Why Is It So Close?

I still expect Clinton to win in November, but I confess I’m surprised the contest is as close as it is right now. Tomorrow’s debate could really matter.

So the question is, why is it so close? Just looking at the Clinton side, here are some possible factors, tossed out off the top of my head —

1. Clinton was never as popular with the Dem voting base as party elites assumed. Over the past few years I heard many bobbleheads on the teevee claim that Hillary Clinton was wildly popular with the base. This notion was placed in their heads, I assume, by the same Democratic Party elites who chose Clinton as the nominee before the primaries had started. But while there were polls taken in 2014 and early 2015 showing that a majority of Democrats would vote for her, I never saw much enthusiasm for her here in Real World Land. Her success in polls was merely a name recognition thing, I suspect. She was getting the same results in 2006 and 2007, BTW.

The way she won the primaries didn’t help her. IMO the primaries usually provide the eventual winner with a pool of supporters whose enthusiasm was whipped up by the primary fight itself. But my sense of things is that while Clinton still has her devoted core supporters who will stand by her through thick and thin, her primary campaign didn’t whip up any enthusiasm among those who weren’t already Hillaryphiles to begin with. Many people voted for her out of duty and because they weren’t sold on the electability of her only rival, the old socialist guy.

2. She’s not getting an expected boost among nonwhite voters. Nate Cohn writes that “Mrs. Clinton is not poised to match the gains Mr. Obama made among nonwhite voters over previous Democratic nominees,” he said.  Put another way, her support among blacks and Latinos was overrated and will not give her the boost in the general that she expected.

3. News Media and false equivalency. Do I have to spell this out? Trump isn’t being vetted in the part of national media that most voters actually see. Clinton, on the other hand, can’t catch a break.

4. The Two Third-Party Challengers. I’m not sure this is really much of a factor, especially the challenge coming from Stein. If it comes down to a very close election in November it might be a factor, however.

5. Independent voters could break either way. The only people who really like Clinton are true blue Dem Party loyalists. Among left-leaning independents, she’s kind of “meh,” if not downright disliked. I don’t think Trump is having the same problem with right-leaning independents.

6. Related to #5 — Trump probably is benefiting from widespread dislike of Clinton. Justified or not, a large portion of Americans genuinely hate Hillary Clinton. I suspect there are a lot of people planning to vote for Trump who wouldn’t consider him if anyone else were the Dem nominee. So while Clinton probably will get some crossover Republican votes, those will be more than offset by anybody-but Clinton voters.

7. Misogyny. I don’t think this is a big a factor as Hillary supporters believe, but it is marginal factor, I’m sure.

8. Young people will sit out this election. She’s not getting the support from younger voters that Obama got. They are less likely to be frightened by Trump and also less likely to vote for someone just because they have a D after their name. She has to give them a reason to vote for her, and so far she hasn’t.

Of course, the other part of this equation is, why are so many people planning to vote for Trump? I’ll cover that in another post.

17 thoughts on “Why Is It So Close?

  1. Hal Meyerson recently wrote Vote for Johnson, elect Trump. Clinton’s youth turnout problem and what Tom Steyer can do about it. It’s about millennials voting Libertarian and against their own interests.

    HIllary Clinton’s in trouble with the young. It’s not that they’re flocking to Donald Trump, who trails her in every poll of millennial voters. Instead, she’s losing their allegiance to Libertarian Party nominee Gary Johnson.

    The oddity — and potentially, the tragedy — of all this is that many young Americans’ defining beliefs are dismissed or opposed by libertarians generally and Johnson in particular…

  2. Barbara, there’s no sizzle in the Hillary steak. She’s all we have, but we’re going all black tie for a hotdog.

  3. Clinton herself would have been better served had the party not openly championed her ahead of the primaries as they did, not just as the presumptive nominee, but also the next president. The primaries should have been a true open competition, without party bias for Clinton or any candidate. Had Clinton emerged from that as the winner, and there’s a chance she might not have, she would have been in a much stronger position with likely dem voters at this point. As well as having been “battle hardened” and thus better prepared to take on the GOP nominee, whoever that would have been.

    But aside from the media engaging in its usual false equivalence, “who best to have a beer with” coverage, Clinton made a mistake in coasting too long with the strategy of sitting back and letting Trump beat himself up, as opposed to campaigning hard on policies and reasons *why* voters should choose her.

    Hillary loyalists don’t like to hear it, but with both candidates having the highest negatives ever, this is seen by many as a lesser of evils election. Which meant from the outset that Clinton had to sell voters on the positive aspects of what a Clinton presidency would mean to them. Instead, she’s focused almost exclusively in nit-picking detail (and again, the media has helped this along) on why Trump is bad for the country, and a focus on giving voters reasons to vote against Trump, vs voting for her. But its clear, given how the media covers the race and covers Trump in particular, an almost exclusive focus on Trump is not enough. You’ve get to sell — ask the voters for your vote and tell them why.

    I am truly puzzled that the historic potential of this election hasn’t generated more excitement, as it did for Obama in 2008. Then people were excited about electing the first African American president, and many came out in part to vote for him to be a part of history by voting for him. You don’t see the same thing happening with Clinton as potentially the first woman president.

