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This Election Is Probably Over

Nate Cohn says that Hillary Clinton has a 74% chance of winning:

The Upshot’s elections model suggests that Hillary Clinton is favored to win the presidency, based on the latest state and national polls. A victory by Mr. Trump remains quite possible: Mrs. Clinton’s chance of losing is about the same as the probability that an N.F.L. kicker misses a 45-yard field goal.

I’m not a fan of this analogy. A field goal is a one-off event. Any random thing can change it entirely. The kicker gets distracted for a split second. There may be a gust of wind. He can be off by a split second. Elections, on the other hand, are far less likely to change due to some fractional thing. They are considerably more fundamental. It depends not on the performance of one or a handful of people, but the collective decisions of millions.

To clarify, I don’t take issue with the 74% figure in and of itself. I’m not arguing that it’s actually 50% or 95%, but with the framing. We know the likelihood of a field goal by accumulated data with a very large sample set. However, any given field goal is subject to an infinite number of factors. A field goal can be missed because the kicker got distracted for a second. When a kicker misses a field goal, you can be relatively confident that if given another opportunity, the outcome could be entirely different. It is rarely the case that there’s just nothing a kicker can do about a field goal outcome. Well, there is also the offensive line and the defense, but we’re still dealing with the performance of a very limited number of individuals. That makes results extremely variable. A field goal can be missed because the kicker got distracted or a defender jumped just a quarter of an inch higher than usual or an offensive lineman slipped or the center didn’t snap the ball correctly.

In 2012, there is no single thing that Mitt Romney could have done to win the election. There is likely nothing the GOP could have done. Obama could have completely tanked it with a rousing speech about how he hates America I suppose, but that’s about it. The same applies to 2008, except moreso. I’m not saying that Nothing Matters, as clearly the economic collapse affected the outcome. But short of that catastrophic event, the impact of any particular thing would have been marginal in an election where the margins weren’t very marginal at all. The election was over not just when the Lehman Brothers went under, but it was over before then. We just didn’t know it yet.

If we had run the 2008 election over and over again, though, the outcome would have been the same. The game-changing event would have occurred and changed the game in almost every run of the election. So while Nate Silver may have given McCain a 10% chance at winning the election before Lehman happened, if we were to run the election 100 times, McCain wouldn’t have won 10 times unless Lehman had only a 90% chance of happening. But Lehman was unknown at that point. If there was a 10% chance, it was based on an uncertainty of things that overwhelmingly were already in play but just not known about. None of it was as spontaneous as a distracted kicker, a tripping center, or a defender high jump.

Further, when it comes to elections, we’re dealing with a much smaller sample set. The last election was almost four years ago, and both of the primary variables (the candidates) have changed. Whereas when we analyze the likelihood of a kicker getting it through the uprights we’re dealing with a sample set of actual instances, with elections we’re basing it on models that are projections and predictions. At this stage of the game, that’s where most of the uncertainty lies. So if we talk about a 75% chance of Clinton winning, we’re talking much less about another Lehman incident and much more about the models being wrong. That’s the probability we’re assessing.

This wasn’t always the case. I do not believe that elections are decided before they begin. Things matter. I have been relatively confident of a Clinton victory since the nominees were decided, but there were a lot of things that could have shaken my confidence, including things the campaigns did. However, with each passing week, the band of probabilities has contracted. Hillary’s GOTV is fundamentally in place, as is Trump’s lack of one. More and more voters have made up their minds. The amount of time left for a major terrorist attack on US soil has gone down. The likelihood of another Lehman has gone down. The chances of some new revelation about Clinton or Trump have gone down. There is simply less time for it to happen. And if it does happen, it’s likely something planned and therefore as inevitable as Lehman. If Hillary Clinton is sitting on something especially damning of Trump, or vice-versa, then that October Surprise occurs in at least 95 of 100 potential runs of the election.

None of this is to say that any of us know how it’s going to end. While the width of the band of possibilities has been contracting, we still don’t know the baseline. Hillary Clinton could do better than the polls suggest, as well as they do, or worse. If that 26% comes to fruition, the most likely explanation will be that the polls failed to capture the public sentiment. Any mind-changes that occur from here to election day are likely to be marginal and pre-ordained. I don’t believe there are enough of them to change the outcome of the election from a Clinton victory. So if Trump wins, it’s likely to be because the baseline was wrong. For example, that the LA Times had the best model all along.

