According to Nate Silver, the polls are beginning to settle into the final stretch before the election three weeks from today.
A friend asked me the other day whether there’s anything preventing Hillary Clinton from rising further in our forecast, beyond what have generally been very good polls for her. Clinton’s chances are up a bit — she’s hit 88 percent in our polls-only forecast, up slightly from 86 percent on Friday and 83 percent a week ago. In the polls-plus forecast, Clinton’s chances are 85 percent, up from 80 percent a week earlier.
But there’s some truth to the notion that she’s encountering diminishing returns. And that’s for a simple reason: 88 percent and 85 percent are already fairly high probabilities. Our model is going to be stingy about assigning those last 10 or 15 percentage points of probability to Clinton as she moves from the steep, middle part of the probability distribution to the flatter part.
Hold on a second: Arizona is leaning for Clinton? Wow. Anyway, as Nate was saying…
Overall, the results are most consistent with a race in which Clinton leads by about 7 percentage points nationally. States in the Midwest and the Northeast for the most part look as they did in 2012, when President Obama beat Mitt Romney by just under 4 points nationally. But, in the West and in the South, where demographic shifts are unfavorable for Trump, Clinton is poised to have the best Democratic performance since at least 1996, if the polls are correct.
And Clinton is possibly still gaining on Trump. Some of Trump’s worst results came in the most recent polls; Monmouth’s national poll, for instance, was conducted Friday through Sunday, while the CNN state polls went into the field last Monday, before a number of women came forward to accuse Trump of sexual assault.
So if the race is settling into a steady seven-point lead for Clinton, that would be about the same margin by which Barack Obama beat John McCain in 2008. It wasn’t a landslide, but it was enough.
Three weeks is a lifetime in an election. Three weeks ago the race was a lot closer even after the first debate, and as we’ve seen, something could hit on a Friday that by Monday is the Next Big Thing. But it looks like we’re getting to the point where people are solidifying their choices. Now all that needs to happen is a steady hand and hope that it spreads down-ballot. (C’mon, Florida, do you really want to send that twerp Marco Rubio back to the Senate? You know he hates it and will only do it because he’s got his eyes on 2020, along with Paul Ryan, Mike Pence, and Ted Cruz.)