Just as I predicted several months ago, the presidential election has come down to an extremely tight race with Donald Trump having about a 40 percent chance to win the presidency. He’s actually polling somewhat better than that (between the 46% to 48% range) in the latest 538 average out this afternoon.
The presidential election has also come down to a pitched battle over cucked, college educated, middle class White suburbanites: the Research Triangle in North Carolina, the Atlanta suburbs in Georgia, NOVA in Virginia, the I-4 corridor in Florida, Metro Phoenix in Arizona, the Reno area in Nevada, suburban Milwaukee in Wisconsin, suburban Detroit in Michigan, suburban Columbus, Cleveland, and Cincinnati in Ohio, the Philadelphia suburbs in Pennsylvania and exurban Boston in Maine and New Hampshire.
Trump is doing slightly better than I expected because so many things have broken his way: steering clear of gaffes and scandals since Khizr Khan episode, Hillary’s health scare, Hillary’s email revelations, the Clinton Foundation scandal, “Basket of Deplorables,” the ineffectiveness of Hillary’s television ads, Cruz endorsed, the black riots in Charlotte and Milwaukee, and the terrorist attacks in Minnesota and New York/New Jersey. Hillary has also proven incapable of making herself more likable since her convention.
In light of the above, we will see an affable Trump tonight who wants to come across as presidential. He will be respectful and courteous to Hillary. The gameplan will be to smile, demonstrate his policy chops to show he is qualified, and avoid taking the bait under any circumstances. Hillary will be trying to demonstrate that Trump is a racist and that he doesn’t have the temperament to be president. We will also see another performance of non-racist Trump and Trump as the populist tribune of the common man.
Anything could happen. Lester Holt could try to sabotage Trump with fact checking. I expect Hillary will get credit for not keeling over and dying on stage and that the #LyingPress will declare her the victor no matter what happens on stage. Hillary will have to demonstrate that she is a likable human being – TOUGH. She will have to get the Berners on board without saying anything that will trigger the White college educated suburbanites who normally vote Republican and scare them into voting for Trump. She will have to upstage Trump in front of a television audience with her canned lines and zingers which will be hard to do given his reality television experience.
Hillary Clinton is a wonk with a firm grasp of public policy, but someone who has no genuine political talent whatsoever. Trump is still struggling to grasp policy details (will he get a question like “Who is the president of Tajikistan?”), but he is a seasoned reality television star who understands how the media works. He also has good instincts. We will know much more about how these two match up in a few hours.
Note: Expect the polls to get bouncy as we move through the debates.