As it happens, I believe the polls will be off by a couple of points. Except I believe it’s more likely to be in the other direction, for a variety of reasons. By election day, I expect FiveThirtyEight to have Clinton ahead by three, RCP to have her ahead by four, Huffington Post to have her ahead by five, and for her to actually win by six. That’s a guess, but we’ll use that as my personal baseline. Six point margin, plus or minus a couple points.

Now, a margin of 4-8 points is hardly a bold prediction, so I expect to be awarded no points if that’s how things shake out (unless it’s really close to six). Which is the problem with my theory as presented. It’s hard to confirm or disprove. But not impossible. If Donald Trump keeps screwing around and his support erodes in the polls and those polls are confirmed on election day, then I will have been wrong. Likewise, if Trump goes on his best behavior, the gap closes and it’s a very competitive election, I may have been wrong. If neither of these things happen, though, it won’t necessarily confirm my view. A lot of it is simply going to depend on the particulars of the polls and Trump’s (and Clinton’s) behavior. So basically, “I’ll know it when I see it,” which is admittedly unsatisfying.

While Tod declared the election over in June, I didn’t. And I’ve been frustrated by the creaks and trips of the Clinton campaign. I’ve never been worried about a loss, but I still believed that things mattered. For the margin, if nothing else. I don’t want Clinton to get cocky because you never know and there’s no reason to tempt fate, but the election of “LOL Nothing Matters” has finally reached, or after the first debate has reached, the point where I believe it doesn’t matter. Everything likely to have an effect already has, or is at least already coming down the pike. Stuff mattering is predicated on a closer election than the one that exists.
Assuming, of course, no strokes, heart attacks, or assassination attempts.

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Will Truman is a former professional gearhead who is presently a stay-at-home father in the Mountain East. He has moved around frequently, having lived in six places since 2003, ranging from rural outposts to major metropolitan areas. He also writes fiction, when he finds the time. ...more →

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177 thoughts on “This Election Is Probably Over

  1. The worry, as with Brexit, is that people under-report their adherence to politically incorrect ideas. Thus, we may wake up on november 9th to find that there were a lot more racists and xenophobes than we expected.

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  2. I am relieved that the election is over. Now I just have to get through the next three days to find out if the Orioles make the post-season.

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  3. While Tod declared the election over in June, I didn’t.

    Well, Tod confidently declared that Trump wouldn’t win the nomination.

    I think you’re right to not declare anything. This election strikes me as one of those strange situations where the more you think you know, the more handicapped you are. That is, the more reliably unpredictable it actually is.

    Something’s happening here, and it’s hard to figure out what it is.

    That said, I agree with folks who tilt strongly Clinton at this point, especially in light of Trump’s performance during the debate. He presented as a coked-up, ignorant bully, and that (generally!!) doesn’t win votes to your side. But who the hell knows? Even the odds-makers hedge their bets.

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  4. Laces *OUT*.

    In any case, I’ve reached the point where nothing will surprise me. It could be a 52%-45% election with 3% going to the nutbar candidates and I would not be confident with picking who is the 52 and who is the 45.

    Well… I’d be 74% confident.

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  5. I suspect that he just can’t stop himself from adding nails to the coffin. The current situation with Marchado is like Khan but alienating hispanics (even more!!) and women (even more!!!!)

    He has been fuming about this in his head for days and his staff/handlers/family can’t stop him or they don’t care that he is shooting himself in the foot because they are just as noxious. Giving Steve Bannon’s own statements, I would go with the noxious observation.

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      • Can you draw this out further?

        538 just flipped back Florida and Nevada to being blue and comfortably enough so after having them in comfortably red land for weeks.

        Do you think these states will change back or were they always going to go for HRC?

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        • I don’t think Clinton’s odds of winning those states have changed that much. We just don’t know what those odds are. Whether last week or this week is more reflective if them. And I don’t know “Miss Piggy” comments factored in to even the illusion of change. (I’d need to see the polling dates, for starters.)

