it is common for people whose favored candidate lost the primary to assert that they will never vote for the winner. Depending on the race, they have been called PUMA (Party Unity My Ass) voters, Bernie-or-bust voters, or #NeverTrump voters, but in the end, they generally come home to their party. Johnson, in particular, had been at 10% nationally in some polls and higher in some state polls, but he is fading fast and probably won't even get 5% in the end. (V)

Trump Campaign Admits It Is Behind

While Donald Trump still keeps saying he will win the election, his staff is not so confident. When Trump's campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, was asked by NBC News yesterday how the race was going, she gave a straightforward, if unusual, answer: "We are behind." Conway also said that Clinton's campaign had some advantages, like more money than Trump's. Such an admission from a high campaign official is quite unusual; one wonders if Conway is not thinking about her next job, and putting some "not my fault" information out there. Also, she is fundamentally a pollster and in her next job interview it would be better to say: "In 2016 I called it correctly" than to say: "Oops, I missed 2016, sorry." (V)

Priebus, Son Eric Both Say Trump Will Concede if Election Is "Fair"

Reince Priebus and Eric Trump have both spent a fair bit of time this election season trying to clean up their candidate's messes. They were back at it again on Sunday, trying to minimize the damage being done by The Donald's unwillingness to promise he will honor the results on November 8. Priebus was interviewed by John Dickerson on CBS' "Face the Nation," and—apparently deciding he needed to practice his triple negatives—said that Trump "is not willing to not concede if he loses and there's no fraud." Eric Trump was on ABC's "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" and said much the same, declaring that, "[M]y father will accept it 100 percent if it's fair—if it's fair."

Of course—and as both Dickerson and Stephanopoulos observed—this is all just meaningless double-talk. The qualifiers "no fraud" and "if it's fair" mean that Trump and his surrogates have committed to nothing, especially since Trump has already made clear that a Clinton victory (particularly in Pennsylvania) will be interpreted as de facto proof of fraud and a lack of fairness. The real question is trying to figure out what Trump is playing at here. Nobody loves lawsuits more than The Donald, but even he knows you have to have some basis for filing. "Hillary is crooked" is not a legal case. More and more, it really seems like Trump is laying the groundwork for the Trump News Network. Fox is "fair and balanced," perhaps this network will be the "fraud free zone," or something like that. (Z)

Trump Creates a Different Kind of Headache for Some Republicans

Quite a few Republicans have found themselves apologizing for Donald Trump's missteps, and trying to keep him at arm's length (see Ayotte, Kelly; McCain, John; Toomey, Pat). For some politicians, however, Trump presents a different kind of problem. The Donald's campaign is built on apocalyptic doom and gloom: the notion that the nation has gone to hell in a handbasket in the last 50 years, and particularly in the last 5-10 years. For those Republicans running for re-election based on their records of success, this argument cuts them off at the knees.

The best case study is Gov. Pat McCrory (R-NC), who is currently in the fight of his life. McCrory is peddling the "Carolina Comeback," airing a commercial in which he describes the Tar Heel State as having, "one of the fastest-growing economies in the country," and also brags about the number of jobs added while he's been in the governor's mansion. Meanwhile, Trump has held several well-attended rallies in the state, in which he lamented North Carolina's massive loss of jobs and income, and promised that he would fix both if elected. The problem for the Governor is that Trump's message is landing. Says one Republican pollster:

North Carolina voters don't think their taxes are lower, even though they are, and they don't believe teachers got a raise, even though they did. They're not believing the messages. That's not entirely Trump's fault, but he sucks the oxygen out of McCrory's message. I don't think voters can hear all the negativity on the national level and believe the state has turned around.

McCrory has enough trouble with the fallout from HB-2 and a state that is trending purple; he doesn't also need a presidential candidate who is not at all on the same page. This is why he's being called "America's most endangered governor." There's actually someone whose job it is to coordinate messaging between various levels of the Republican Party. Here's a hint: His name rhymes with Preince Riebus. He has not exactly been excelling at that part of the job description this year. (Z)

Luntz: 2016 Should Have Been "Slam Dunk" for GOP

GOP strategist and pollster Frank Luntz appeared on "Face the Nation" on Sunday, and opined that Donald Trump was probably (but not definitely) going to lose the election. Luntz lamented the lost opportunity, declaring that victory in 2016 should have been a "slam dunk" for the Republican Party.

