By Dave Andrusko
I’ve been fascinated by politics since I was in high school and first watched the Kennedy/Nixon debates. Out of the 50+ years of watching these machinations, among the primary lessons I learned is to take all polls with a grain of salt, a pound of salt if they don’t make intuitive sense.
Let me be clear. I was not predicting that President Trump would win in 2016. But it never made any sense to me that a man shaking up traditional alignments and running against a deeply distrusted and political tone-deaf Hillary Clinton couldn’t win. And the more the Media Establishment announced her impending coronation, the more I suspected it was a combination of wish-fulfilment and sloppy journalism. The primary objective was then, as it is now, to discourage Republicans from voting in November.
So when we are told, 24/7, that the only question is not whether there will be a “blue wave” (a flurry of wins by Democrats) this November, but how large, it was, for me, deja vu all over again.
What’s undergirding the promise of “impending doom” for Republicans? A huge advantage in the “generic ballot” for Democrats. This refers to which preferred party a respondent will name when there is no specific politicians mentioned (hence the “generic”).
Enter some very recent polls (thanks to the commentator Allahpundit over at Hotair.com for alerting me to the new numbers). Here’s the opening summary:
Not one but two respected firms have surveys out showing the generic ballot tight. Ann Selzer’s outfit [a Des Moines-based polling firm] has Democrats ahead by just two points while YouGov has them up three. Even better, Selzer looked at likely voters, one of only two major pollsters to be focused on that group right now. (The other, Rasmussen, has Democrats ahead by four, in line with Selzer’s results.) Anything in the range of a two- to four-point advantage for Democrats on Election Day would be a godsend for Republicans, as it would almost certainly mean that the blue wave had petered out before reaching shore. With that margin the House would be a toss-up and the Senate would be a near-lock to remain Republican.
In 2016, Rasmussen was the second most accurate poll, trailing only the Investor’s Business Daily, in predicting the outcome of the presidential race.
It’s also true that two other polls show a much larger Democratic advantage (their pool of respondents consisted of far more identified Democrats than Republicans), but the point remains the same. Were you to read headlines of just a day or two ago, you would have thought there is no positive news for Republicans, the pro-life party.
However as one respondent to Allahpundit’s post reminded readers, two weeks out multiple polls had Hillary Clinton winning by double digits.
Then, now, and forever, it’s who shows up that decides elections.