Should Democrats Be Nervous About the Presidential Election?

In August, the presidential election was looking like a Clinton landslide. This month, the race has tightened and some people are suggesting that Democrats should be nervous. Here’s Ed Kilgore:

Those who have laughed off Donald Trump’s chances while believing his election would represent a turn for the worse in their own lives should be nervous right now.

On the other hand, Sam Wang says otherwise.

My reason for generating the best prediction I can is to reduce the noise of campaign news. I thought it would clear mental space for thinking about policies, or downticket issues…

Because of intense polarization, few voters are movable. The calculation says that Clinton’s win probability is 90%…

Still, the comment section is still peppered with anxious questions about Clinton’s chances. Honestly, some liberals can be total ninnies.

Wang says Clinton’s probability of winning is 90%. The Upshot has it at 76%. FiveThirtyEight says its at 64%. In other words, none of them are saying that Trump has more than a 36% chance of winning. Those are not great odds for him. If this were any other presidential election in recent memory, it would constitute pretty good news for Democrats. But coming off the talk about a landslide, it has some people worried.

Much of that concern comes from the fact that polling in swing states has tightened. So let’s take a look at that. Here is Sam Wang’s latest electoral map.


Click the map to create your own at 270toWin.com

Notice that he has Ohio going for Trump and Florida in the toss-up column. Even with that, Clinton is over the 270 threshold with 294 electoral votes. Trump’s closest races from there are in North Carolina and Nevada. But even if he added Florida and Georgia to wins in those two states, he’d only get to 265. All of that is, I suppose, conceivable – along with him getting another state that would put him over the top. But it’s a huge long shot.

What has some people anxious is that it looks like Trump has all the momentum. That was Chris Cillizza’s point.

Something very interesting has happened over the past two weeks in the presidential campaign: Donald Trump has seized the momentum from Hillary Clinton and is climbing back into contention in both national and key swing state polling.

Josh Marshall sees things a bit differently. He sees a mild uptick for Clinton lately in the national polls. He also points to something he calls “the Clinton wall.”

In the national horse race numbers Clinton has had as much as a 10 point lead and as little as a 1 point or sub-1 point lead. But Trump has never moved even into a tie, let alone an actual lead.

But there’s no denying that this presidential race has tightened. Some have suggested that Clinton had a bad weekend with the “deplorables” comment and her health problems. But those events wouldn’t have shown up in the polls yet. She has been in the spotlight with all the focus on her emails and the foundation. It is likely that the merchants of doubt have had an impact on this race.

But that misses what I think is another important factor in this race. When Trump changed his management team, most of the focus was on the fact that he hired Stephen Bannon from Breitbart News. The message was that Trump was ready to rumble. All of that overshadowed the fact that he also hired Kellyanne Conway – who has been focused on giving us an alternative Trump that would appeal to white suburban women. Monica Langley describes how that has been pretty successful.

Newly installed campaign chief executive Stephen Bannon and campaign manager Kellyanne Conway told their new boss, basically, trust us. Mr. Trump needed to move away from a preoccupation with rallies and wall-to-wall TV interviews toward “moments,” in the new managers’ parlance, that showed him in TV newscasts as presidential, with a caring side…

The Republican nominee said he was more comfortable with his new team, which, ironically, has succeeded in some of the same changes sought by former campaign chairman Paul Manafort: Mr. Trump is sticking closer to a teleprompter, giving more policy details in speeches—and making fewer off-the-cuff remarks, which hurt his campaign after the GOP convention this summer.

In other words, the long-awaited pivot has finally arrived. The follow-up question that immediately triggers is, “how long will it last?” The best test of that will come 10 days from now at the first debate. In the meantime, it is important to keep in mind that we have now passed Labor Day and Ms. Conway’s work is focused on connecting with groups that have typically voted Republican. Beyond that, their challenge will be to convince “persuadables” and get out the vote. That has usually been the function of the campaign’s ground game – which basically doesn’t exist for Trump.

In the end, should Democrats be nervous? The fact that Donald Trump is the Republican nominee should concern any sentient being. But what I have presented are the facts about where this race stands today. Things could certainly change. But as of right now, I’d much rather be Hillary Clinton than Donald Trump.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.