    • csm — Nice analysis. And I also have asked myself why I’m not even slightly excited by the first woman president, but I’m not. For some reason, this means absolutely nothing to me. If it were another woman I think I would care more about it, but as it is, I don’t.

  4. I’ve concluded that the only thing that will matter from Monday night’s debate is whether Trump the bully will be stopped. Facts be damned, will he succeed in dominating HRC? in this exchange? Will the moderator salvage what’s left of journalism in this country and call Trump on his lies?

    Because if this doesn’t happen, he’s won the debate and probably the election.

  5. Cook Political Report is widely respected.


    Who says it’s close? Yes, the popular vote is much closer than it should be but for the presidential race, we have reverse gerrymandering which helps democrats. Thus, Trump is going to garner 90% in bright red states and lose in NY CA VA, and I predict, FL. He may only lose in those states by a few points, but in the electoral college, it’s winner-take-all.

    In terms of politics, will a close general election in November make Clinton nervous about policies which will further divide Democrats in 2020? I don’t know, but politicians are driven by fear usually, and Clinton is not getting the mandate she wanted. That might be a good thing.

  6. i see the misogyny jar near you.

    Can you pass it to me?

    Oh, look!
    There’s enough poison here to kill me!

    May I have a spoon and some tea?
    Thank yo…………………………..

  7. I think the major (ie., more than 50%) part of the reason is the media coverage. We see this in the fact that people think Trump is more honest than Clinton, when the fact checkers show Clinton is nearly as honest as Obama and slightly ahead of Bernie. Trump far behind, rather obviously. There’s also the different coverage of the Clintons’ foundation and Trump’s foundation. This seems to be partly media laziness, partly that over the years they’ve not just given up the idea they should fact check but actively fought that idea, and partly that they want a race and if they did their job that wouldn’t be happening.

    What Clinton can do about this I don’t know.

  8. This link is to a comedy, but, it gives us a glimpse at Gary Johnson’s competition for the nomination. Take it for what it is worth.

    I saw a video made by a very bright young woman that explained what HRC would have to do to win her vote. The woman presented herself as a progressive feminist, and I have no reason to doubt her. Her demands were generally things that we would probably all like to see, but, which most of us would see as more long term goals.

    The downside is that if people like her vote Green, and Trump gets elected, she may well “repent at leisure.” But, as a young, intelligent, well educated person, she would still have a fairly bright future. She would not be among the most vulnerable, and for the most vulnerable, the effects could well be horrific.


  9. I think it’s really hard for honest, informed, insightful, caring intelligent people to know what it’s like to live life as an american airhead bimbo. I’d think for starters you’d have to get really drunk. Then hit your head with a brick. Then maybe, we’d be better at understand these swing voters and why they think the way they do.

  10. Nobody mentions the need for CHANGE!
    The middle and working classes are desperate for anything that isn’t more of the same. There isn’t enough daylight between these two candidates on core economic issues to move the country to the LEFT. That’s where it needs to go before anyone in the 99% will see any relief to soaring inequality, stagnant wages and high REAL unemployment.

  11. Here you go:


    What Gelman says here is true; this was always going to be a close election (at least in the popular vote). The economy is not great, people approve of Obama because they don’t like Hillary and Trump, this is a third term election for the Dems, and she’s a woman.

    Good news = most of the “fundamentals” models have her winning albeit by different amounts. But it most definitely isn’t due to media coverage, especially this close to the election.

  12. “Nobody mentions the need for CHANGE!”

    Oh, I like that word “CHANGE”! The citizens of Hiroshima in 1945 got their fill of CHANGE, all right, whether they wanted it or not. Now, I’m a conservative guy, and I distrust CHANGE, since all too often, CHANGE for the sake of CHANGE seems to give absolutely horrific results. The people who so desperately want CHANGE just seem to assume that any CHANGE will be a CHANGE for the better. I’m not sure whether this is more NAIVE or IGNORANT, but it does seem to fly in the face of human history. Me, I like small-c change; change that comes more gradually, and with less fascism, but then I’ve read a little bit of history, and I know a little bit about the World Wars and other massive societal upheavals that were caused by and resulted in CHANGE. I try not to be too impatient, as impatience seems to lead to bad mistakes.

    • There’s change, and then there’s other change. If you need an example of someone who was too cautious when change was required, see Herbert Hoover. Now we’re in a long period of political stagnation, and economic stagnation for many, and clinging to the status quo is suicidal. The status quo cannot be sustained. But I agree that change for the sake of change can be disastrous, and Chairman Mao is a good example of exactly that.

  13. JphnR,
    Mao also brought plenty of CHANGE to China.
    And no one knows how many tens (or maybe hundreds) of millions of people died.
    But, it was, CHANGE!, after all!
    YAY, CHANGE!!! (Sarcasm alert…)

  14. I’m not sure whether this is more NAIVE or IGNORANT, but it does seem to fly in the face of human history.

    It’s more a case of being blinded by anger, hate and racism. And speaking of faces..Mom used to say: “Don’t cut off your nose to spite your face” And that is essentially what Trump supporters are doing by abdicating their responsibility as citizens. Let big daddy bag of shit Trump offer mindless solutions to complex problems so all their fears and insecurities can drift away. Yeah, right. Law and Order on day one, and the lion shall lay down with the lamb. “You won’t even believe it”, it’ll so good! Believe me.

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