The ever-changing mood of FBI Director James Comey (and everyone’s overreaction to it) has made it more difficult to accurately predict exactly how tomorrow’s unprecedentedly bizarre campaign will end. However, I feel compelled to at least give it a shot. The day before the last presidential election I did a better job of predicting the outcome than just about any other conservative.
Here is how I currently see this year’s script playing out…
As usual, the day will begin with everyone exaggerating the impact of at least a couple of polls which get released at the last second, probably by less than reputable pollsters looking for publicity, and which seem to contradict the conventional wisdom. These should probably be ignored, but, of course, they won’t be.
There will also be crazy stories, birthed in the bowels of the Internet, claiming evidence of some form of voter fraud or intimidation. Again, these tales, no matter what Matt Drudge tells you, will, at best be irrelevant, and at worst will be total bullcrap. Trump being Trump, I would be surprised if there was not at least some legal saber-rattling, maneuvering, and least a few motions filed because of some alleged transgressions.
Speaking of the Drudge Report, I am quite confident that photos of nearly empty polling places in the black sections of Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida, and North Carolina will be prominently displayed there. The formerly respected/conservative website will do this to play off the narrative that the black vote just isn’t turning out for Hillary. We won’t really know if this is actually true, but inner-city blacks are by far the easiest voting block to identify by geography, so that is why it will be so easy to create this provocative impression, even if it is completely false (as if THAT matters at all anymore!).
Later, we will get preliminary and fragmented reports about the exit polls. My expectation is that three questions in particular will get a lot (too much) analysis while we all have nothing better to do than react to shadows. I predict there will be strong majorities of voters in the exit polls who will say: they want change, the country is on the wrong track, and that they are concerned about the FBI investigation of Hillary Clinton’s emails.
In response to all of this, I expect that many liberals will be freaking out in near total panic, especially since their false hero Nate Silver (who was catastrophically wrong about the primaries) has already shown that he is very prone to wetting his pants in alarm during this general election, and won’t be there to hold their hand. This will all be a lot like what happened to supporters of President George Bush during Election Day 2004 when John Kerry was deemed to be the sure winner.
Then we will finally start to get some real results. It will not be an early evening, but we will know a lot in those first two hours after the polls finally close on the east coast.
The first states to look at closely will be Maine, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Ohio, North Carolina, Georgia, and Florida. The only states Trump can lose and still realistically get to 270 Electoral College votes are Maine (he’s really only hoping to win one, potentially critical, congressional district there, but it would be telling if he did) and maybe Pennsylvania. Don’t be surprised if there is also a lot of attention placed on Virginia early in the evening because the way they count their votes virtually guarantees that Trump will appear to be ahead early before the avalanche of Northern Virginia votes finally comes in like a liberal cavalry to save the day for the Democrat. A similar phenomenon might also be at play in Pennsylvania and New Hampshire.
New Hampshire, though it is one of smallest of the states, might also, oddly, be one the most important in the early batch. Unless there is a complete breakdown in polling and a total “post-Comey” collapse in Clinton’s support, there are almost no paths to the magic 270 for Trump which don’t include the Granite State. Until the last few days, winning the state once known for its slogan of “Live Free, or Die!” was thought to be an impossible task for the GOP candidate not exactly known for being friendly to libertarian concepts.
However, the polls there are now basically tied but with a VERY high number of undecided voters. I still think it is a real stretch to think that there will be a strong movement towards Trump at the very end in a state like New Hampshire. However, if there is, it will be the first real sign that we are headed for a Bush/Gore-like (or at least Bush/Kerry) finish, and that Trump could very well literally shock the world.
Trump must then win all of the four initial “kill shot” states (Ohio, North Carolina, Georgia and Florida) in order to stay alive. A loss in any of those means certain defeat. I think his toughest “get” will be Florida, which has gone twice for Obama and where their former GOP governor Jeb Bush and current GOP senator Marco Rubio have both expressed great antipathy towards Trump. Florida being a very large and extremely diverse state would seem to play into Hillary’s hands based on her far stronger organization, so I expect her to pull this out in the end. However, for a variety of reasons (2000, duh!) I anticipate the networks being extremely reluctant to call the state until very late and this will maintain the perception that Trump is still very much in the game, regardless of the reality.
Assuming Trump wins/survives all four of these “kill shot” states (at best, there’s about a 1/5 chance of that), then the focus will immediately turn to Iowa, Michigan, Colorado, Arizona, and Nevada. Barring something rather amazing happening elsewhere, Trump must win at least four out of five of these states to pull off the miracle.
Iowa seems like the surest bet for Trump right now, which is strange considering that if only about 2,500 more Iowans had decided to stay home rather than vote for him in the caucus earlier this year (and he finishes third behind a surging Marco Rubio), I seriously doubt Trump is even the GOP nominee. However, it is clear through the years that Iowans simply do not like the Clintons. Unless the pollsters are all covering their asses by overestimating Trump’s support (possible), then Trump will win Iowa.
