Lies, damned lies and election statistics

An unscientific attempt to correct poll-based forecasts for the November election.

I was fair to Michelangelo in my Sistine Chapel post, but misrepresented the estimable Sam Wang.
I wrote:

Sam Wang gives Hillary Clinton a poll-based 70% probability  of becoming US President, if the election were held tomorrow ..

That was wrong and I apologise. Wang’s poll-based estimate if the election were held tomorrow is 99%. The 70% is a forward-looking estimate for November, based on the polls to date plus one other piece of information: the historical variance between polling in May and results in November over the last 60 years.

This is informative, and Wang’s austere poll-based purism is a useful corrective to horse-race and economic-fundamentalist narratives. But it’s far from compelling. Wang himself writes:

But considering the upheaval in the Republican Party, a little voice tells me to open my mind to a wider range of possibilities … including a Trump win.

There is no deep reason why we should not peer behind the curtain of historical variation and use the non-polling information we have to improve on what it suggests. We skirt the impenetrable mato of statistical philosophy Brad deLong ventures into here; I hope we see him again. As normal gamblers, let’s take as the question: what reasonably foreseeable factors are capable of changing voters’ preferences for Trump or Clinton between now and the election? I score the downside risk factors unscientifically out of 100, as a prop.

1. Public characters and policy positions (or attitudes in the case of Trump): these are very well known, including Trump’s propensity to change his policies from day to day. Change risk: nil.

2. Skeletons in the closet. Clinton has been the target of more oppo research over 30 years than Jack the Ripper, with trivial results. Risk 5. Trump’s picaresque personal and business past has been far less investigated, and at first sight is full of problems. Risk 40.

3. Gaffes. The calculation and lack of spontaneity that make Clinton unattractive to many armour her comprehensively against gaffes. Her performance in the Benghazi! hearings was masterly. Risk 2. Trump’s whole shtick is to make media-worthy gaffes and then withdraw them. It appeals to his base, but alienates constituencies he needs to get elected. His casual floating of the idea of renegotiating the US national debt – that is defaulting on it – must have lost him much of Wall Street, and hundreds of millions in potential donations. The Great Wall fantasy has guaranteed total support of Clinton by Mexican-American Latinos, and may have cost him Florida by Cuban-American sympathy. We can confidently expect more of the same. Risk 90.

4. GOTV. By this I mean more than the mechanics of a ground organization, but the entire process by which a candidate crowned by a party’s activist base is recognized as okay and voteworthy by non-activist members of each tribe. Clinton has a proven campaign machine, having ditched Mark Penn and defeated a serious challenger in Sanders. She will inherit Obama’s even more effective GOTV machine; Trump will fill any deficit in enthusiasm. The centre-left policies that have caused her problems with Democratic activists are, I think, ideally matched to the non-activists, not by accident. Could Sanders’ supporters stay away on a much larger scale than supporters of previous losers in Democratic nomination contests? Possible, but I can’t see why. In contrast, Trump barely has a ground organization, his nomination campaign having been based on media manipulation. Worse, many of the positions that have roused his base are deeply unattractive to non-activist Republicans. Making the necessary bond with them will be an uphill struggle for him, maybe impossible. Risks to Clinton 5, to Trump 75.

5. Money. No change for Clinton, but it’s an issue for Trump. In Wang’s historical dataset, the Republican candidates were all able to appeal to wealthy conservatives for donations. The Kochs at least are signalling that they will sit out the presidential election and put their money into Congressional races, with the far more realistic objective of keeping a Republican House and Senate. A wider plutocrat funding strike – not certain but a real possibility – would damage Trump. Could he fill the gap with his own money? Possibly, but at some point self-preservation would win over vanity. Risk to Clinton 0, to Trump 40.