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          • I think they do, actually. The fact that Trump was so focused on rebutting the implications of those accusations (which are clearly on the record) demonstrates something about his focus, attention, emotional stability and personality.

            Let’s say it this way: as I’ve said on this site, I’m not in favor of either major party candidate (and don’t like them in their own way equally), but watching Clinton bait Trump into a demonstration of his emotional and psychological instability tilted things in her favor. The Miss Piggy incident* played very well for her.

            *one of many clearly identifiable and successful attempts to bait him into emotionally driven, self-conception-based incoherence.

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            • Well, as far as my personal confidence level went, it was helpful. Confirming my prior belief that most positive changes with him are short-lived. And I think that he’ll have some good weeks and some bad weeks. Whether he’s having a good week or a bad week on election week might matter, but then it’ll be “Go Time” and most people will go to the corner where they’ve been since… well, about now. Which is why I think none of the changes – good or bad – have endured. Which in turn means that they aren’t actually all that significant.

              That’s my current read, anyway. This race is fluid… but within rather specific parameters. Trump between 40-44, and Clinton between 45-48. And I think the rest are going to fall where they’re going to fall, at this point (including staying at home).

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      • Trump’s reaction to Machado and is subsequent tweeter rant shows the electorate how unhinged the man is. Not only did he not deny the allegations during the debate but they gnawed on him so heavily for several days that he had to go on an epic binge of free thought insults at the early morning hours about it. This was probably done in his own hand.

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        • Does it really tell us anything we didn’t know before? And for people who didn’t believe he was unhinged before, do you think *this* will change their minds? If I see an effect, it’s more along the lines of “Yep. He’s still Trump.”

          Which I think they already knew.

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          • I suspect we knew it because we are political types. I suspect many people saw the debate (who don’t follow politics on a day to day level) and got a sustained look at how unhinged and off-the-cuff Trump was and for sustained periods of time. They might only have heard an errant tweet or word before then.

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          • Will,

            I think there are different conceptions of “unhinged”. One pertains to policy: “Trump advocates banning Muslims from entering the country! He’s unhinged!!” Another pertains to his psychology: “Trump spent several minutes in a national debate defending his self-concept from claims that he called Alicia Machado “fat” when he clearly did!!” (Or that he supported the Iraq war in 2003. Or that he accused Obama of being born in Kenya. Or that he has nothing to hide by NOT releasing his tax returns… etc…)

            The first identifies “unhinged” as “anti-establishment” and as a lively critic of the political status quo, which is a formal complaint (and one that works in his favor). The second identifies it as a psychological defect in the person trying to attain national office.

            And I’ll leave it at that. :)

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            • This is what I was getting at. Trump’s previously wild positions on certain issues could be perceived as populist if you squint hard enough or you have a similar mindset. His behavior because of Machado just shows a lack of stability.

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              • @leeesq

                You guys are thinking that the election is where I think the election was when he was going hard after Curiel.

                He took a pretty big hit at the time. I’m not expecting him to this time, but we’ll see.

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                • Primaries are different than generals (historically). What played in the primary won’t play in the general (tho Trump is breaking all the conventional rules).

                  Personally, I think it WON’T play in the general for a pretty clear reason: Trump needs to attract the independent undecideds, and anyone who’d agree with his comments about Curiel or Machado would already be a Trump supporter.

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                    • Trump supporters won’t be affected by a hit to his credibility (a support base which, perhaps ironically, matches the standard conservative base support of GOP presidential candidates), but the middle will be. It won’t gain him any votes.

                      Or so I think, anyway.

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                      • Well, on the one hand, I look at this and say “This is why I don’t think he’ll be able to win. People not in his camp won’t get in his camp.”

                        And I think that’s true.

                        But I also think that if the polling is off, he’s already close to being there anyway and these are people that have forgiven him all that came before. (If the LA Times is closer to being right than the rest are, I mean.)

                        Which brings me back to my point on this subthread. It was thinking about this that lead me to believe that, one way or the other, the mold is probably cast. I look at two timelines, one in which he makes these comments and one in which he doesn’t, and I see the vote totals as being roughly the same come November.

