For roughly two weeks now, the stuff of the above headline has become unfashionable to toss around. In September, Hillary’s post-convention bounce has flattened out and The Donald, in national polling, has often crept within the margin of error. More fashionable now are headlines attached to columns such as Ross Douthat’s today — “How Trump Might Win” — which is a kind of horror-show, click-baited romp through the possible. Well, yes, anything is possible. A Trump victory, however, remains highly improbable — as does even a competitive Trumpian showing. To wit …
President Obama has returned to the campaign trail, and President Obama is one helluva campaigner. With surgical precision he’ll target the ripest of electoral ground and plug the “enthusiasm gap,” especially among the young and minorities. From yesterday’s Philadelphia appearance alone, I’d bet on a Clinton-Pennsylvania uptick of a good 5 points within the next week. Obama’s vigorously anti-Trump Pennsylvania appearance will of course be replicated in all the “battleground” states, but it will bleed as well into redder states such as Georgia and Arizona, in which Clinton is presently separated from Trump by only a point or two.
Second, we have the upcoming debates. Trump will have no teleprompter to make him behave and stay on script, hence his infamous, indeed horrifying lack of impulse control is more likely than not to make its vigorous appearance. What’s more — and this is hard for political junkies to appreciate — millions of American voters take little active interest in presidential campaigns until they’re served up, this time with Trump there, on what undeniably will be the boob tube. Gerald Ford’s “There is no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe” will sound like presidential wonkishness compared to the absolute cerebral vacancy of Donald Trump, who dislikes reading and resists briefings. (After all, he already knows more than the generals, and he has the “best words” to boot.)
Third, while Trump may have narrowed his internal enthusiasm gap, there remain record numbers of Republicans who simply will not cast a vote for this miserable human indecency. And in teetering states such as Georgia and Arizona, that political tissue-like rejection could well allow Clinton to squeak by. Fourth, the Democratic nominee has a professional GOTV organization in every state worth the effort, while the Republican nominee seems to be counting on his personal “magnetism” to turn out voters in swing states. For Clinton, the latter alone is worth five Obama appearances.
Fifth, there are the 2008 and 2012 electoral maps, which show little if any roadsigns of reconfiguration. Here, polarization is Hillary’s friend. It is borderline inconceivable that Florida, New Hampshire or Nevada’s Democrats will either flip or stay home. The party of FDR, LBJ and Obama may be embarrassingly slothful in midterms, but its voters positively adore attendance at presidential elections. And so it shall be, again.
Sixth, Clinton is dominating the airwaves. Here, polarization is Hillary’s enemy. She could own the airwaves outright and rabid anti-Clinton partisans would still turn out, rendering the election perhaps remarkably close in many states. On the other hand there are those undecided voters (whose lingering indecision is remarkable in itself) who are heavily influenced by the last barrage of television ads they’ve seen. Odds are, the last barrage they’ll see will come from the Clinton front — especially since Republicans’ traditional big money has been holding back this cycle, because, well, you know.
Seventh, eighth, ninth and tenth are Obama’s soaring approval numbers, an economy turned well around, the recent rise in family income and, perhaps above all else, the naked, neon-flashing fact that Donald Trump is an unholy idiot. As has been observed many times by many others, God tends to look after children, drunks, and the United States. The apotheosis of depraved Republican madness has been a long time coming, but at last it’s here in the bottomlessly vile Mr. Trump. History’s arc is through bending rightward, and cosmic forces are about to shut down with a thundering clap this dumb, racist, sexist motherfucker.