6. Media narrative. The MSM require a close race for eyeballs, and will do their best to manufacture one from straw if need be. However, if Clinton keeps a commanding lead into September say, the commentators may throw in the towel, as with late-season matches between sporting teams out of contention for the championship. In that case Trump’s tweeted provocations may not be enough to keep him in the news. The risk to the Democrats in this scenario is not to Clinton herself, but to down-ticket races where low turnout could cost congressional seats. Risk to Clinton 0, to Trump 25.

7. Assassination by a lunatic. Same low risk for both, say 2. Mainly important in the public assessment of VP picks.

8. VP pick. The CW is that a good pick adds little to a candidate’s chances, but a bad one (Palin, Eagleton, Ferraro) can lose votes. The bar is low, see Quayle. Clinton will pick somebody sane, competent, bland, and vetted, better and probably much better than Quayle. Risk 0. Anybody who Trump asks to run with him, and accepts, will be missing at least one of these characteristics, perhaps spectacularly. He asked Ben Carson to lead the search. Risk 30.

9. The economy, stupid. The current recovery in the US economy is anaemic but steady. Wages are beginning to rise. There is no inflationary spike that could lead the Fed to kill the recovery. More of the same benefits Clinton. The risks are international: the Chinese slowdown may be worsening. Trump would benefit from a crisis severe enough to halt US growth. However a full-blown international panic would benefit Clinton as a safe pair of hands. Risks 15 to Clinton, 50 to Trump.

10. Terrorist attack. To change the odds significantly, this would need to be large and on American soil. An atrocity in Syria (more video’d executions of American hostages) would not IMHO do this, lacking novelty. There is no evidence that al-Qaeda or ISIS are at present capable of mounting such an attack. ISIS’ toy caliphate is shrinking slowly on the ground, it has problems paying its fighters, and regularly loses leaders to air strikes. If there were a big attack, it would harm Clinton. Trump’s lack of any coherent strategy would not count against him in the face of a visceral patriotic reaction. Risk factor to her 10, Trump 0.

11. Black swan event. I said “reasonably foreseeable.” Clinton may have a complete breakdown during a televised debate and be carted off to mental hospital under sedation. Trump may start plagiarising Paul Krugman’s columns and policy papers from the IMF, or admit he’s in the race for the exposure and doesn’t really want the demanding and (by his standards) badly paid job. Rupert Murdoch and/or Roger Ailes may have incapacitating heart attacks. The supernova shock wave that’s been heading our way for a few centuries may arrive and flash-boil us all like lobsters as the oceans turn to superheated steam.

Adding these pseudo-numbers up, I get the total risks to Clinton 39, to Trump 352. Really the only more than marginally possible future events in my categories that he has going for him are ISIS pulling off a big atrocity and economic collapse in China, both at long odds. I don’t claim credibility for my particular numbers, just that overall we have to put a very fat thumb on the probability scales in Clinton’s favour. So her chances to a sensible bettor are more than Wang’s 70%, a lot more.

My own unscientific hunch is that the presidential election will turn boring in September. Clinton’s lead following the conventions will go firm at a roughly 10% margin and the political class will come to accept that she is sure to win. Their attention will shift to the congressional and state races, of which some are bound to be close enough for aficionados to buy tickets.

Now you may comment on the election, dear readers. What factors in Trump’s favour have I missed out? To keep some focus in the thread, let us stipulate that the candidates will be Trump and Clinton. And please try to stick to the question: what could change voters’ minds between now and November? This means ignoring the information (such as party identification, propensity to vote, and views on Obama’s record) that is already baked into current polls.