Colorado and Michigan are probably the only states (other than maybe New Hampshire) which provide Trump a legitimate chance to strike a possibly fatal blow to Hillary’s campaign. She has had a strong leads in both states up until the first Comey letter.
If blacks turn out to vote, Trump cannot win Michigan. Similarly, the growing Hispanic population in Colorado along with its base of educated white votes is also not seen as fertile ground on which Trump’s appeal can easily grow. If there is going to a “shock the world” moment on election night, it would be caused by Trump winning Michigan or Colorado. While certainly possible, I think this is a relative longshot (1/4?) for him to win either of them. If he wins both (1/8) then he is a heavy favorite to win the presidency, unless he has lost Florida in the process.
If Trump does pull an “Ace” in Michigan or Colorado, then he might be able to win the election with just Arizona and Nevada. I am willing to give Trump Arizona in this scenario because, if he somehow wins Michigan or Colorado, then he will surely be victorious there.
This would theoretically leave Hillary needing to win Nevada to fight off the Trump upset at the very last moment. While a Trump win in Colorado, for instance, might also foretell a Trump victory in Nevada, the Democratic machine is much stronger there in the gambling Mecca. Early voting results have indicated that the race is on exactly the same trajectory in Nevada as it was in 2012 when Romney lost the state by a decent margin. It would be so classically nuts for this insane campaign to end with Trump officially losing when the state most known for its casinos is finally called. I see this scenario as quite possible.
There is also at least one logical scenarios where, if Trump is having a tremendous run, Hillary’s last chance would be to somehow at least keep Trump from winning Utah. There have been several polls showing Utah very tight as conservative Evan McMullin (for whom I voted as a write-in in California) gained momentum. However, that was when it was perceived that Trump was effectively out of the race. I think Trump will get enough Republicans to come home at the last minute to save the state (though, if there was a way to do it effectively/quietly, the Hillary campaign might be smart to have their people vote for McMullin as a very last line of desperation defense).
After all of that, there would then be at least some question about how Alaska would vote. Usually a GOP stronghold, there have been polls there with Hillary leading (which have been strangely ignored) and Trump’s vote totals as anemic. Apparently the Eskimo tribes have as much disdain for Trump as the Mormons do. I also think Sarah Palin being so closely associated with Trump now hurts him there and Alaska, given its extreme distrust of the federal government, might be the state least likely to be impacted by the Comey letters. I can (1/3 chance?) see Alaska voting for Hillary, which would essentially erase a loss by her in New Hampshire.
The bottom line here is that I am still confident that Hillary will win, simply because there are so many more ways for her to get to 270 votes. I also still think there is a reasonable chance that the final Electoral College tally is that not close at all. Obviously if Trump pulls out very tight wins in Ohio, North Carolina, and Florida, we are looking at remarkably few votes dictating the final score which will be perceived as super close, as opposed to a relative blowout. Trump will get anywhere from 161 to 295 Electoral College votes. My guess is that the final tally will be 322-216 Clinton (340-198 if she wins Ohio) with a 49%-45% popular vote margin.
Much of what happens after all of the votes are finally cast will be entirely dictated by perception rather than reality. In fact, I strongly believe what time of night/morning the networks finally call the election is at least as significant as what the final vote tallies are. This is where I think circumstances will likely play right into Trump’s hands and could end up causing quite a few post-election problems for the country.
Unless it is somehow a total rout, the networks will undoubtedly be giving the very strong impression early in the night that Trump could really pull this off. This will happen because: they obviously have a very vested interest in creating drama, the prospect of a Trump win would be such a breath-taking spectacle that inherently any discussion of it will seem like a sign that it is actually in the process of happening, and the nature of Trump’s vote is so unpredictable that I think it highly likely that we will see situations where the Clinton people are urging news organizations to call a state race well before they are finally willing to do so.
Unless Trump loses at least one of the “kill shot” states, I do not expect him to make a concession speech on Tuesday night or even early Wednesday morning. There is simply no reason for him to do so. He doesn’t care at all about the notion of election uncertainty being bad for the country, or even the world. All Trump cares about is himself, and waiting until at least the next day allows him the largest possible audience as well as cementing the perception that this was a really close election.
This, of course, would likely also play right into his hand with regard to creating an “election was rigged” narrative. He would love to be able to claim that “you went to bed last night thinking that I won and then they stole it overnight.” Under that scenario, his most rabid supporters are perfectly primed for the advent of Trump TV or whatever other venture he conjures up in order to monetize this colossal scam which he has perpetrated (with the help of the very media he claims was part of the conspiracy) on this once great nation.
It will be very interesting to see how Hillary handles this scenario should it come to fruition. I think there is a pretty decent chance we could see the first presidential election in our history end with a victory speech coming before a “concession,” which would then probably never come in any meaningful way.
As I have been saying for weeks, all the most powerful players in this melodrama (Hillary, Trump, both political parties, and the news media) would all be quite content with this sort of outcome, so it should not be surprising when something like this actually transpires. That fact that it will all be horrible for the country is, pathetically, not really even a consideration.
This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.