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                • He might not take a big hit but I think he will take enough of a hit with the demographics he needs the most or he needs to stay home the most for it to help HRC.

                  The debate (whether it was HRC’s performance or Trump’s disaster of one) seems to have put him in a bad light with Republican-leaning suburban white women and millennials. Millennials seem to becoming more HRC friendly. In Florida, Johnson and Stein have seen their share of the vote collapse which implies some people are going back to the Democratic camps.

                  Whether it is because of the time of the campaign or the debates is anyone’s guess I suppose.

                  I do think that HRC can probably bring along some Democratic Senate seats in swing states that she wins. But maybe Nevada voters are ornery enough to split the ticket.

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                  • In Florida, Johnson and Stein have seen their share of the vote collapse which implies some people are going back to the Democratic camps.

                    I think this is an independent phenomenon. This story blew up in the last couple of days. I think the debate itself may have played a role, but it’s the continuation of existing trends. A regression to the mean, most likely. Polling was tighter than I believe the race was.

                    If the trend continues on polling from days where the story heated up, though, then I will be at least partially mistaken. If the pullout proves durable, then mostly mistaken.

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                    • Third party support usually collapses in the last few weeks. Not always, but usually. (Not being on that debate stage doesn’t help, but the last six weeks are so is when the bulk of people go from “I dunno, like Johnson?” to “I have looked at the two people who are the actual choices, and I’m okay with/like/terrified of” and tend to commit to one of the main figures.

                      This year could have been different, of course. There were reasons to think it might have. (It might still be!).

                      But by and large, we’re political junkies and we’ve been following this since the primaries. Most American voters ignore it until the debates. (Then again, most American voters who will actually vote have firm party preferences, even when they say they’re undecided or independent so…).

                      I think the most interesting aspect of this election is going to be seeing how accurate the likely voter models are. (Part of Clinton’s slide was moving from RV to LV and adding in Johnson and Stein. Is this year’s turnout going to look more like registered voters or likely voter model?).

                      It remains a weird year, and while I don’t think you’re going to find things off like Michigan was, I wouldn’t be surprised to find there’s a 1 or 2 difference between the final polls and the results.

                      Which way? I dunno. If I had to guess, in Clinton’s favor just because Trump has no ground game at ALL, and seems determined to drive away women and minorities. (And bluntly, a man with no ground game is NOT going to be driving white middle-class men to the polls in record numbers, since he certainly hasn’t bothered registering them either. And time’s running out on that too).

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  6. During the conventions, the 538 guys were saying that the polls typically stabilize a few weeks after the conventions are over. At that point you can start thinking of the polls as a highly noisy measure of a flat underlying quantity. That turned out to be wrong, as the polls have shifted well outside the margin of error all throughout the past month, and look to be shifting significantly again. This suggests the election continues to be more volatile than people appreciate.

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    • Silver says that while Wang and Coen say the opposite. I think the truth is somewhere in between. I expect the polls to continue to move around from here to election day, but I also expect that has more to do with response rates than actual shifts.

      Spitballing, of course.

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        • It’s also worth noting that state polling – because state polling can take longer and because it’s less frequent – tends to lag.

          A couple weeks ago, when national polling was moving towards Trump, a lot of folks were laughing it off because Blue Wall. Then the state data started to move in Trump’s direction and even Wang started sounding less cocky. Then the national data moved in Clinton’s direction a week ago, and then the state data is starting to look better for her.

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        • National polling tells you the baseline, state polls tell you deviation from the baseline. If national moves 2 points for X, then the states move in that direction. If there’s a 5 point swing nationally for Trump, PA comes into play.

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          • Bingo! If the national polls move, state polling is probably moving to it just hasn’t been released yet.

            You can get a case like in 2012 where they simply disagreed. But that means one of them (likely the national) is simply wrong. That hadn’t yet been the case this year.

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  7. “Well, Tod confidently declared that Trump wouldn’t win the nomination.”-Stillwater

    Looking at RCP’s polls of polls, HRC is falling, she didn’t get a real bump after “slaughtering” Trump at the debate, is struggling with young voters, and looks increasingly unhinged as we wonder why she isn’t 50 Points Ahead.

