As I tried to explain over the weekend, there is an empirical case for the possibility that Donald Trump can yet win this presidential election. Indeed, as Nate Silver observed today, there is even a bit of a polling trend in his favor, though that could be the product of a recent dearth in the sort of highly reputable, live-interview surveys in which Trump tends to do poorly.
But what should not be taken seriously as evidence the mogul can win are the sort of subjective, even mystical reads on the election that are currently emanating from GOP circles. As with the bizarre “unskewing the polls” effort made by some Republicans four years ago, these are usually signs of losers trying to obfuscate matters.
Heather Higgins, of the anti-feminist Independent Women’s Voice, offers a classic of the genre at (ironically, given its #NeverTrump credentials) National Review. She offers five of what we might loosely call “reasons” she believes Trump will win. With the exception of the fifth — it’s still early enough for things to change, which is true — they all sound like wish-fulfillment mumbo jumbo rather than evidence.
Reason one, according to Higgins, is that it “feels” to her like 1980 or 1994. You’d think after the massive overuse of the 1980 analogy by Republicans in 2012 they’d be wary of offering it up all over again. But at least then there was an arguable historical analogy at play, with a controversial first-term Democratic president fighting to hold on after a bad midterm. That someone who probably spends most of her time associating with other Republicans has that winning feeling again is psychologically interesting, but not very persuasive. And that leads to Higgins’s second dubious talking point: Republicans she talks to are going to vote for Trump. That’s not very distinguishable from her fourth talking point, which is a prediction Republicans who backed other candidates in the primaries will return to the Auld Faith. The third is one we have all heard again and again: Nobody originally thought Trump would win the GOP nomination, but he did, didn’t he?
Yeah, well, but the polls during the primaries pretty closely tracked and in some cases overstated Trump’s unlikely rise to become the front-runner and then the nominee. So again: This is no reason to ignore the polls showing a big uphill climb for the tycoon. If the polling problem persists, at some point you’d half-expect pro-Trump gabbers to make the sort of argument Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan resorted to just before the 2012 elections: The yard signs showed a GOP surge the polls did not pick up.
As conservative #NeverTrumper Erick Erickson now admits, ignoring objective indicators has become a bad habit for Republicans: “How many more elections must Republicans go before they realize there is no grand conspiracy of pollsters and telling the truth is not helping Democrats, but just telling truth?”
Right now I would say my own subjective prediction on the elections tilts more pro-Clinton every time I read one of these odes to Trump’s hidden majority or psychological edge. And if Clinton supporters respond with vague talk about the “mood of America” or why in the abstract voters should prefer their candidate, they, too, are just blowing smoke.