Author: James Wimberley

James Wimberley (b. 1946, an Englishman raised in the Channel Islands. three adult children) is a former career international bureaucrat with the Council of Europe in Strasbourg. His main achievements there were the Lisbon Convention on recognition of qualifications and the Kosovo law on school education. He retired in 2006 to a little white house in Andalucia, His first wife Patricia Morris died in 2009 after a long illness. He remarried in 2011. to the former Brazilian TV actress Lu Mendonça. The cat overlords are now three. I suppose I've been invited to join real scholars on the list because my skills, acquired in a decade of technical assistance work in eastern Europe, include being able to ask faux-naïf questions like the exotic Persians and Chinese of eighteenth-century philosophical fiction. So I'm quite comfortable in the role of country-cousin blogger with a European perspective. The other specialised skill I learnt was making toasts with a moral in the course of drunken Caucasian banquets. I'm open to expenses-paid offers to retell Noah the great Armenian and Columbus, the orange, and university reform in Georgia. James Wimberley's occasional publications on the web

54 thoughts on “Lies, damned lies and election statistics”

  1. A Zika pandemic explodes globally in the summer, perhaps spurred by the Rio Olympics. It gets used just like Ebola in 2014, as a focus for anxieties about foreigners and border control. This helps Trump in much the same way as a terrorist attack.

    1. Doesn't it have to be mismanaged? The Obama administration's CDC clearly handled Ebola correctly and the short-lived panic sunsided. Your pandemic has to happen 2 weeks before the election.

      1. So far Zika is looking quite a bit worse than Ebola. Ebola was never much of a threat to spread through the West, because it's spread was largely dependent on certain funeral practices, (Family washing the corpse.) that aren't common here. It was always easy to avoid transmission if you used normal Western procedures for dealing with the victims.

        Zika doesn't require you do do something that risky in order to contract it. It spreads by mosquito bite AND as an STD. It's not impossible that it could get established in American mosquito populations, and become an endemic problem here.

        And it could easily spread here as a result of the massive stupidity of holding the Olympics in an area where an active epidemic is in progress.

        However, I don't see it impacting the US elections; Even if Olympics visitors bring it to the US, and an epidemic gets started here, it would barely have time to start being a problem before the election. More likely to hit the big time next spring when the weather warms up, and the mosquitoes become active. Certainly, the first birth defects due to infected mothers, (The most politically explosive aspect of Zika.) would be showing up in 2017. Recriminations might happen, but not political effects unless the epidemic were still raging by the time the midterms came around.

        1. "Even if Olympics visitors bring it to the US, and an epidemic gets started here, it would barely have time to start being a problem before the election"

          Except Ebola never did "get started here" and that didn't hinder your buddies in the Republican Noise Machine from acting like the sky was falling, right up until the 2014 election, at which point "concern" about Ebola spontaneously evaporated.

          Everyone else here understands the point. Zika is of course a much more serious threat to the US than Ebola ever was. But Fox et al managed to weaponize the panic over Ebola in the runup to the last election.

          1. Mitch McConnell single handedly stopped the ebola epidemic the day after the election. How, you ask? Republican resolve.

            Trump can defeat zika as decisively. It'll be great!

      2. 2014 was a Republican blowout. I may be misremembering, but I recall the panic subsiding essentially the morning after the election.

  2. Another low-probability, black-swan risk to Clinton: Bernie Sanders goes completely off the rails, becomes convinced that he was robbed of the nomination, and urges his supporters to make trouble at the Philadelphia convention. The convention chaos that we were thinking might happen to the Republicans instead happens to the Democrats, with riot police beating on delegates on TV.

    1. I don't think it requires going off the rails to think that.

      Further, given the behavior of his supporters to date, if he doesn't get the nomination, I doubt he can make them stand down. Once you put together goon squads, they're going to act like goons even when it's not in your interest. They don't come with off switches.

      There will likely be violence at both conventions. It both cases it will clearly be instigated by the left, not the right, so in either case it helps Trump.

    2. More of a white swan, at this point.

      I must admit a certain sympathy for the Sanders supporters here, even though I disagree with their politics. I was part of a group that ran into the same tactics on the part of the GOP establishment in Michigan, back in the mid 90's. After being told if we wanted any say in the platform, we needed to elect delegates, we did the hard work of electing delegates. And when our legitimately elected delegates arrived at the convention, the party seated the losers, and had the police escort the winners out.

