Relax, America: We’ll Survive the Election

It’s been a bruising stretch, but Clinton still looks like the winner, and the Senate is still up in the air.

Hillary Clinton speaks at a rally at Pitt Community College in Winterville, N.C., on Thursday.
AP Photo/Andrew Harnik
Charlie Cook
Add to Briefcase
Charlie Cook
Nov. 3, 2016, 8:01 p.m.

When Ger­ald Ford was sworn in­to of­fice after Pres­id­ent Nix­on’s resig­na­tion, he said, “My fel­low Amer­ic­ans, our long na­tion­al night­mare is over.” My guess is that a lot of people are look­ing for­ward to Elec­tion Day with the same feel­ing.

Hil­lary Clin­ton re­mains a sol­id fa­vor­ite to win the pres­id­ency. The only ques­tion is wheth­er she will win 272 elect­or­al votes, just two over the min­im­um needed, or closer to 300 or 310. The dif­fer­ence would likely turn on Flor­ida and North Car­o­lina. If she loses both, she’ll just skate by. If she wins both, her total would clear the 300 mark. Not that na­tion­al polling mat­ters much right now, oth­er than as an easy means to keep score, but poll­sters in both parties think her lead over Don­ald Trump is between 2 and 5 points. The former cuts things a bit close; the lat­ter would provide a very sol­id win giv­en the clear di­vi­sions in the coun­try today.

Demo­crats are still likely to come out on top in the Sen­ate, but prob­ably not with the kind of mar­gin they would have had be­fore the Clin­ton email mess re­sur­faced. Ten days or so ago, Trump was crater­ing. As a res­ult, the en­thu­si­asm of Re­pub­lic­an voters had be­gun to flag and few­er were mak­ing it through the poll screens for “likely voters,” caus­ing Demo­crat­ic mar­gins to in­crease. There has clearly been a shift since then. Per­haps it was simply a mat­ter of Re­pub­lic­ans com­ing home. Or maybe it was be­cause FBI Dir­ect­or James Comey’s an­nounce­ment last week was ice wa­ter that cooled the ar­dor of Demo­crats, not to men­tion in­de­pend­ents who were start­ing to edge to­ward Demo­crats. Since then, GOP voters have reen­gaged and in­de­pend­ents have be­gun eas­ing back to­ward Re­pub­lic­an can­did­ates.

As a con­sequence, we are now more likely to see a Demo­crat­ic net gain in the Sen­ate of between four and six seats, not the five to sev­en seats of about a week ago. The best tar­gets for Demo­crats re­main Sens. Mark Kirk of Illinois, Ron John­son of Wis­con­sin, and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania. It is still quite pos­sible that John­son or Toomey could pull off an up­set, but it is much harder to see that hap­pen­ing for Kirk. The next best op­por­tun­it­ies for Demo­crats seem to be the races against Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hamp­shire and for the open GOP seat in In­di­ana, both of which are really close with maybe a slight edge for Re­pub­lic­ans. Sens. Richard Burr of North Car­o­lina and Roy Blunt of Mis­souri are still em­broiled in very dif­fi­cult races. Things may have edged very slightly in their fa­vor, but the races could go either way. Sen. Marco Ru­bio is not go­ing to win Flor­ida by a land­slide, but the odds of him win­ning are still very high. In the lone vul­ner­able Demo­crat­ic seat, the mo­mentum seems to have shif­ted away from GOP Rep. Joe Heck and to­ward Demo­crat Cath­er­ine Cortez Masto.

In the House, the over and un­der is about 15 seats. The odds of Demo­crats win­ning more than 15 are about the same as them win­ning few­er than that. In any event, the 30 seats needed to take con­trol were out of reach even when Trump was tank­ing.

We have seen hun­dreds of polls come out in re­cent weeks, some of high qual­ity, most of du­bi­ous ac­cur­acy. While I still sug­gest that afi­cion­ados fo­cus more on the poll av­er­ages than on spe­cif­ic sound­ings, any­one de­term­ined to be guided by a single poll should stick to ones con­duc­ted by ABC News and The Wash­ing­ton Post, CBS News and The New York Times, NBC News and The Wall Street Journ­al, CNN, and Fox News. As a gen­er­al rule, sur­veys based on live tele­phone in­ter­views should be giv­en more cre­dence than ones us­ing on­line ques­tions or robo-polls. Stand-alone polls are more steady and re­li­able than nightly track­ing polls, which tend to be pretty er­rat­ic.

For ex­ample, the ABC/Wash­ing­ton Post poll is very re­li­able, but I would put more weight on a full-blown ABC/Post read­ing than on its nightly track­ing poll, which showed a highly un­likely shift of 13 points in a little more than a week, from Clin­ton up by 12 points to be­hind by 1 (as of Thursday morn­ing she was back up 2 points). The stand-alone CBS/NYT poll had it at 3, square in the range of where most private poll­sters sus­pect the race to be.

My ad­vice is for folks to ease off the caf­feine, maybe watch less tele­vi­sion news, take in a movie, play a round of golf, or do whatever lowers their blood pres­sure and pre­serves their san­ity. This coun­try has sur­vived a lot, and it will still stand tall whatever hap­pens on Tues­day.

What We're Following See More »
Latest Count: 12 Trump Campaign Staffers Had Contact with Russians
19 hours ago
Mueller Seeks Documents from DOJ
3 days ago

Special counsel Robert Mueller "is now demanding documents from the department overseeing his investigation." A source tells ABC News that "Mueller's investigators are keen to obtain emails related to the firing of FBI Director James Comey and the earlier decision of Attorney General Jeff Sessions to recuse himself from the entire matter."

Trump May Be OK with Dropping Mandate Repeal
3 days ago

"President Donald Trump would not insist on including repeal of an Obama-era health insurance mandate in a bill intended to enact the biggest overhaul of the tax code since the 1980s, a senior White House aide said on Sunday. The version of tax legislation put forward by Senate Republican leaders would remove a requirement in former President Barack Obama’s signature healthcare law that taxes Americans who decline to buy health insurance."

Media Devoting More Resources to Lawmakers’ Sexual Misconduct
3 days ago

"Members of Congress with histories of mistreating women should be extremely nervous. Major outlets, including CNN, are dedicating substantial newsroom resources to investigating sexual harassment allegations against numerous lawmakers. A Republican source told me he's gotten calls from well-known D.C. reporters who are gathering stories about sleazy members."

Trump to Begin Covering His Own Legal Bills
5 days ago

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.