How did he ever manage to pull off his exceedingly narrow victory? Was it because 70-year-old union retirees in Macomb County were #ReadyForHillary until the minute they got on Twitter and watched a livestream of James Comey’s press conference about the reopening of the Clinton email investigation? Did the Russian troll farms come through in a big way? I think the answer is that the race in Michigan was always a close one and that the polls simply failed to reflect this reality. There is a vast scientific literature on the subject of honesty in anonymous polling; even when they are assured that their answers are anonymous and that the strangers with whom they are discussing what they intend to do with their secret ballots in two weeks or two months or a year from now are disinterested professionals, many people are simply embarrassed by their own opinions. This kind of low-level dishonesty is practically synonymous with what some people call “Midwestern politeness.”
More important, however, than what people may not have been willing to discuss openly on the telephone are the subjects they will address without hesitation. The same Detroit News poll that showed Biden and Sanders well ahead of Trump reports that 53 percent of Michiganders do not think he should be impeached.
This suggests that somewhere in between the president’s most enthusiastic detractors and supporters there is a middle ground of voters who have not made up their minds about Trump. They are more than willing to entertain the idea of supporting another candidate. But it will take more than frenetic denunciations of his character or moaning about “obstruction” for them to be convinced. The 2020 presidential election, like the one before it, will at least ostensibly be about issues.