    In the runup, the number of prognosticators who proclaimed that Trump couldn’t win the nomination, that he would destroy the Republican party were legion. Well, he got the nomination and the R’s are looking to keep the Senate and have a lock on the house.

    I am still saying, as I have for months, that its Trump in a landslide or HRC in a squeaker. And all the guesses otherwise are as valid as those who are sifting through the entrails of a freshly slaughtered pig, looking for signs and portents.

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    • In the runup, the number of prognosticators who proclaimed that Trump couldn’t win the nomination

      Yes. And I can think of only two people on this site who explicitly expressed those views: North and the person in question. North admitted he got it wrong. The other guy…???

      I am still saying, as I have for months, that its Trump in a landslide or HRC in a squeaker.

      Notably, for what we’re discussing, that’s a prediction that allows for variance (eg., that either candidate can win under different circumstances) which is categorically different than a categorical claim about who will win.

      To my own credit, I’ve also not predicted anything definitive about GOP-related elections, primary or general. I think only a fool would.

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    • “I am still saying, as I have for months, that its Trump in a landslide or HRC in a squeaker.”

      Wanna bet? We can set an over/under for either popular vote or EC. Where would you draw the line? Hillary +3/ Hillary 272? Somewhere else?

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      • Yeah, we need some conditions on this claim. What’s a landslide? What’s a squeaker?

        Personally, I think he’ll make his money on Hillary wins in a speaker, if he makes it at all. But who would bet against that outcome? On the other hand Hillary in a landslide is still on the table. (Unlike the alternative.)

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        • I think this is right. Across the board. If Trump wins, it won’t be by much. If HRC wins, it’ll be by a little or a lot. I put the chances of a blowout win roughly the same as as a Trump win.

          Trumwill Terminology:
          Squeaker: <2
          Close: <4
          Not Close: >4
          Blowout: >7.5

          It does complicate things that Trump seems to me to be poised to potentially outperform Romney in the EC while ending up further behind in the NPV.

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      • Well, In my opinion, landslide means you have both the house and Senate, squeaker means neither. Because those mean you actually get to do something with your win. Everything else is just talk.

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  8. I can’t remember- was there anyone anywhere who predicted a Trump nomination?

    While I am desperately hoping for an HRC win, and solidly, I remain cautious that historical models aren’t proving very reliable.
    Its not like we have very many precedents here.

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    • Not that I can recall, though some were saying it could happen before others. I myself dismissed it until the start of November, and regularly underestimated it thereafter.

      A big difference between now and then, though, is that believing he’d lose meant ignoring the polls. Believing he’ll lose now means paying attention to the polls.

      And I say this as a poll-skeptic who believes the polls absolutely could be wrong, en masse. The LA Times poll may be the one that’s right!

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        • Yes, but the preceding polls provide insight into how that particular poll will go. Unlike many I believe it’s entirely plausible for the polls to be collectively wrong, but I wouldn’t bet on it.

          This also applies to Democrats a few weeks ago who were not paying attention to what the polls were telling them. If it’s close going on, Dems need to be prepared to the possibility of losing and not clinging to notions of Blue Walls or Demographic Firewalls or GOTV.

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    • I can’t remember- was there anyone anywhere who predicted a Trump nomination?

      Not to my knowledge. Tho Jaybird gets credit for an inverse prediction, by identifying that the mainstream CS meme that “after what he said, Trump will be done by next Monday!!” not only failed to materialize, but was accompanied by a surge in the polls. And Trump never failed to deliver after “what he said..” moments.

      Adding: I’m not sure he was alone in that assessment, but he was pretty clear in expressing it as it happened. Maybe the 136th time’s the charm.

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    • It’s probably worth mentioning that we got a Trump nomination (I accidentally typed that nimination. Nimrodination?) because the other GOP candidates *completely failed in their duties* as no one bothered to shoot at Trump during their circular firing squad during the first few rounds.

      That’s something which it would be really, really hard to predict, because it was so stupid of them. Failure to do so doesn’t make someone a poor predictor. If I predict me cleaning the yard will take thirty minutes, and two minutes into that someone drives a tractor trailer through the yard and into my house, resulting in the yard not being cleared for days…I am not a bad predictor.

