Updating the Polls

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The weekend prior to the second presidential debate Donald Trump had been hemorrhaging popular support and party support. A NBC/Wall Street Journal poll placed in the field following the revelation of Trump’s recorded comments from 2005 and concluding prior to the debate showed Hillary Clinton ahead by 11 points over Donald Trump in a four-way race which includes Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson and Green Party candidate Jill Stein. In a head-to-head race the poll gave Clinton a 14 point lead over Trump. To put this result in context, other polls which were concluded the same day as the NBC/WSJ poll but conducted over a longer period of time as well as polls released only days earlier showed Donald Trump trailing by anywhere from 4 to 7 points. In effect, the recording and subsequent Republican denouncements caused Trump to lose an additional 7 to 10 points.

This poll is significant because it effectively captures to tone and opinion of the American electorate in the immediate lead-up to the second debate. It demonstrates just how far Donald Trump had fallen in the minds of the American public. This poll result is supported by the electoral odds calculated by FiveThirtyEight.com, which has yet to take into account any debate effects. This calculation shows Hillary Clinton with a 83.6% likelihood of victory. She has not achieved odds this high since the end of August.

And Trump should not count on much electoral assistance from the second debate. The reaction to his debate performance seems to be coalescing towards the debate itself may have been a relative draw, but Trump only managed to salvage his campaign rather than establish any broader appeal which may enhance his chances. Especially as the CNN/ORC and YouGov post-debate polls both show another Hillary Clinton victory, albeit by narrower margins than the first debate.

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Two focus groups were decidedly split. A CNN group gave the debate to Hillary Clinton by a large margin. Conversely, a group organized by Fox News decided almost the exact opposite. Another indicator of debate performance and electoral odds, currency markets, showed a slight victory for Clinton. Finally, betting markets moved slightly in Trump’s favor, but only by 1%.

It’s difficult to take too much from the post-debate insta-polls, the markets calculating odds in real-time, the unscientific focus groups or the NBC/WSJ poll which is basically a measure how much Trump’s recorded comments hurt him. Capturing opinions effectively “in the moment” exaggerates those opinions. Donald Trump is probably not trailing by 14 points, did not lose the debate by 23%, or win a focus group that handily. Time tempers attitudes.

The problem for Trump becomes that time is not on his side. The question is not is Donald Trump losing the election, it’s just by how much? Early voting has already begun. A recent Rasmussen poll found that 80% of voters say they are already certain how they will vote in this election. The same poll found that among voters who are still undecided Hillary Clinton is favored over Donald Trump 43% to 25%.

Furthermore, in Congress both the Senate and House are leaning Democratic. This is reflected in not just polls of individual Senate and House races but also the fact that presidential battleground states are almost all blue.

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The recent Republican denouncements of Donald Trump are seemingly motivated as much by an effort to avoid a negative Trump effect on down-ticket races as much as it is about his actual comments. If Trump has little to no chance of winning the presidency the Republicans just hope they can avoid a unified Democratic government.

That is perhaps the greatest condemnation of Donald Trump’s chances of victory on November 8th. Not only do the national polls show a devastating Hillary Clinton win but those polls are simply catching up to private party polling which has been telling Republicans to distance themselves from Trump in order to save the party.

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