Here's my best guess:
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Here's my rationale:
- Polls lag behind public opinion. In 2000, most of the world assumed that George W. Bush would cruise to a victory that would be comfortable, if not huge. The polls showed that he had a lead similar to Clinton's lead in the polls today. However, the revelation that Bush was once arrested for drunk driving caused his support to dip, and the dip came too late to be recorded in the polls.
The polls provide evidence of a slight Clinton rebound following the decline she saw after the FBI temporarily re-opened the investigation into her private email server. It might be too late for that rebound to be reflected in the polls meaning that the RealClearPolitics polling average showing Clinton with a 3 point lead might already be out of date.
- Trump's ceiling is Hillary's floor. Scroll down on the RCP polling page and see the candidates' polling line graphs. You'll see that every now and again, Trump manages to catch up to Hillary. But he's only ever led once. That lead maxed out at 1.1% and lasted less than a week. It appears that if today is Trump's best day and Hillary's worst, he might manage a tie in the popular vote.
- The state polling data look even worse. Even if Trump pulls out with states where McCain and Romney failed (Nevada, Ohio, Iowa, and Florida), he still needs to flip one more to win. The most likely would be New Hampshire, which hasn't voted Republican in a presidential election since 2000. Can it happen? Anything is possible. But I'm not going to predict it.
- Early vote numbers look good for Clinton. Esteemed Nevada political reporter Jon Ralston reported that early voting in Nevada has provided Clinton with a massive lead going into election day. The key demographic here? Hispanic voters. Other reports suggest Hispanic voters are turning out in drove in other swing states as well. That matters, especially in a must-win state like Florida.
- State elections are not independent events. As I've written before, the prevailing narrative is that both candidates have roughly a coin flip's chance of winning the swing states. Now, if you flip a coin 12 times, you'd extrapolate that average to estimate that the coin will land on heads six times and on tails six times. Thus it might seem like the most likely outcome for our tossup states tonight, which is why many think we're looking at an extremely close election.
In our coin flip analogy, you expect to get heads in 50 percent of your flips because each flip of the coin is an independent event. That is, if your coin shows tails on the first flip, your odds of flipping heads on your second try don't change a bit.
But it doesn't work this way in electoral politics. Most presidential elections are marked by some undercurrent that transcends state borders and causes one candidate or party to consistently over-perform poll results on Election Night. For example, in 2014, Republicans took seven of the eight Senate races considered to be tossups. That means that if Hillary sweeps through Nevada (like Ralston expects), her chances of taking the other swing states go up as well.
- Trump has no ground game. Not only has Trump been out-spent and out-advertised. He also has the weakest Get Out the Vote effort of a presidential nominee in recent history. That means he could under-perform his polls. That's why I went out on a limb and picked Hillary in a state like Ohio, where polls suggest Trump has a decent lead. (That said, if there's only one state where I'm wrong, it's probably Ohio.)
- When's the last time a Republican presidential candidate met or exceeded Election-Day expectations anyway? For a nation where every election is accompanied by expectations of razor thin margins, the GOP has won the popular vote in a presidential race ONCE since 1988.
- Every losing candidate sees a path to victory. If you squint your eyes hard enough, you might expect a Trump victory. Maybe he has more yard signs in your neighborhood or bumper stickers in your community. He's drawing huge crowds at his rallies. The line to vote in your uncle's conservative precinct is out the door and wrapped around the building! Just remember, everybody said this stuff about Mitt Romney, and he got housed.
If I'm wrong, you get your money back!