My predictions from last week were almost entirely wrong. The only thing I got right was that Kirk would lose in Illinois, which proved to be the exception last night. Four big faulty assumptions account for most of my error: 1) I assumed Trump had alienated too many Republicans from the 2012 coalition without drawing in more new voters, and that was evidently not the case; 2) I took for granted that his consistently lower level of support in national and state polling reflected the true extent of his support, which it did not; 3) I placed far too much importance on the “ground game” advantage that I assumed would deliver Clinton the necessary electoral votes in competitive states, and it turned out that RNC efforts were more than adequate; 4) I overestimated the importance of Obama’s approval rating, since there were obviously lots of people that turned out for Obama that didn’t do the same for Clinton. Clinton may go on to win the popular vote when all votes are counted, but in all important respects I misread the landscape about as badly as one can. I also put too much weight on Trump’s very high unfavorability rating, and I didn’t take fatigue with continued Democratic control seriously enough.
Clinton is undoubtedly one of the least appealing nominees in modern U.S. history, and there are plenty of reasons why Democratic voters wouldn’t be motivated to turn out for her, but then the same might be said about Trump. The difference is that Trump seemed to offer his supporters some possibility of breaking with the status quo, and Clinton was the embodiment of most of what is wrong with our political class. Clinton was counting on Trump’s myriad flaws to hand her the election, and most observers expected the same thing, but as the representative of the incumbent party and the political class her flaws appear to have been more important. Clinton’s sense of entitlement led to a fatal complacency on the part of her campaign and among Democratic voters in just enough states to make Trump president.
Trump deserves credit for expanding the electoral map for Republicans. He did what no Republican nominee has done in thirty years by carrying Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, and he is probably going to take Michigan as well. Furthermore, he did it in the face of near-universal hostility from almost every institution and media outlet, and succeeded where the GOP leadership had repeatedly failed. I still assume he’ll be a lousy president, but this year he has proved his doubters wrong time and again.