      We didn't riot, of course, but, hey, we were Republicans, not Democrats.

      Which gets back to my point: You've got a significant chance of riots at both conventions, but in both cases the rioters are going to be Democrats, so it's not Trump who that hurts in either case.

  3. Though the Kochs are said to be sitting this one out, I see that Adelson in all in. I don't think the money issue is going to be a problem for Trump at all.

    1. The FT isn't convinced:

      Sheldon Adelson may be throwing his support behind his fellow billionaire Donald Trump, but it is not so clear if his money will follow.

    2. Well a NYT article today suggested Adelson is willing to spend up to $100 million dollars in support of Trump this election. Obviously I don't know if they are correct or not. But I just don't see money being a problem for either candidate.

  4. Another money risk for Trump: He brings in the big-dollar donations….and is denounced by his base for selling out, especially if he is seen (or can be painted) as modifying his positions based on donor preferences. They won't switch to Hillary but they may stay home in November.

  5. I love the reasoning process and wonder why you call it "unscientific". There seems to be an academic bias toward "real" statistics in publishable papers that has destroyed intelligent commentary on the political process. Instead of studying how and why people get elected, scholars get a big set of numbers from BLS and then another set from exit polls and then hunt for "causal" connections. They are then awarded a blog at the WaPo or the NYT.

    1. I defence of my immodesty, what I admitted to be unscientific were the numerical scores on the downside risks. I'm glad you like the overall commonsense approach.

  6. Let me see if I've got this straight: Your presumptive nominee is under an FBI criminal investigation for multiple felonies, and from this you deduce that the Republican nominee is 8 times more at risk. Apparently because, while everyone already knows that Hillary is a habitual criminal, and has factored that into their opinion of her, as far as we know Trump is law abiding, and therefore opinions about him are subject to downward adjustment….


    1. As usual I get dinged for bursting the bubble.

      The FBI is investigating Hillary. They don't do casual inquiries, if they didn't think there was a substantial chance they were going to prove criminal acts, they wouldn't bother. And just the stuff that's been publicly reported on this is enough to reasonably conclude she's committed multiple violations of federal laws having to do with the handling of national security documents, and the preservation of government records.

      You can stick your head in the sand all you like over that, it doesn't make it unreal. Sure, the DoJ is politicized enough that she's almost certainly not going to get prosecuted no matter how much evidence the FIB compiles. But she's not an innocent dogged by scurilous rumors. She's a habitual law breaker who's lived under the protection of the Executive branch.

      1. As you say, there will be no prosecution, so the issue will not lead to any change from the current situation (your views, Mark's views). In matters of national security, normal prosecutorial discretion is reinforced by the maxim salus reipublicae suprema lex. In what universe would Loretta Lynch think that throwing the election to an unstable conman demagogue could serve the security of the republic? That's assuming the FBI will come up with the evidence that the Benghazi! committee signally failed to, with unlimited time and resources. Sure, they are "investigating" the charges, like those of abduction and insemination by tentacled aliens: there's an intern and a bulging file to which the latest piece of rubbish is conscientiously added.

        1. I think you're severely underestimating just how much this particular scandal pisses off people who actually have security clearances, and unlike Hillary, are being required to follow the rules. The people who, if they'd done this, would be looking at hard time. They're flaming mad about it.

          The proposed "black swan" event isn't the DoJ indicting Hillary; We both agree it's too politicized for that to be plausible.

          The proposed "black swan" event is the FBI going public after the DoJ refuses to indict. High profile resignations in protest at the FBI. That's the downside risk here. We both agree that Lynch isn't going to prosecute, no matter how much of a stink the FBI raises about it. But the FBI isn't as completely corrupted as the DoJ, yet.

          1. Hillary Clinton is not "under an FBI criminal investigation for multiple felonies." This is, as a factual matter, simply not true.

