We’ve been seeing stories like this for weeks now. No matter what the polls show, Democrats still seems awfully nervous that this year could be different and that normal predictions about what the electorate will do just won’t apply this time. From Politico:
In 1992, Bill Clinton effectively split the white vote with President George H.W. Bush; he lost it, but narrowly, by only a 39 percent to 41 percent margin. That was critical to his victory, because whites represented 87 per cent of the electorate. In 2012, President Barack Obama lost the white vote overwhelmingly to Mitt Romney, 39-59. But by then America had changed, and the white share of the vote had dropped to 72 per cent. Obama’s overwhelming margins among blacks (93-6), Hispanics (71-27) and Asians (73-26) handed him the victory…
All of these numbers should be a source of great comfort to Democratic strategists, and in public they tend to repeat them. But just beneath the surface lies a persistent sense of uneasiness, driven by one question: What if everything we think we know about politics has been rendered inoperative?…
Indeed, at a panel of Democratic pollsters last week, Hart Research president Geoff Garin warned that 2016 would be “a close competitive election. The country,” he added, “is largely frustrated with the status quo, and, as one NBC poll found, huge majorities wanted change even if they don’t know what that change is.”
The concerns raised in this piece have to do with an unexpected demographic development, i.e. what if Trump somehow gets more white voters than anticipated or if black voters don’t show up for Hillary despite the support of President Obama.
There is another possibility here as well. Voters are not solely driven by identity politics but also by external events. What if, for instance, Wikileaks releases some extremely damaging email from the Clinton campaign in which they bash Sanders voters or talk condescendingly about minority voters. As we’ve already seen from the DNC hack, that could happen.
What if there is another ISIS-inspired terror attack in Europe or the United States shortly before the election. Are voters convinced Hillary Clinton is the person to handle such a threat?
What if the economy continues to take a downturn. We’ve had three successive quarters averaging about 1% growth. What if we appear to be slipping toward another recession? Couldn’t voters decide that’s the final straw for the establishment and abandon Clinton.
Now consider that at least one, probably two and maybe all three of these things could happen in the next 3 months. The email leaks seem to be a done deal. The pace of terror attacks suggests we could have several more before the election and economy is (say it with me) unexpectedly sluggish. All that to say, there may be several real life reasons people change their opinions before the election. Democrats had a strong convention and Clinton is up in recent polls, but no one should feel too confident about what things will look like next week, much less in November.