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The Sunday Political Brunch—October 30, 2016

Sunday, October 30, 2016


There are ten days left in Campaign 2016, and this is basically “do-or-die” time in every race from President of the United States on down to town dog catcher. Races can be won or lost in the final days, but the stars must align. Let’s “brunch” on that this week:

“Reagan V. Carter 1980” – Polls in the final weeks of Campaign 2016 have varied quite a bit, but all except two have Hillary Clinton beating Donald Trump by anywhere from one to twelve points. Can that kind of trend be overcome? Yes! On October 26, 1980, President Jimmy Carter led Governor Ronald Reagan 47 percent to 39 percent. Two days later and one week before the election, Reagan and Carter held their only debate. On Election Day, Reagan won in a landslide. So the answer is "Yes; it’s possible, but it’s a challenge."

“1980 Versus 2016” – As a practical matter, it is difficult to compare polling techniques that are 36 years apart. We certainly did not have today’s computer technology back in 1980. On the other hand, we did not have today’s cell phone technology (which makes it easier to avoid pollsters) in 1980. I wonder how truly accurate our samples are today, when many people (including me) have no landlines in their homes and have cell numbers that are unpublished. That said, polling data in the past two Presidential election cycles was – on balance – pretty accurate.

“Brinkley on Reagan” – It’s important to remember that in 1980 most everyone in the media did not see Reagan’s last minute turnaround and landslide coming. The late, great news anchor David Brinkley said on NBC News that night: “I'd like to ask a question of you folks. We have here what I think reasonably could be called a landslide, or certainly something approaching a landslide. Where did it come from? Nobody anticipated it. No polls predicted it. No one saw it coming. How did that happen?” Brinkley speculated that many people may not have wanted to admit to pollsters that they were for Reagan. Could there be a similar “Trump effect?” I doubt it, but stay tuned. Remember that in 1980 Reagan crushed Carter in the debate. It was devastating to the incumbent. You can’t draw a parallel to the debates in 2016.

“RCP” – I like the Real Clear Politics composite poll. Basically, it is just a rolling average of all media and academic polls; and - while the average is not scientific – it does give you a good snapshot of all prominent polls conducted with a social science discipline. Wednesday night the RCP poll had Hilary Clinton with a 5.4 percent lead over Donald Trump, up from a 4.4 percent lead earlier in the day. A sampling of some polls include: The Los Angeles Times/USC Poll, which had Trump up by one point, and the Fox News Poll, which had Clinton up by five points.

“Why the Poll Disparity?” – Poll results are often influenced by two key factors - how you take the sample and how you ask the question. If - in drawing the sample - I simply ask potential voters: “Are you a registered voter?” I would have a very poor sample. Why? Well, in most elections, 50 percent (or fewer) of those registered even bother to vote. But, if I ask, “Did you vote for President in 2012, 2008, and 2004?” and the answer to all three is "yes," I have now found a “likely voter.” Voting behavior is a better predictor than simply being registered. Once I determine whether you are a likely voter, then asking you, “For whom will you vote, Clinton or Trump?” is far more pointed and precise than “Would you ever consider voting for Donald Trump?”

“Trump’s Ten-Day Strategy” – With ten days to go – and no more debates – it’s harder to move the needle, but it can be done. If I were Trump, I would contact all major networks and even some minor networks and buy a half-hour of prime TV time on Sunday, November 6. He has the money, so why not? He needs to sit at a desk in an Oval Office-type setting, to look straight into the camera and to talk for thirty minutes about his plans for the United States. His talk needs to be straight and sober – with no name-calling – and to lay out his plans with justifications. It’s his last, best shot.

“Clinton’s Ten-Day Strategy” – I am very uncomfortable with using kids as political props, but has anyone ever seen Hillary's grandchildren? Look, everyone loves babies, so why not walk out out with Bill, along with Chelsea, Marc, and their children? Hillary as a grandma could send a powerful message about caring for the next generation of Americans. You’d have to be careful about how you orchestrate the photo-op, but it could be done. Hillary Clinton’s biggest drawback is that she appears cold, calculating, and unlikeable. People love grandmas; it could be endearing. Yes, tout your vast resume, but show your heart, too.

“Third Parties” – The third-party effort in the race continues to fade. At one time, I thought the combined total of Libertarian Gary Johnson and Green Jill Stein could reach 20 percent. It reached as high as 18 percent, but has waned. In the latest Real Clear Politics composite poll, Johnson is at 5.8 percent with Stein at 2.0. Their combined 7.8 percent hurts Clinton slightly more than Trump, but not enough to change the outcome of the election.

“Early Voting” – One thing we did not have in the Carter-Reagan election in 1980, was early voting. Depending on the day this week, as many as 37 states are participating in early voting. That prevents a significant number of voters being able to change their minds at the last minute. I heard on the radio this week – and it’s just anecdotal – that “90 percent of the advertising money is spent after 20 percent of people have voted.” I doubt the amount is as high as 90 percent, but the line is well noted. A lot of people cast their ballots early, and their minds can’t be changed by a barrage of last-minute ads.

Did you vote early, and why? Just click the comment button at http://www.MarkCurtisMedia.com.


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