            If you disagree, please list the felonies you think the FBI is looking into. In any event, no one has accused Clinton of giving classified information to someone else on purpose for her own gain, as General Petraeus clearly did. People who work in this field and have real security clearances understand this.

            Conservatives amuse me. They defend Bob McDonnell as a victim of politically motivated prosecution by arguing that his actions failed to meet a technical definition of "official acts." It makes no difference that a properly convened jury convicted him.

            But they attack Clinton as guilty on the grounds that an investigation exists – even though this investigation arguably focuses more on institutional methods – what are the security implications of using private servers for high-level communications – than on criminal activity by those officials.

            Right wing nut jobs have chased the Clintons since the late Seventies without ever proving any criminal offense. The FBI and more than one Congressional Committee have probed Benghazi, emails, the Clinton Foundation, and uranium deals for more than two years without turning up any evidence of wrongdoing.

            I get that conservatives have claimed for years that they smell smoke. But none have ever shown any evidence at all that anything is on fire – after giving the search a single-minded focus for more than 25 years. At some point Clinton critics need to either put up or shut up.

          2. "I get that conservatives have claimed for years that they smell smoke. But none have ever shown any evidence at all that anything is on fire […]"

            Insofar as they're smelling smoke, it's probably from their own burning pants.

          3. "I think you're severely underestimating just how much this particular scandal pisses off people who actually have security clearances,"

            Can you link to, for the sake of argument, ten of them? Some parameters: None of them can be from WorldNutDaily, imaginary, or a mouse that lives in your pocket.

            Otherwise you're simply . . . what's the polite term? "Making things up."

          4. One of them happens to be my brother, personal conversations. But, if you're really going to demand a link,

            Hillary Clinton has an NSA Problem

            Interviews with intelligence agents. You'll dismiss them, of course, but they're right in line with what my brother's saying.

            The people with security clearances, who'd be marched off to jail for a fraction of what's public knowledge about Hillary's conduct, are royally pissed off.

          5. Unsurprisingly, I do dismiss them.

            NR is hardly unbiased, and has sometimes published outright lunacy about Democrats. Remember when Bill Ayers was supposed to have ghost-written Obama's autobiography?

            And I think the Observer is published by Trump's son-in-law.

            I do believe your brother is seriously unhappy. But I wonder if he gets his information from the same sources you do.

          6. Who am I supposed to believe about the opinions of people with security clearances? You, or somebody who has one, and works with other people who have them?

            I'm pretty sure my brother is aware of whether he and his co-workers are mad or not.

          7. I didn't say I didn't accept your brother's opinion. I expressed doubt as to the accuracy of his and his co-workers knowledge of the details of what Clinton actually did or didn't do.

            I mean, if you accept the right-wing "facts", she's a murderer on top of all else.

          8. Who am I supposed to believe about the opinions of people with security clearances? You, or somebody who has one, and works with other people who have them?

            Believe me, I know plenty of people with security clearances. Hell, I spent three years playing bass in a band with two people who are CIA counter-terrorism analysts. Your brother's opinions are hardly dispositive.

      2. It's kind of amusing that you are willing to believe, all at the same time, that (a) Clinton has committed all sorts of crimes based on scant information; (b) she has definitely done something wrong based on what we do know despite not being privy to the investigation in any way, (c) lots of people in the party so willingly going along with her and with no primary opponent, like Biden, stepping up in case something happened, which could be justified not by fiddling with the investigation but by quietly examining what is known and asking people who are knowledgeable about the dynamics; and (d) that the various arms of the government are willing to let her slide for such obvious and massive crimes, without (e) anyone, anywhere, not raising a big stink and the various mouthpieces on the right blowing it up (and, in this situation, justifiably so).

        I also think it's amusing that there are so many people who work in government in some capacity who would allegedly be fired for doing the same thing, whatever that is, or know someone just like this; and that other people, both Democrats and Republicans, who have done what has been attributed to Clinton aren't the subject of an investigation…because they don't seem to be running for anything.

