Seen the polls today? Here’s the news from Bloomberg:
The Republican and Democratic nominees each get 46 percent of likely voters in a head-to-head contest in the latest Bloomberg Politics national poll, while Trump gets 43 percent to Clinton’s 41 percent when third-party candidates are included.
Clinton faces higher expectations as tens of millions of people tune in for a television spectacle that could reach Super Bowl viewership levels. About half, 49 percent, say they anticipate the former secretary of state will perform better, while 39 percent say that for Trump, a real-estate developer and former TV personality.
Ann Selzer, the Iowa-based pollster who oversaw the survey, said there are signs that Clinton’s margins with women and young voters have eroded over the past three months, helping to explain Trump’s gains.
She blew August, spending much of her time raising money (this, even though her campaign coffers are bursting) instead of campaigning. This, from polling guru Nate Silver, is amazing:
The latest polling is consistent with a Clinton lead of only ~1% nationally. State firewall breaking up. Trend lines awful.
— Nate Silver (@NateSilver538) September 26, 2016
Evidence that the race is a dead heat—or at least dead-ish heat-ish—is starting us in the face. Not some complex conclusion from our model.
— Nate Silver (@NateSilver538) September 26, 2016
What’s amazing about Silver’s tweets is a) that here we are in late September, and Donald Trump is polling dead even with Hillary Clinton, and b) that Silver felt obliged to remind his readers that the truth is right in front of their noses.
Liberal commentator Jonathan Chait says it’s panic time:
If your football team is either a 1-point favorite or a 5.5-point favorite, then you should be deeply concerned about the chance of losing. If the outcome is not a football game but the chance that the Executive branch falls under the control of a bigoted, uninformed, dictator-admiring man-child, you should be more than concerned. You should be freaked out.
It’s clear that Trump has the campaign momentum now, and that Hillary has to bring her best game tonight to stop it. I agree with Ross Douthat: Hillary ought to be able to wipe the floor with him. But nothing is predictable this year. Douthat:
A series of debates between a man proudly unprepared for the office of the presidency and a woman of Clinton’s knowledge and experience should produce a predictable outcome: She should win, and he should lose.
This is not a hot take. It is a cold take, a boring take, a take that assumes that the political world, even now, is still relatively rule-bound and predictable.
But as someone who, like a lot of people, consistently underestimated Trump’s appeal, I wouldn’t dare to make a prediction. Michael Brendan Dougherty says if Trump wants to come out ahead, he should double down on the crazy. Excerpt:
Trump shouldn’t try to be presidential tonight. He should stick to being different. For good and ill — mostly ill — Trump is a once-a-century candidate. He needs to embrace that. He should put himself forward as the only man we’ll ever see in our lifetime of voting who can interrupt this endless succession of “competent” and “experienced” politicians. This is a time when seven out of ten people believe the country is going in the wrong direction, and when more people than that despise the performance of Congress. Trump should embrace the fact that he is an outlier. The emotional response he needs to seek from undecided viewers isn’t, “Gee, Donald Trump looks more like a regular politician tonight.” Instead it should be, “I know it’s crazy. But screw it. I’m voting Trump.”
I’ve noticed something that Hillary supporters, and many #NeverTrumpers, have been doing all year: acting as if saying or writing something that might be taken to give aid and comfort to Trump and his supporters is a sign that one is really trying to aid and comfort Trump. In February, during the GOP primaries, I thought about what the most plausible case for social conservatives voting for Trump might be, and posted it. Some people went nuts, thinking that I was signaling my own support for Trump. No matter how many times I say that I am voting for neither Trump nor Clinton, because I cannot stomach either one, that’s still not good enough for those terrified of a Trump presidency.
I’m starting to think that this has a lot to do with why Trump is doing so well. People can’t bring themselves even to think about such a thing, so they treat any commentary that assumes that Trump might be elected as only motivated by a desire to see that happen. Therefore, we must not talk about the Thing.
Look, I so distrust Hillary Clinton and what she stands for, and am so sick of the status quo, that if there were a similarly disruptive candidate who did not have Donald Trump’s disqualifying character flaws, I would happily vote for him or her. Hillary’s awfulness does not, in my mind, overcome Trump’s deficits. And I urge pro-Trump Christians to read Eric Erickson’s harsh commentary explaining why he believes Christians have no business voting for Trump (he’s not voting Hillary either).
But there are obviously a lot of voters who are not as troubled by Trump’s deep flaws as they are by Hillary’s. Trump goes into tonight’s debate immune to self-sabotage to a certain extent. Everybody knows he’s a vain blowhard by now, yet he’s still running even with Hillary Clinton. If people are still willing to vote for the guy despite all the crazy things he’s been saying all year, he would have to work really hard to say anything tonight to alienate them.
On the other hand, if you watched any of the Democratic debates, you know that Hillary is really good at this stuff. It’s not hard to imagine that putting the two side-by-side on the same stage will shake some Trump-leaners to her side, given what I expect to be a very sharp contrast.
On the third hand, ‘memba Al Gore’s sigh in his debate with George W. Bush? It reinforced the impression many people had of him as an arrogant know-it-all. It would be very, very easy for Hillary Clinton to fall into this kind of trap with Trump. This is one reason why her “basket of deplorables” line was so harmful to her: it struck a resonant chord with voters who already think of her as a cross between Lisa Simpson and Tracey Flick.
I am probably wrong. I have been about everything else this political year.