Nate Silver Quotes
Total quotes (15)
Total quotes (15)
Whenever the race tightens, we get people protesting that the popular vote doesn’t matter because it’s all about the Electoral College, and that Trump has no path to 270 electoral votes. But this presumes that the states behave independently from national trends, when in fact they tend to move in tandem.
Pretty much everyone has an incentive to push the narrative that the presidential race is tightening. The television networks would like for you to keep tuning in to their horse-race coverage. Hillary Clinton’s campaign would like for you to turn out to vote, instead of getting complacent. Donald Trump’s campaign would like you to know that its candidate still has a chance.
Strategy No. 2: Rile up Democratic partisans by attacking Comey and other targets
While Clinton herself hasn’t yet attacked Comey’s motivations, her top surrogates and advisors like John Podesta are already doing so. There’s the risk of hypocrisy here given that some of these same Clinton surrogates were praising and defending Comey after the FBI chose not to charge Clinton in July. But the target for arguments like these is not undecided voters who are looking for logical consistency, so much as Democratic partisans who are looking for reasons to feel aggrieved.
Texas, in particular, can cause a potential Electoral College-popular vote skew because of its large and growing population. If the Democrat goes from losing Texas by 15 percentage points to losing it by 5 points instead, that produces a net gain of about 0.6 or 0.7 percentage points of the popular vote — larger than the margin by which Al Gore beat George W. Bush in the popular vote in 2000 — without changing the tally in the Electoral College.
There was nothing flashy about Clinton’s performance at either the convention or the debates. She was just prepared, steady and tactically smart — such as goading Trump into feuds with the family of Khizr Khan, or Alicia Machado.
Trump might seem like an easy opponent to take down, and he certainly hasn’t helped himself. But as Trump himself would probably point out, 16 Republicans failed to do so. We won’t know for sure for another 19 days, but Clinton may have finished him off last night.
I’ve heard from people who wonder whether Friday’s news – that FBI director James Comey was investigating additional emails that may be pertinent to Hillary Clinton’s private email server — might have come too late in the campaign to be reflected in the polls, and therefore in our forecast, before Election Day. While the situation isn’t ideal, there’s probably just enough time left to measure the initial impact.
Strategy No. 3: Let it go
This is the opposite of strategy No. 1. Here the Clinton campaign lays low after calculating that the story will die of its own accord. And it may be what we see if the campaign doesn’t see much impact from the FBI news in public and internal polls by early next week. The Clinton campaign woke up Friday morning with a lead of 5 or 6 percentage points nationally. The campaign could afford to lose a point or two, especially if it expects the impact to fade by Election Day.
It can be easy to underestimate how quickly the media can turn from one story to the next. Many stories that seem major at the time wind up garnering no more than two or three days of coverage, provided there’s nothing further to perpetuate them — or if there’s something else that pre-empts them.
Strategy No. 4: Drop an opposition research bomb on Trump
Speaking of which, I often see reporters speculating or predicting that the Clinton campaign is sitting on one or two major pieces of opposition research about Trump, which they’ll leak to the press at a time of maximum strategic advantage. There’s reason to be skeptical of these claims: If the Clinton campaign had something great, wouldn’t they have released it already, especially given that people are already voting in many states?
But the FBI news may slightly increase the chance that we’ll see counter-attacks against Trump. Especially if the polls do tighten, the usually risk-averse Clinton campaign may become more willing to push a story that has some risk of backfiring (say, a serious accusation against Trump that isn’t backed up by more than one source). News organizations and their potential sources may also become more willing to run with these stories if the election becomes closer, taking on more legal and reputational risk, whereas they’d bypass them if Clinton seemed to have the election in the bag.
But what do the polls say? The race probably is tightening — but perhaps not as much as the hype on the cable networks would imply. In our polls-only forecast, Trump has narrowed Clinton’s lead in the popular vote to roughly 6 percentage points from 7 points a week ago, and his chances of winning have ticked up to 17 percent from 13 percent. In our polls-plus forecast, Trump’s chances are up to 19 percent from 16 percent.
Because of the high level of uncertainty in the race, we can’t say the door is closed on a narrow Trump victory. And we’re certainly a week or two removed from the period when every poll brought good news for Clinton: Plenty of polls now show negative trend lines for her (in addition to others that show a positive trend). But the race hasn’t fundamentally changed all that much.
Strategy No. 1: Demand more details from Comey
This was Clinton’s initial strategy during her brief press conference on Friday, where she said that ‘the American people deserve to get the full and complete facts immediately.’
This approach carries a couple of advantages. First, Clinton may reasonably believe that the details of the case aren’t as bad as the headlines. Voters may fill in the blanks when words like ‘FBI,’ ‘Clinton’ and ‘investigation’ appear in the same headline, even if there’s more smoke than fire to the case. But as more information about the case has come to light, the implications seem less severe for Clinton than they did at first.