WaPo report: razor-thin Clinton “edge” even in 50-state hand-picked poll

WaPo headline reverses the story

My morning paper on September 7 had an unusual feature. The 9-16ths-inch headline on The Washington Post’s front page trumpeted, “Clinton has edge in 50-state poll.” Inside, a special pull-out section on “CAMPAIGN 2016” seemed to expand the story.

Actually, it contradicted the headline.

Let’s start with the easy part–pictures.

WaPo front page September 7, 2016

WaPo front page September 7, 2016

This parti-colored map ran above the fold, spanning eight inches. Take a look at the colors. As shown, the paper designated ten states as “tossups,” purple on the map–Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Mississippi, North Carolina, Ohio, Texas and Wisconsin. —Georgia? Mississippi? Texas? “Tossups”?

WaPo also designated Alaska and South Carolina reddishly as “Leans GOP.”

The special pull-out had another graphic divided by colors–blue and blueish, red and reddish, purple–with poll numbers. (Page 21) Blue/-ish states totaled 244 electoral votes, red/-ish states totaled 126 electoral votes, of 270 needed to win.

Setting blue and red aside for the moment, that leaves 168 electoral votes in the purple ‘tossup’ column. Here’s where arithmetic, a closer look, and some effort at exactitude might come in handy.

Accuracy, accuracy, and accuracy

According to the Post’s own poll, among the ‘tossup’ states, Trump led in Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, and Ohio–a total 55 electoral votes. Clinton led in the other six. (Those perennial tossups Arizona and Texas add up to another 49 electoral votes, yielding a total 230 for Trump without going into battleground states, but let’s not get ahead of the story.)

If something about this seems off-kilter, turn to page 24. That’s where readers finally get the breakdown on WaPo’s Survey Monkey numbers. (Yes, they used Survey Monkey–polling only people they had selected. See page 22.)

These were the stats for (selected) “four-way races,” i.e. twelve states with Libertarian Gary Johnson and Green Jill Stein included in the poll. In Ohio, rated a ‘tossup’ on WaPo’s front page, Clinton polled at 37 percent to Trump’s 40 percent. In North Carolina, also rated ‘tossup’ as mentioned, Clinton polled 40 percent to Trump’s 41 percent. In Texas, both candidates polled at 40 percent; in Colorado, both candidates polled at 37 percent (unlike Clinton’s ‘narrow leads’ viz the front pager). In tossup Arizona, Clinton polled at 37 percent, Trump at 39 percent. In Georgia, Clinton 39 percent, Trump 40 percent.

These numbers did not appear on the front page of the paper or the front page of the Campaign 2016 pull-out.

Further, Secretary Clinton polled at 40 percent or less not only in states where that might be expected–Texas, Georgia–but in states touted as winnable for her–Colorado, Michigan, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Wisconsin. She ran barely better than 40 percent in Florida and Pennsylvania. She polled barely at 50 percent, if that, in Rhode Island. She polled at under 50 percent in New Hampshire, Minnesota, and Maine. In fact, about the only place in the union seemingly favorable for Clinton, outside of bedrock-blue states like Hawaii and Maryland, is Virginia.

This falls short of an Electoral College landslide. It must have been a crushing disappointment to the WaPo personnel who created that hand-picked sample. The entire thrust of the story is how narrow a needle Mr. Trump has to thread, to get to 270. But by the same token–i.e. WaPo numbers–Clinton’s reported “edge” teeters on the brink–a loss of two or three states.

There are other problems with this kind of reporting. Under the sub-heading “Utah is most uncertain state,” the reader finds–that Utah is still solidly GOP, even with a locally popular Libertarian on the ballot siphoning away red votes. Maybe the problem is with the headings.

But the bigger problem is with the nominee. The short story is that Democratic Party insiders and their GOP/Wall Street/insider-media allies selected the worst possible candidate for Democrats, in an anti-democratic process that was worse yet. She’s not a nominee in the sense of having been elected as such by voters. She is a pre-selected candidate who succeeded in being designated as official nominee.

The whole thing was a betrayal. In Barack Obama, the Democrats selected a president who was elected by both the popular and the electoral vote, in the most genuine election in years, probably the first relatively open election since Jimmy Carter won in 1976. Eight years later, the party and the nation should be moving forward, to build on the foundation created by President Obama. Instead, it took a giant slide backward–about 90 percent from jealous/envious passive-aggressive inertia, so far as I can tell.

In a bleak prospect, Clinton might be elected to the White House, with a GOP Congress elected to rein her in–thus giving us a lousy president and a lousy congress. If past patterns hold, that would pave the way for Clinton to make deals–benefiting the GOP, undercutting Dems and the public, with a big cut off the top for herself. And that in turn would set up a worse, and winning, GOP nominee next time.

By the way, remember Senator Mitch McConnell’s open vow, at the beginning of the Obama administration, to oppose President Obama at every opportunity? It will be interesting to find out whether the Clinton team green-lighted McConnell, and who else did.

Update 9/29/16

As of today, Real Clear Politics has Trump up nationally by 4 points in one poll, Clinton up by 1 point in another. A miserable showing for Democrats.

*Full disclosure–as Maryland public records would show, I am a registered Democrat.


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