Any Republican who hears this kind of assessment from a veteran GOP operative, whether Luntz, or Karl Rove, or Mary Matalin, or any other, should be very concerned. At the moment, there are no "slam dunks" for the GOP when it comes to the White House. As we have pointed out many times, the Party begins an election cycle up against a blue wall of 242 electoral votes from states that have gone Democratic six straight times (soon to be seven). Other states (Virginia, North Carolina, New Mexico, Nevada) are moving toward the Democratic column, and they are not being offset by equivalent states moving toward the Republican column. If Hillary Clinton wins, the GOP will have taken the popular vote just once since George H.W. Bush was elected in 1988, and that occasion (2004) was by only a small margin. If Party leaders convince themselves that 2016 was just bad luck, they are overlooking serious demographic problems that are not just going to go away.

Arguably, Luntz is also underestimating Hillary Clinton (just as Republicans underestimated Barack Obama). It's true that she has weaknesses, not the least of which is her sky-high unfavorables. But every presidential candidate has weaknesses. If Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) had been the nominee, he was too far left, with no serious record of achievement in the Senate, and policy proposals that were high on idealism but low on substance. If Martin O'Malley had gotten the nod, he was too vanilla, with no experience at the federal level, and some pretty big black marks on his record from his time as mayor of Baltimore. Meanwhile, Clinton also has some pretty profound strengths. She's got decades of experience at the highest levels of government (which is part of the reason for the high unfavorables), she's a savvy political operator and debater, and she's backed by an impressive and extensive network of political operatives.

The odds are good that the GOP will find itself matched against Hillary Clinton once again in 2020. If Party leaders operate under the twin assumptions that (1) she's going to be easy to defeat, and (2) what ails the Republican Party can be fixed with a Band-Aid or two, they are setting themselves up for another loss, and perhaps another 10 or 20 years wandering in the wilderness. (Z)

Trump Finally Gets a Major Newspaper Endorsement

The New York Observer has endorsed Donald Trump for president, but that doesn't really count, since the paper is owned by his son-in-law. Yesterday, he got an endorsement from a newspaper not owned by a relative: the Las Vegas Review-Journal, which is owned by Republican megadonor Sheldon Adelson. The paper wrote:

Mr. Trump represents neither the danger his critics claim nor the magic elixir many of his supporters crave. But he promises to be a source of disruption and discomfort to the privileged, back-scratching political elites for whom the nation's strength and solvency have become subservient to power's pursuit and preservation.

While Adelson is happy to endorse Trump, he is no longer happy putting his money where his mouth is. He was going to put $100 million into Trump's campaign, but has now turned off the money faucet after pouring $25 million into it. While both Adelson and Trump love Benjamin Netanyahu, $25 million is a sufficient amount of love for this year.

Newspaper endorsements don't carry a lot of clout any more, but several newspapers that had endorsed Republicans for 100 years couldn't quite do it this year. The Arizona Republic, for example, had never endorsed a Democrat in its entire history until this year. Until yesterday, the largest newspapers to endorse Trump in the general election were the Santa Barbara, CA News-Press and the St. Joseph, MO News-Press, neither of which makes the list of the top 100 newspapers by circulation in the U.S. (V)

Clinton's SuperPAC Starts Advertising in Senate Races

The people running Hillary Clinton's main superPAC, Priorities USA, feel confident enough about her chances that they are starting to put money into Senate races. The first commercial is in New Hampshire, against Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH). The spot starts with shots of Trump on a television mocking a disabled reporter, saying he wants to punch someone in the face, and discussing Megyn Kelly's blood coming out of wherever. Then it cuts to the debate between Ayotte and Gov. Maggie Hassan (D-NH) in which Ayotte says she sees Trump as a role model for children. This ad is the just the first in a series that will tie incumbent Republican senators to Trump.

Clinton's superPAC is not the only one entering the Senate fray now. Two major Republican groups, the Chamber of Commerce and the Congressional Leadership Fund, are also going to start advertising—but in a highly unusual way: They are essentially going to admit that Clinton has won the election and that people should vote for Republicans for the Senate to block her every move. Probably more Republican groups are going to do the same thing in the next two weeks. (V)

Clinton Campaigns with McGinty in Pennsylvania

The Priorities USA superPAC ad isn't the only way the Clinton campaign and its associates are trying to influence Senate races. Yesterday, Hillary Clinton campaigned with Katie McGinty in Pennsylvania. Clinton attacked McGinty's opponent, Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA), as someone who is afraid to stand up to Donald Trump. The theme here is pretty clear: Clinton is going to tie all Republicans to Trump and hope as he nosedives, he will take the rest of the party with him. (V)

