Almost all national polls are irrelevant. A growing number of small college statistics departments and wannabe start up polling companies have been producing numerous, and questionable, national opinion polls on who supports Trump vs. Clinton.
Not so for the ‘FiveThirtyEight’ group, a well-established non-partisan forecasting organization that has been remarkably successfully predicting US election outcomes for several election cycles now. FiveThirtyEight has the November 8 election close to a virtual electoral college‘toss up’.
As of November 4, FiveThirtyEight forecasts Clinton with 289 electoral votes to Trump’s 247 electoral votes. In popular opinion, it has 48% of the national vote for Clinton and 45% for Trump. But forget about national popular opinion polls, whatever the source.
As the US electorate almost daily now swings widely between the two candidates with each Wikileaks revelation about Clinton and each new revelation about Trump’s finances, business, and wild statements, it is clear so far as national opinion polls are concerned that US voters in general can’t make up their minds which candidate they dislike the most. Both now register, at minimum, a 60-65% ‘dislike’ and in some estimates as high as 80% dislike for either candidate, Trump or Clinton. That makes national opinion polls highly unstable.
All that matters is the electoral college vote, not the popular vote, and the electoral vote primarily in the swing states at this point.
FiveThirtyEight estimates there is at the moment, November 4, a 289 v. 247 electoral vote division between Clinton vs. Trump. That means a switch from either camp of two, or even one state, can tip in either direction by next Tuesday, November 8.
That tipping may easily occur in any of the 8-9 swing states, based on the relative turnout of the base of each candidate in those eight or so swing states. So what are the swing states? And what’s the base of each candidate that could ‘tip’ the electoral vote of a state?
The swing states are Ohio, Florida, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Iowa, Michigan, Wisconsin, Colorado, and maybe Nevada. Trump’s key turnout base is the non-college educated working class, mostly white. Hillary’s is the suburban, college educated, minorities, and women. Millennials (age 35 and under) are a toss up, regardless of race, sex or age and may not vote equally for either candidate.
So why may this election be so close? And could it result in another contested 2000 election, where disputed votes in just one or two states could determine the outcome? Yes, quite possibly. Here’s why:
FiveThirtyEight predictions show that Trump has voters in Iowa and Ohio, with 6 and 18 electoral votes respectively, firmly in his camp. It also predicts that Florida (29) and North Carolina (15) are close but are both leaning in his direction with momentum on his side. And contrary to media spin, Arizona (11) and Georgia (16) are not ‘in play’. They will likely go Trump.
The remaining swing states, according to FiveThirtyEight, are leaning in various degrees to Clinton. They include Pennsylvania (20), Michigan (16), Virginia (13), Wisconsin (10), Minnesota (10) and Colorado (9). That’s 78 electoral ‘swing state votes’ leaning to Hillary.
Summed up, that’s 78 leaning Clinton and 68 leaning Trump. 270 electoral votes are needed to win.
So if Trump retains Ohio and Iowa, and carries Florida and North Carolina, he needs to take two of the following three states now leaning Clinton to win: Pennsylvania, Michigan, and/or Wisconsin.
And it’s those same states that happen to be where free trade, offshoring, and working class job destruction, that has been going on from Bill Clinton to George W. Bush to Barack Obama, have taken their greatest toll. It’s the region where the non-college working class has been most devastated. It’s where Obama job creation since 2009 has been the weakest in terms of both quantity and especially quality of jobs, creating only low paid, part time, service jobs. It’s where US cities have deteriorated the most severely, along with rising crime, collapse of social services (think Detroit and Flint), and general living standards. It’s where Trump has his base.
This same white working class base was once a stronghold of the Democratic Party. But Bill Clinton and Obama, with the help of GW Bush for an intervening eight years, have destroyed its once traditional support for their party.
The Democratic Party has become the party of the upscale, suburban, and college educated. A now devastated union labor movement—a mere shadow of its once political self—cannot deliver their white working class members’ votes in those swing states any longer. Thanks again to free trade, job offshoring, and the collapse of manufacturing in those states.
The US electorate has been quietly turning upside down since 2000, and the Democratic Party elite have no one to thank for that but themselves. (Obama’s record Latino deportations may have also had the same effect for the tens of millions potential voters in that group as well. The election’s outcome will soon verify that or not as well).
Can the Democrats and Hillary win without that traditional non-college white working class base? They didn’t win in 1980, when that group turned to Reagan in the aftermath of a prior economic crisis in the 1970s.
What the preceding analysis suggests is that Trump’s ability to turnout a highly disaffected white working class base in the Pennsylvania to Wisconsin geographic ‘arc’ may prove the determining factor in the election. Whether Hillary can neutralize that turnout by counter-mobilizing suburbanites, minorities, and millennials (the least likely) in those same great lakes region ‘swing states’ is the fundamental question in this election.
Hillary’s real opponent in this election, in other words, is not Donald Trump, but the economic track record and performance of the Obama administration over the past eight years.
The election next week will likely be incredibly close, decided perhaps by a matter of a handful of electoral votes. There’s one more wildcard, however, in the swing state equation: That’s Nevada with a mere 6 electoral votes where FiveThirtyEight has that state in a virtual tie. If Clinton is to win there, she will need the overwhelming turnout and support of Latino working class voters. Will their memory of Obama deportations outweigh their indignation of Trump insults of workers of Latin American heritage there? Next week will also tell.
Whatever the electoral vote, predictions by FiveThirtyEIght are the election may prove extremely close. Trump only needs to turn two states now in Hillary’s camp and hold onto Florida, Ohio and the other states leaning his way.
But the closer the final vote, the more likely that Trump will refuse to accept it and will contest it legally should he lose. And don’t expect him to ‘cave in’ like former political elite members Gore in Florida in 2000. Or Kerry in Ohio in 2004.
And if Trump loses, watch for Hillary and the established elite of both parties (now firmly behind her) and their media go after Trump legally and economically (by attacking his business interests) to try to discourage him from contesting the results. And should Trump win, watch for him and his backers counterpunch and go after Hillary (and Bill) with charges of criminal indictments.
As the overall crisis in the US deepens, the political and economic elites are engaging increasingly in internecine political warfare. If we think the current election cycle has been incredibly dirty, decadent, and disturbing so far, we may not have seen anything yet. What follows post-election may prove even more disruptive and destabilizing.
Dr. Jack Rasmus
November 4, 2016
Dr. Rasmus is the author of the recently published, ‘Systemic Fragility in the Global Economy’, 2016, by Clarity Press, and ‘Looting Greece: A New Financial Imperialism Emerges’, Sept. 2016, by Clarity Press. He blog at jackrasmus.com.