Polls at the national (not state) level have tightened enough to suggest to some that America’s Hitler might have a shot at the White House. Not surprisingly, this has spawned a minor panic.
Every wager is a balance between stakes and odds. The odds of Trump winning this election remain about as close to zero as is statistically possible for a major party nominee. However, the stakes are high enough that few people will relax before next Wednesday morning. To understand why the odds are so low even as the polling numbers seem to tighten, here are a few key charts.
First, compare the RealClearPolitics polling averages in the 2012 Election against what we’re seeing in 2016.
In both charts, what looks like a late surge is just reversion to the mean. Follow the trendline and you’ll see a race that remains steady, exactly where it’s been from the beginning, with Clinton holding a steady lead much larger than Obama’s 2012 advantage. In both elections there was a consolidation toward the end as fewer people identified as “undecided,” but as in 2012 they are breaking along a predictable pattern consistent with their demographics. Those demographics create the Blue Wall that is so devastating for the Republican Party.
The rest of the story is apparent from state level polls. This is what the map looks like today.
States in which the Republican candidate has little or no credible shot equal 270 Electoral Votes. Ignore the hype about Nevada. Having a white nationalist stir up the Bundy brothers out in the desert is not going to produce a better Republican outcome in Nevada than we saw in 2012.
While failing to move Pennsylvania and Colorado, Trump has to find a way to avoid a loss in previous Republican strongholds like Arizona, Utah, Georgia and even Alaska. By some magic, Trump has to sweep every single state which remains close. Then he has to somehow flip a state in which he is trailing by a significant margin and suffers from crippling weaknesses in his ground game. It isn’t going to happen.
At the end of the day, there simply aren’t enough racist idiots in places like Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Colorado to open up a path for a Republican to win the White House. This is a math problem, the same math problem we’ve been staring at for a decade. The numbers haven’t changed, but you know how Republicans are about math.
The most depressing message from this election is not that Trump might win. He won’t. What’s truly frightening is that very few Republicans are peeling away from their 2012 voting patterns. The most abhorrent political figure to rise from our political system, perhaps ever, will inspire a decline in internal Republican support of only about 3-4 percentage points. That tells a terrible story about the weakness of conscience in the face of group pressure. It is a reminder that “it can’t happen here” is a myth.
Trump will lose, but he has spawned a monster. That monster won’t go away on November 9th.