Clinton Ally Contributed to Campaign of FBI Official

Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D-VA) has been a Democratic fundraising powerhouse for decades, as well as being a close personal friend of both Clintons. He was also chairman of the DNC from 2001 to 2005. In addition, he is very wealthy, so the combination of McAuliffe and big money is no surprise. Nevertheless, his PAC's donation of half a million dollars to the 2015 state senate campaign of Dr. Jill McCabe is raising some eyebrows. The problem here is that McCabe's husband, Andrew McCabe, later became deputy director of the FBI and helped oversee the investigation of Hillary Clinton's emails. Whether this was nefarious or not is unclear. After all, as governor of Virginia, McAuliffe had a very great interest in helping the Democrats take control of the Virginia state senate. Also, Andrew McCabe had nothing to do with Clinton's emails at the time of the donation, and McAuliffe had no way of knowing that he would later become involved. Still, the whole incident provides grist for Trump's mill and could further depress the Bernie-or-bust vote. (V)

Cheney Looks to Be Headed to Washington

No, not that one. Liz Cheney, his daughter. She has been running an excellent campaign in deep red Wyoming, and has out-fundraised her opponent by a margin of nearly 20-to-1. Voters are particularly impressed by her promise to make some noise in Washington, particularly as a "soldier" (her term) defending coal and fossil fuels from the nefarious clean energy crowd. There has been no polling since the primary, but anything other than a Cheney victory would be a huge upset. So, we may soon be looking at a situation where a Bush was sent packing, a Clinton moved into to the White House, and a Cheney came to Washington to advocate for fossil fuel producers. The more things change, the more they stay the same. (Z)

Don't Attach Too Much Meaning to Social Media

Thanks to the rapid advance of technology, as well as the Republican candidate's predilection for using Twitter, 2016 can fairly be described as the election where social media truly arrived as part of presidential politics. But like all media, whether newspapers, or radio, or television, social media is prone to manipulation. Perhaps more so than other media, since computers don't need sleep or food.

A new study serves as a reminder of this. One sign of political success in the modern era (i.e., Bernie Sanders) is Twitter engagement—number of followers, number of retweets, number of likes, etc. The problem is that an enormous number of Twitter accounts are bots, and not actual people, commanded by...who knows? Of Donald Trump's 12 million Twitter followers, approximately 4.5 million are fake. So too is 33% of his traffic—retweets, pro-Trump tweets, likes, etc. Of Hillary Clinton's 9.5 million followers, about 3.5 million are fake, as is 22% of her traffic. So, Trump does have more Twitter engagement, but the discrepancy is not quite so large as it may seem.

At the moment, Twitter bots tend to be fairly crude, and so are pretty easily identified. For example, algorithms generally mark an account that produces more than 50 tweets a day as fake. But as social media engagement becomes more and more an indicator of political success, up to and including being used by pollsters as a data point, partisans on all sides will get better and better at making the fakers hard to identify. (Z)

Liberals Nervous about Secretary of the Treasury Sheryl Sandberg

As more and more people are convinced Hillary Clinton is going to be the 45th President of the United States, her possible cabinet choices are starting to come into focus. One name that keeps popping up is Facebook's COO, billionaire Sheryl Sandberg, who has been a huge supporter of Hillary Clinton since 2008, and who has raised gobs of money for her. Sandberg might be considered for Secretary of Commerce or even Secretary of the Treasury, a thought that supporters of Bernie Sanders see with nothing but panic and dismay. On the other hand, tying the Democrats to Silicon Valley would be a winning move for the party going forward and Clinton knows this, of course. If Sandberg became Secretary of Commerce, that would not be as controversial. (V)

Today's Presidential Polls

Since the beginning of September we have had 21 polls of Florida. Hillary Clinton has led in 15 of them and Donald Trump has led in 6 of them, 3 of which were a lead of a single point. In 11 of the polls, Clinton's lead has been 3 to 6 points. On average, her lead in the Sunshine State is 2 points. It's probably fair to say that she has a small but very consistent lead there. Richard Nixon had a "Winter White House" in Key Biscayne, FL, but unless something unexpected happens, Mar-a-Lago is not going to be the new Winter White House.

As to Texas, on its face, it is absurd—except that this is the fourth consecutive poll showing Trump's lead to be just 2-4 points. Clinton has no chance of winning Texas, but at this point in 2012, Romney had a 19-point lead over Obama. Maybe it's just that Texans never cared much for New Yorkers. (V)

State Clinton Trump Johnson Start End Pollster
Florida 46% 43% 3% Oct 20 Oct 21 YouGov
Oklahoma 30% 60% 5% Oct 18 Oct 20 Sooner Poll
Texas 43% 46% 5% Oct 20 Oct 21 YouGov

Today's Senate Polls

Hillary Clinton seems to be hurting Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) a bit, but in the end the Senator will probably keep the job he so dislikes. (V)

State Democrat D % Republican R % Start End Pollster
Florida Patrick Murphy 42% Marco Rubio* 44% Oct 20 Oct 21 YouGov

* Denotes incumbent

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