By Frank J Biga III -
Just a few short weeks ago, Donald Trump’s campaign for the Presidency was written off for dead by many. Hillary Clinton, after her well-choreographed convention and a few stumbles by Mr. Trump, was winning in some polls by 11 points. All of the battleground states, with few exceptions, were showing HRC with a small but consistent lead. Even a few generally Republican leaning states like Arizona and Georgia were dead heats or even had Hillary leading in some polls. Fear had gripped the GOP that not only would Trump lose big but the Senate could be written off and even the House majority was potentially in danger.
But my, oh my, how things have changed in just a few short weeks! Trump has been showing consistent leads in Iowa, Ohio and Florida and if this pattern can hold, he only needs to pick off a few more of the battleground states and he will win the Presidency. But polls in other states indicate Trump has gained ground. In Nevada he has been up in many polls. Virginia is tightening significantly, mirroring the 2014 Senate race by Ed Gillespie. Pennsylvania is within striking distance, as is Michigan. One poll by Emerson in Colorado the other day had Trump up 4. The GOP bigwigs in WI are doing everything in their power to put Cheeseland into the GOP fold. Trump even has a chance in Oregon and Minnesota.
Of course, I do not think Trump will win in minimalist fashion eking out barely 270 electoral votes. I think the evidence indicates that this is a “change election” and he will win handily. The above battleground states will fall like dominoes on November 8. If Trump wins all the states Romney won and then adds NH, FL, OH, IA, WI, MI, PA, VA, NV and CO he will win with 337 electoral votes. This may not come to full fruition, but I think this will be pretty close to the final result.
So, Trump will not be threading the needle on election night. Rather, he needs to, and has always needed to, thread the needle from his convention in July until late October, when the above results will become a fait accompli that nothing can be done about.
If Trump had sustained his lead coming out of his convention in July, although it might have made many of us feel better about the coming election, it would also have crystallized for the opposition in an early and decisive fashion that this was the mother of all battles. Trump would not be able to win a frontal assault. The Republicans are and have been outnumbered in this country since 1932. A stealthy and subterranean effort was needed - a scalpel, not a meat axe, a stiletto not a pike, a crossbow not a ballista are appropriate military metaphors here.
And that is exactly what is happening. Instead of fear gripping the Democratic ranks, the Democrats saw a large bump after their convention in early August and, with the generalized overconfidence that comes with having won 4 of the last 6 elections, concluded that the race was essentially over.
One consistently heard that Trump has the narrowest of paths to 270, that Trump has offended too many people to win, that Trump is behind in the traditional measurements of campaign organization. Yet one result of all this navel-gazing may in fact be that the Republicans hold an edge in voter registration drives in many of the battleground states this cycle. Ironically, it is the Democrats who are generally more organized with this sort of effort but this time the tables may have turned.
And it is often said that winning elections comes down to Oratory and Organization. Let’s face it, although Trump is sometimes bombastic and may say some things he does not need to, he has been the dynamo driving the narrative of this election. So Trump is and has been winning on Oratory. A recent poll even showed that 19% of African Americans will vote for him. This may be an outlier, but when was the last time a Republican polled above 10% in this subgroup of voters? Herbert Hoover?
But on Organization, we continue to hear the common refrain that the GOP is woefully unprepared in this regard and that the Democrats have “a superior ground game”. I have been around politics long enough to distinctly remember the Republicans made this same claim in 2006 and how Karl Rove’s efforts from 2000 and 2004 would save the GOP majority in the end. That didn’t turn out as the country went with change and elected Nancy Pelosi as Speaker.
I have also done my share of organizing and precinct walking over the years and I must say it is an overrated exercise. Most importantly would be the voter identification and registration efforts as the more allies you have in the game the better your chances. But knocking on someone’s door today in the Information Age is not that effective when someone can nod their head and tell you one thing and then go look up the candidate on the Internet. If the Democrats are counting on this to turn out their vote and win they are highly deluded. Trump is the inspiring candidate this cycle, like Obama was in 2008. Hillary is as inspiring as a piece of cardboard. And her illness, whether pneumonia or a combination of side effects from past problems, is definitely affecting her energy level. She truly is the low energy candidate.
And Trump had to deal with the most vicious and lopsided press in American history. As Michael Goodwin opined they have lost all credibility as a force for objectivity. They are as vitriolic and facile as Pravda ever was. Some of this is many in the press being guilty of static thinking. Their worldview has been ascendant their entire lives and now it is threatened. But to many of them this is merely ephemeral. How could they be so wrong? They and their political allies have the Mandate of Heaven don’t they? Sorry boys and girls. The times they are a changin'.
So, Trump, facing war on multiple fronts, had to play this game whether he deliberately planned it or not. One can not take on a majority party, the press, and hostile ingrates in his own party all at once. He needed to be a Stretch runner and win in the end. That was and is the only way. Baring a boffo performance in the debates, expect Trump to win with relative ease on November 8.