I’ve dinged both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump as this general election cycle has gone on. I’ve tried to speak to specific issues about their candidacy rather than compare and contrast the two. What I’m going to do come November 8th is still a mystery to me. I suspect getting blind drunk might be involved. But, in the interest of seeing—come November 9th—whether I knew what I was talking about for four months, I thought I would let loose a few predictions.
Everything that follows is based on information gained by 6:49 pm PST Sunday, September 18. The fivethirtyeight.com polls only forecast has Hillary Clinton at 61.3% probability and Donald Trump at 38.7%.
I wish I had some kind of secret insight I could dazzle people with, but a Hillary Clinton victory is the likeliest result I see. Clinton wins, the Democrats take the Senate at 50/50 with a tie-breaker or 51-49 (same difference either way), and Republicans hold the House. Republicans hold Florida, Indiana, and Ohio; in a purely symbolic move (and the only good news the GOP has) they pick up Harry Reid’s seat in Nevada. Clinton’s Electoral College victory is below 332 (Barack Obama’s total in 2012) and she wins the popular vote with a single digit (in millions) plurality.
Trump’s only path to victory (as I see it) is to rely on Clinton missteps. I’ve posted on how I think Trump, through instinct or happenstance, seems to take advantage of short attention spans while simultaneously manipulating the media. Under the right combination of circumstances—namely a Clinton collapse motivated by either new scandals that further erode her trustworthiness in the eyes of voters or a serious relapse of her pneumonia—Trump pulls out a narrow electoral college victory. This might be aided by terrorism related events that play into his message (there were incidents in New Jersey and New York yesterday that haven’t yet been explained). Because Trump’s support in polls has topped out at 42-42%, I expect any Trump electoral college victory will come with a slim loss in the popular vote.
Setting aside prognostication, I foresee two possible wild cards (neither I consider likely). The first is that Clinton, true to her speech in Greensboro this past Thursday, resets her campaign for a positive, affirmative message. She stops hitting back at Trump’s assorted generated topics of controversy and through her refusal to engage him relegates Trump to a subordinate position. She still wins a plurality popular vote but wins an Electoral College victory by more than the 332 Obama won in 2012.
The second wild card would be a Donald Trump implosion—faced with long odds as a result of a more popular Clinton campaign (see above), Trump lashes out on a more regular basis, offending a greater share of the independent/undecided voter base that might side with him. Clinton wins an Electoral College victory beyond 332 and wins a majority of the popular vote.
It’s important to note that my expectations stem not just from available news and polls to this point, but also a conceit that Hillary Clinton effectively holds victory in her hands today; I don’t see how Clinton loses without additional unforced errors (see “deplorables” and pneumonia secrecy) or additional visible health issues. I think the chances of either of those concerns affecting her is greatly reduced if she retools her campaign as she’s indicated to give people an affirmative reason to vote for her.
There we go. I look forward to a November 9th post mortem. I don’t look forward to my November 9th hangover.