        It's certainly possible that they are going to find something. And to be sure, if she has broken the law, she should be punished, with nobody to blame but herself. But unlike those that can be described under (d) and (e), I don't think it's likely that people will let her slide, and I am getting tired of people who think like this. (Perhaps unsurprisingly, there's a nice overlap with people who insist that Obama used the IRS to target his enemies who believe that he's going to put his thumbs on the scales here.)

        Your side has spent a helluva long time investigating her, but to what end? For all the talk of her being a habitual law breaker, you guys have nothing — nothing at all — to show for it. I don't doubt coming up short with the ridiculous, politically motivated Benghazi investigation will make your side stop with this nonsense, no matter how many months Gowdy takes…before Darrell Issa decides to launch yet another investigation. But whatever.

        1. It's kind of amusing that you believe the information is scant. People have been convicted on less.

          But, not, admittedly, Democrats, when a Democrat controls the DoJ.

          1. Exactly. The constitution states, "No one shall be held to answer without indictment or presentment by a GRAND JURY."

            Grand Juries make these decisions, not some wacko on a blog comment stream.

            And how does a Grand Jury work?
            1.) A prosecutor gives one-sided evidence – from the prosecution's side only
            2.) No defense presentation or exculpatory evidence is allowed.
            3.) Based solely that ONE SIDE of the case, the Grand Jury decides if such evidence is sufficient to bring the case to trial – IOW, to issue an Indictment. OR NOT.

            THAT does not constitute guilt, though. THAT is decided in the criminal courtroom – at which the Accused is allowed to fully challenge the case of the Prosecution, plus to present their own evidence.

            Notice that none of this has ever been done in regards to Hillary Clinton.

            Therefore any claims of "FELON" are bullshit opinion.

            Nor has it been done to Donald Trump. His Trump University case is a CIVIL trial, not a criminal.

          2. Proof, d*ckwad. Put up proof.

            Don't got none?

            Then you are just a GOP troll.

      3. You are plenty full of yourself and claiming certainty that you don't have. If there are felonies, name them. SPECIFICALLY. And then back them up.

        I can make claims that YOU have done multiple felonies, can't I? I don't need proof anymore than you have exhibited. Brett Bellmore is a multiple FELON! What? I've never even met you? And you haven't met Clinton, either.


        Yelling "criminal" about someone doesn't make them a felon. THAT IS WHY WE HAVE COURTS AND WHY WE HAVE CRIMINAL CODES.

        So, if you have an accusation, SAY IT SPECIFICALLY AND CLEARLY. What crimes did Clinton commit?

        Are the so-called "crimes" even felonies?

        PUT UP OR STFU.

          1. Dude, you've got people accusing Hillary of crimes without any specificity – just generic and sweeping allegations, and you are telling ME to stifle?

            Man, your priorities are screwed up.

            I don't see you challenging them to put up or shut up, and when I do, you ignore my pointing out how criminals are brought to trial, and telling me I need to be civil?

            You don't see wild accusations as uncivil discourse?

            Shame on you.

            I thought the name of this site is "IntenseDebate".

            Namby-pamby debate is more like it. And one-sided – letting the Hillary smear people get away with all the crap I see on here?

            Goodbye.. And good riddance.


            And one of them is 18 U.S.C Sec. 793(f).

          3. Shouting at people like Brett does not help. Especially as you won the argument. He isn't trolling; I raised the subject of skeletons in the OP, so both your views are fair comment.

  7. The Libretarian Party and/or Green Party suddenly gets lots of press attention, causing its candidate to get many more votes than currently predicted. The Libretarian Party would probably take more votes from Trump than from Clinton, but the Green Party would draw its support its support exclusively from Clinton voters.

      1. Could happen, if Bernie Sanders becomes the Green candidate. All it takes is an admittedly unlikely decision by one man, and I think that's greater than supernova odds. Jill Stein has already invited him into the party. Note, this gets him ballot access in the general election, which he's unlikely to get as an independent.

