Only 37 days left. Man, for how long did it feel like it would never get here, and here we are literally on the doorstep. Mail in balloting is chugging along, and more states are opening up for early, in person voting. The decision is already being rendered.
And right now, it looks more and more like Trump’s confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett as his third Supreme Court justice may well be the GOP’s last hurrah. Because current polling is starting to suggest that we may be on the road to another blue wave in this election as well. There are two reasons why I say this. And while neither is a precise, purely mathematical formula, both are time honored, battle tested axioms of politics that almost always ring true. We’ll take them one at a time.
Incumbency – Leaving Trump aside, there are an almost stunning number of GOP Senate incumbents that are in mortal peril this year. Because here we are, 37 days out from election day, and none of then are at 50% in polling. Which is terrible, because it takes 50% to win a head to head election. If you’re sitting at 46-44, your opponent doesn’t need to peel off any of your voters, he or she only has to convince enough remaining voters to vote for them to overtake you. And it’s always easier to convince someone to vote than to switch. When’s the last time someone convinced you to change your mind about an opinion you had.
Incumbency has its blessings, but it also has its curses. Namely among them name recognition and record. If you’re an incumbent, and you’re at 46%, you’re in the hurt locker. Mainly because if people were going to be voting for you, they’d already be polling that they’re voting for you! They don’t have to hear anything from you, they know who you are, and they know your record. They have looked at your words, and your record, and found them wanting.
Anybody who isn’t already voting for an incumbent at this point in the race isn’t looking for a reason to cote for them, they’re looking for a reason to vote for the other guy. They just haven’t closed the deal yet. But if they look long and hard enough, they’ll find a reason. That’s why exit polling almost always shows that late remaining voters, those who made up their mind in the last 30 days, vote in multiples for the challenger. If you’re an incumbent up 46-44 right now, you are probably going to lose that race by 3-4 points. We’ll use Hillary as a pseudo example. Consider her the incumbent, since the Democrats controlled the White House, and people are squeamish about giving a single party a 3rd term. Clinton was comfortably ahead in final polling by 2.5-3.6 points, yet exit polling showed that late deciders broke hard for trump.
Independents – There are fewer and fewer true independents out there these days, but boy, are they a handful! For while a sizeable chunk of the electorate officially call themselves independents, the vast majority of them are largely sympathetic to one party or the other, but for whatever reason, choose not to be officially affiliated with them. But there are still some out there.
And they spell trouble for incumbents. Their battle cry tends to be Throw the bums out! Traditionally, they don’t like either side. That’s why it’s almost universally accepted logic that the party controlling the White House loses seats in congress in the first mid terms. If the independents didn’t vote for them the first time around, they sure as shit aren’t going to this time, and if they did vote for them, they will almost always have fallen short of expectations. National presidential polling shows Trump struggling mightily with independent voters, and I’m betting that if I could get my hands on some cross tabs for Senate races, I’d find the same thing.
That’s the real problem here. For the last four years, the GOP hasn’t done a damn thing to make a single person who didn’t vote for them in 2016 want to vote for them now. In fact, they’ve done everything in their power to drive all but the most rabid Trump voters away. There aren’t all that many truly undecided voters left out there, but the one who are, have no reason to pull a switch for Trump.
And now a brief plea on a personal level. My heart sings every time I see all of those long lines for early in person voting on television. Those ain’t Trump voters standing there, and we know that because the Trump voters are mobbed up on the other side of the street, shouting and waving signs. If you are comfortable with voting early in person, please do so. Teri and I are planning on voting at the Galleria mall on the first midweek day of in person voting.
If you receive your ballot through the mail and fill it out, if your state has direct drop off available, either at a polling place, other easily accessible place, or secure drop boxed, please do it. The reason is simple. Only ballots postmarked by the post office for return are considered mail in ballot, which likely will not be counted on election night. All forms of mail in ballots returned by another method are considered by most states as early in person balloting, since they were turned in by hand, and will be counted with the election day ballots.
This is critical, because a large part of Trump’s election night strategy is to be able to show a lead in important swing states, declare himself the winner, and aver that all ballots counted from that point on are invalid. Using early person voting, and returning mail in ballots so that they are counted on election night could strip him of that advantage.