Predicting the Future, the US Election and other distractions

FiveThirtyEight

I must confess I am a bit of an addict when it comes to the US Election. As such, I am a frequent visitor to two of the best websites that try to make sense of what is going on, FiveThirtyEight and Politico.

The US Presidential election is an incredibly long examination process for what is probably the most important elected position on the planet. As we have seen this cycle, pretty much anything that can come out, will, including past video indiscretions or stacks and stacks of embarrassing emails. Lies have been told, and doubled down on, and trebled. News, in itself, has splintered into factions, meaning anyone can gather the ‘truth’ they want, about each candidate or the other.

The presidential decision gets cast over a relatively long term period (about 18 months), and as you can see from the chart above, the US has pretty much made up its mind, that, like her or not (and I quite like her, to be honest), the US will elect it’s first lady President in its 240 year history as it’s 45th President. 70 or more other countries have already had female head of states before the US, but it looks like the US will cross that bridge come November the 8th this year.

The probability of this occurring is now approaching 87% confidence levels according to FiveThirtyEight’s model (which takes all scientific published polls in all states and nationally and runs tens of thousands of ‘mock’ election outcomes to see what % of those outcomes yield a victory for one side or another, updating in real time). 538 predicted the last two presidential elections and margins of victory almost perfectly, and indeed predicted the winner in each of the 50 states as well.

The chart above shows that when the US public ‘has been watching’ (notably during the 2 conventions in July and then the first two debates in September and October), Hillary Clinton has pulled away from Donald Trump. Only for a brief period after the Republican convention did Trump pull to a tie with Clinton, and for most of the time he’s been less then 25% chance of winning. He’s now sitting at a tad over a 13% chance, 3 weeks out. It’s all over, red rover.

This gap is quite astonishing in many respects. Firstly, because Hillary is such a divisive figure in the US, one of the most unpopular and derided candidates ever to hold office. Her unfavourability rating tops 55%, but of course that is only topped by The Donald himself who has plunged the heights (if that’s the right expression) of 65% unfavourability. (‘Anything you can do, I can do better’.)

So it’s the battle of the least worst candidates. And it’s a race to the bottom, as we’ve seen. Any reasonable Republican candidate might have given Hillary a good run for her money this year (and she has raised a ton of money, more than anyone previously). But Trump’s blustering, unpredictable style, which got him enough attention and support during the Republican primaries, has been a disaster in the general election (where a more sensible, calm, dare I say, Presidential, Trump may have been more attractive to the undecideds and ‘swing’ voters).

Instead, the Donald has pandered to his base, especially after the 2005 Access Hollywood tapes came out, which showed him bragging about his sexual assault on women (‘I can do anything, they let me…’ etc). He has spiralled out of control ever since, throwing blame around everywhere – at the media, Hillary, the FBI and even at his own party. The very people he needs to win to bridge the gap (female suburban voters, Latinos, African Americans and moderates) are precisely the groups he has antagonised with his ‘Mexicans are rapists’, ‘the Blacks live in poverty’, attacks on the Gold Star family, a Latino former Miss Universe and other such riffs.

Come election day, it looks like Clinton will garner  49% of the vote with Trump back on 42%. Given that either major party is pretty much guaranteed 40% of the vote, you can see that Donald J Trump has not managed to grab that all important middle ground, while Clinton has.

Some of Trump’s party are shaking their head in bewilderment and can’t wish November the 9th come soon enough. Many have given up on the Presidential race altogether and are now battening down the hatches trying to prevent the Senate from tipping Democrat (which 538 now estimates will happen with 74% certainty, as they only need to win a net 5 seats) or possibly even the House as well (where Democrats need to win a historic 30 seats to put the 76 year old Nancy Pelosi back as Speaker).

The most likely outcome is a comfortable Hillary win as President (probably 340 electoral college votes, with Trump back below 200), a Senate majority for the Democrats but the House will remain Republican. For many in business, this is a workable outcome, as it might dampen down some of the anti-business things Clinton has been talking about, yet allow her to govern. Although divisive, she may be more experienced at getting things done than Obama, who took up to 6 years to get much of his agenda passed (barring Obamacare, which was pushed through in his first 2 years when he had majorities in both houses.)

Barring an incredible turn of events (and we’ve seen pretty much everything thus far), we will be hailing Madam President come Jan 20th 2017, with former President Bill Clinton back in the White House as ‘First Gentleman’. Historic times indeed.

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