    1. It's not "Libretarian". It's "Libertarian". Get it straight. One time is a typo. Two times misspelling it means you don't know anything about them.

      I am an ex-Libertarian. Capital L, too.

  8. Wimberly already included the chances of an indictment of H. Clinton under "skeletons." 5% is about right. I can name someone else who isn't going to be indicted—Trump. And he has sailed far closer to the wind than Clinton ever did. Also, his deeds have left actual victims, who can speak up even if the law doesn't do anything.

    1. I can think of a certain ambassador who might beg to differ with you on that, were he not dead.

      I know the denial runs deep among the koolaid drinkers of the left, but Hillary can't get elected just on the basis of koolaid drinkers. She needs the votes of people who aren't automatically going to dismiss her crimes.

      18 US code 793, for instance. (That one is a biggy.) Section 1236.22 of the 2009 NARA.

      Just based on news reports, it's easy enough to determine that she's in serious legal jeopardy, or would be if she weren't an important Democrat during a Democratic administration. She may not have to worry about actually being prosecuted, and is almost certain to receive a Presidential pardon in early January if she doesn't win, but that's not the sort of jeopardy we're talking about here, We're talking about political, not legal, consequences, and a corrupt Department of Justice can't fully shield you from those.

      It's said that there are "known unknowns", and "unknown unknowns", but it's the "unknown knowns" that have the real potential to bite you in the ass, because they're the things you're actively avoiding knowing about.

      1. Benghazi? Seriously? It is admirable to see you so furiously trying to spin up a fake controversy, but nobody outside your right-wing epistemic bubble is going to fall for that.

        As for the emails investigation, let me know when you decide to be outraged over the most recent Republican Secretary of State and National Security Advisor doing exactly the same thing that you're ranting about from HRC.

        Maybe the "corrupt DoJ" is also shielding Condi Rice and Colin Powell from indictment?

        Oh, I forget — IOKIYAR! Duh.

  9. James, you miss what is probably the biggest element of uncertainty in the polls, and one that is roughly symmetrical for the two candidates: lots of people don't follow the primaries as obsessively as we do, and haven't really made up their minds, so polling them right now is inherently uncertain. The resolution of this uncertainty does not necessarily depend upon any event that has not happened and it really isn't predictable.

    Sometimes uncertain things really are uncertain and can't be modeled.

    1. I assume that Wang's historical "last 6 months' variance" in good part reflects this process of undecideds coming to a decision. But there is good reason to think that the true undecideds should be lower in this cycle at this stage. They currently average around 10%, range 2% – 19%, which itself suggests a large "get lost" factor varying with the pollster's style. (Have Wang or Silver written on this?) Clinton has been in front-page politics for 30 years. Trump has had exhaustive media coverage. The contrast between them is extreme, sharper than almost any in the 20th-century record.

    2. There was a nice post on 'The League of Ordinary Gentleman' on this. Basically, the April polls are valid, because the nominees are clear and people are paying attention.

  10. Now, as per your last paragraph request,
    12. Getting thrown under the bus. I've been wondering if Trump will eventually do something that will have the compliant press finally not in enabling mode, something over the top enough that the press would throw him under the bus. Pedophilia, incest, running naked down Wall Street (letting everybody know about "no problem" or not), having him rob a liquor store. He has been on the edge the entire campaign. The question would be if the press actually has a "bridge too far" in them. Risk 25.

    Hillary? After 24 years of GOP smears and – as you said, "trivial results" – nothing is at all likely to come down the pike and throw her off the mountain. As risk averse, career-wise and personally, as she is, she isn't going to do something out of character. The emails are a non-starter – all innuendo. her only risk there is that she didn't follow protocol. As to bombshells in the email text, that ain't gonna happen; it would have happened by now. Risk 1.

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