Freaking Out About the Election? I’ve Got Some Advice for You.

The Scream, Edvard Munch

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I’ve seen and heard from a surprising number of liberals who feel like they need to be talked off the ledge over the upcoming election. In one sense, this is hardly surprising after 2016. If Donald Trump could pull an election victory out of thin air four years ago, what’s to say he can’t do it again? I am here to talk you down from this particular ledge. Consider:

  • First off, it turns out that the 2016 polls weren’t actually off by more than one or two points at most. There’s really no reason to worry that this year’s polls are likely to be wildly off.
  • What’s more, in this year’s polls Joe Biden is much farther ahead than Hillary Clinton was in 2016. The Economist has him 8.4 points ahead. 538 has him 10.2 points ahead. Real Clear Politics has him 8.6 points ahead. Even an error of two or three points wouldn’t change things much, and there’s a limit to how much the national polls and the Electoral College can diverge. If Biden ends up five or six points ahead nationally on Election Day, it’s all but impossible for him to lose the Electoral College.
  • That said, pollsters are being much more careful this year and they’re paying a lot more attention to important state polls. Both the Economist and 538 have Biden ahead of Trump in the Electoral College by more than 50 votes.
  • The COVID-19 pandemic is a huge headwind for Trump. He’s doing his best to insist that he’s handled it better than any leader in the world, but nobody outside his base believes him. The evidence of the real world is just too strong.
  • Trump’s biggest weakness is among women, especially suburban women, and he is literally doing nothing to address that. Instead he’s dismissing concerns about the coronavirus and then heading off to his rallies to yell and scream about locking everyone up. This is losing him support among women.
  • In 2016, Trump benefited from the last-minute effect of the Comey letter. Fair or not, it played into the public perception of Hillary as a little shady and hurt her badly. This year’s last-minute surprise, the Hunter Biden laptop, is a joke. Not only is it getting very little play outside the fever swamps, but it’s an effort to portray Biden as corrupt. This is a sure loser since there simply isn’t any public perception that Biden, who served in public office for nearly half a century, is corrupt.
  • I hate to bring this up, and it is a lamentable retrograde truth in politics, but Biden is a standard-issue white guy. There won’t be any last-minute defections from voters who decide they just can’t support a woman.

Both the Economist and 538 give Biden about a 90 percent chance of winning, but I suspect they’re hedging their bets a little and Biden’s odds are actually a bit better than that. In any case, if you’re on the ledge because Trump still has a 5-10 percent chance of being reelected, I can’t help you much. That’s just the reality. But I do have this advice: you should probably pay a lot less attention to anecdotal reports from a few of your friends. Likewise, with the periodic news stories about towns that still love Trump. I mean, even if he loses he’s probably still going to rack up 60 million votes or so (experts project a total turnout of around 150 million.) Of course you have friends who are either still dithering or else are committed to voting for the guy. What do you expect?

Finally, since everyone agrees that Trump could win, get out there and do some door knocking or phone banking if you’re truly on the ledge right now. It will take your mind off things and help reduce Trump’s chances at the same time.

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