In politics discerning good news from bad is often more difficult than it initially appears. This week polling showed that the race between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump may be tightening just a bit. The first reaction would be to say that is bad news for Hillary. Let’s explore and I bet I can get you to rethink that.
First off a tightening is the normal course of events and, as I wrote about the other day, just how pollsters determine likely voters has a lot to do with the polling results. Obviously leading by a large margin is preferable to a close contest. In basketball it was easier (although sometimes sub-consciously more difficult) to coach late in the game with a 20 point lead than with a 2 point lead. If you accept my theory of almost two years that 2016 would eventually hinge on turnout, the perception of the race tightening is not so bad after all.
The biggest fear the Clinton campaign should have is that their voters feel it’s a blowout and stay home. Political pros realize that a lot of voters (especially Democratic leaning voters) don’t pay attention to down ballot races and make their decision of whether or not to show up based on if they feel their vote is needed for their candidate to win the presidency. That is a large part of why Democrats do so poorly in mid-term elections; too many of their voters sit home.
Now couple that theory with my theory that Americans tend to vote against candidates and issues more than vote for them. Most Americans rightfully fear a Trump presidency. By the way that opinion holds almost worldwide with the notable exception of in Russia.
Suddenly the idea – stoked by a ratings motivated, for-profit media – that the election will be close actually plays into the Clinton campaign’s hand. They have to be at or near the point where they are shifting into almost exclusive get out the vote (GOTV) mode. This scare dovetails well with the superior ground game the Clinton campaign has. The most glaring example is in Florida, the biggest prize among swing states. The Trump campaign has only one field office and the Clinton campaign has 51. It takes sneakers on the ground knocking on doors and people at phone banks calling voters to generate turnout. You don’t recruit those troops without a solid field operation.
It may be a sad commentary on American voters but scaring them a bit may be just the stimulus it takes to get enough of them to show up to save America this November.
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