Could Comey’s Weinergate bombshell deliver the election to Trump?
by Steve Deace
This is an analysis of the potential political impact of FBI Director James Comey’s decision to re-open the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of private email servers while she was secretary of state. It will be presented in the format I’ve provided for similar candidate/campaign analysis in the past.
To accurately answer this question, we must first set the scene of where the race stood prior to Friday’s bombshell. Here was the state of play before Comey’s letter:
- Donald Trump was tied or led in only five of the previous 44 national polls, and they were all narrow leads in Rasmussen and L.A. Times — two polls that have been notoriously favorable to Trump all year long.
- Clinton held a 5.6 point lead in the RealClearPolitics polling average. That’s almost exactly where Barack Obama was at the same juncture of his 2008 election rout of John McCain.
- Trump led in only one of the previous five polls of reliable red state Arizona.
- Trump had led in only three polls of Colorado since June, which no one has won the presidency without in 20 years.
- Trump had only led in two of the previous 14 polls of Florida, and only one of the previous 15 polls of North Carolina. Without those are two states, he has no chance of winning the Electoral College.
- Trump’s one and only lead in any Pennsylvania poll was in mid-July.
- Trump has not led in any poll of Virginia. No Republican has won the White House without it since Reconstruction. In fact, only four polls had him behind in Virginia by fewer than five points.
These are the reasons why prediction markets had Clinton at over 80 percent odds to win the White House. And why forecast models like those conducted by Nate Silver, whose model has only missed on one state in the last two presidential elections combined, also had Clinton with a better than 80 percent chance to win.
Current data trends
The latest available data only begins to address the time period since Comey’s announcement, and it was already showing an uptick trend for Trump as Republican-leaning undecideds drifted home under the looming shadow of Election Day.
On October 14, Trump stood at only 41.4 percent in the RCP average. He’s gone up two points since then. On October 23, the ABC News/Washington Post poll — which is one of the top-rated surveys according to 538 — had Clinton with a 12-point lead. As of Sunday that lead was down to just three in its head-to-head results. But again, most of that was not Clinton losing support as much as it was Trump solidifying his base. In other words he went an entire week without another debate performance to lampoon (Trump’s numbers plummeted after all three debates). Hillary only dropped from 51 to 49 percent support during that span, but Trump rose from 41 to 46 percent.
Furthermore, Trump was back in the lead in two just-released polls of Arizona, and held a four-point lead in Florida in the New York Times/Siena College poll released on Sunday. This means there was already evidence in both national and statewide polling that Trump’s October slide had stabilized.
Early voting an x-factor
On Sunday, NBC News/Marist College released polling of Florida and North Carolina that included screening for those who had already taken advantage of each state’s early voting process. If accurate, the results are mixed at best for Trump.
In Florida, the poll found that about 36 percent of voters had already voted and they overwhelmingly favored Hillary, 54–37. However, Trump had a nine-point lead among those waiting to vote on Election Day. That means this state is still very competitive for Trump.
North Carolina, though, is a different story. Hillary held an even bigger lead there among the 29 percent who had already voted, 61–33, and Trump was narrowly leading among those waiting to vote on November 8.
CNN estimates nearly 19 million have already voted in 37 states across the country, which would be about 15 percent of the total turnout in 2012. It includes other key battlegrounds as well like Iowa, Nevada, Ohio, and Colorado.
Unless a smoking gun is found between now and Election Day, it is unlikely this new FBI story will alter the ultimate outcome by itself. Too many people have already voted, and too many voters are already more comfortable with Clinton’s negatives than Trump’s for the election to swing Trump’s way without additional help.
But that doesn’t mean Weinergate won’t have a potentially huge impact.
Trump was on defense on the election map as he had to defend states like Arizona, Georgia, Utah, Indiana, and Alaska that rarely go blue on Election Day. It’s quite conceivable that yet another reminder of the stench of corruption that has long surrounded the Clintons could sway the bulk of Republican-leaning undecideds Trump’s way. But that’s provided, of course, that he can withstand his compulsion to negatively influence a favorable news cycle as he’s been prone to do. Then there’s the matter of Trump’s emerging Evan McMullin headache in Utah.
If Trump can be disciplined this final week, his campaign may have the freedom to focus its efforts on Iowa, Nevada, Florida, Ohio, and North Carolina. Those five states would get him within striking distance to 265 Electoral College votes, and then you hope you can pull an upset in Colorado, Pennsylvania, or New Mexico where Trump is visiting during the campaign’s final week. The hope is that there’s enough voters in those states wearier of Clinton’s corruption than worried about whether Trump’s fit for office.
A lot of things still have to go right for Trump to win the election, but Hillary/Comey has made those odds better. How much better is hard to say, and we’ll likely know more by mid-week when we’ll get more data or another Trump oppo dump (or both).
Still, there’s a reason Trump’s gone from 17 percent to win in the prediction markets to 23 percent as of the time of this writing. Granted, those odds still aren’t great, but they’re better than they were prior to Comey’s letter.
Finally, whatever boost one believes Trump will receive from this will likely be exceeded by down-ballot Republicans. For they were in a stronger position than Trump to begin with, and this story provides another incentive for independent voters turned off by Trump’s persona to split their ticket and vote GOP to hold Hillary’s feet to the fire.
Steve Deace is syndicated each weeknight by the Salem Radio Network, and is also the author of the new book A Nefarious Plot.
Originally published at www.conservativereview.com.