      Or, to put it another way: When people say there is ‘No chance’ of something happening, what they actually mean is that there is a very very low chance. But a single low-probability thing happening doesn’t make them bad at calculating probability.

      Admitted, some people refused to believe Trump could get nominated well after he had started picking up steam and had knocked a bunch of people out. *That* shows poor prediction skills. (As for me, that’s about the point I said, ‘Uh, wait, maybe the Republicans are going to do this, I have no idea what is going on, I’m refusing to have a prediction from now on.’)

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      • Former Leaguers Ryan Noonan and Conor Williamson also called it very early. As did former Leaguer Elizabeth Bruenig’s husband Matt.

        Civis Analytics (which we have no ties to, other than that I frequently cite one of their analysts) did an analysis very early that suggested he’d win due to the demographics of his support base.

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        • There’s the outlier and then there’s the prognosticator who reliably picks outliers for… ah… shall we say “creative logic” reasons.

          I’m thinking Michael Moore, here… he of the “Trump will win the election” prediction, who appears (to me) to have made that prediction for the same reason Scott did.

          Because picking the Dark Horse makes you look like a genius when it comes in.

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        • Yeah, I’m wondering if this isn’t building up to “I made millions believe that Trump could win, even when it was obvious to everyone last September that he was just this dumb guy with a gift for effing up. Buy my book and you’ll be as good as persuading people as I am!”

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  9. One way to look at the polls and the probabilities coming out of Nate Silver, Nate Cohn and Sam Wang is that they track not so much the probability of the event, but the state of our information about that event. In this way, we can reconcile the daily fluctuations with the sense that things don’t change that much in the last 40 days. However, human beings like to be seen as unpredictable, even when they are fairly predictable. So polls wobble around.

    On only a slightly related note, I just listened to this podcast from Radio Open Source and it goes into what life is like for certain parts of the country where Trump support is strong, and how they might see him.

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    • One way to look at the polls and the probabilities coming out of Nate Silver, Nate Cohn and Sam Wang is that they track not so much the probability of the event, but the state of our information about that event.

      Exactly! This was what I was intending to drive at. I don’t know that the last 40 days have been meaningless (though maybe), but I fully expect the next 60 days to be pretty much so.

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  10. With all this “HRC will win”, I guess we’ll see this OP as the last one on the election. After all, everyone KNOWS how’s it going to end….there’s nothing left to talk about until after the polls are tallied is there?

    So when’s the next post on cops shooting someone?

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  11. I’d love to think that Trump is done… but I never understood his attraction to voters to start with. A lot of the people claiming he’s done have claimed that lots of times, that doesn’t bode well.

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    • This took me a few reads, but I don’t think Will is saying that Trump is done, rather he’s saying that the electoral preferences are locked in. He’s making an educated guess about which way the vote will fall but the bigger point is that people ain’t changing their minds anymore and it will be down to GOTV and how accurate the pollster demographic models are.

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      • This is right. I think my title threw people off, and the post didn’t sufficiently clarify. The short version is:

        1) Most of it is locked in, whether they’re telling pollsters or not.
        2) If current polling (and/or my intuition) is right, this election isn’t close enough for the loose change to buy anything.
        3) If the polling is wrong, too bullish on Clinton, then the small stuff might matter.
        4) But this isn’t like a field goal where any old fluke thing can cause Trump to win. If Trump wins, it likely means the models are off. The 74% reflects models, not underlying dynamics.

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        • Likely voter screens are the biggest potential wildcard. Turnout models are always built on assumptions.

          As I said upthread, I’d lean towards any mistakes there breaking towards Clinton (Trump’s total lack of ground game, from registration to voter targeting, and Trumps’ desire to anger as many women and minorities as humanly possible right when the bulk of the electorate are tuning in). The normal factor I’d say would cut against Clinton (favorability numbers) are just so much worse for Trump.

          Perhaps it’s wishful thinking, but I’m having a hard time coming up with a pro-Trump scenario for the lean — white middle class men turning out in record numbers? He’s got no ground game to get them registered or to turn them out to vote. Romney’s numbers with registered white males voters were so high that Trump doesn’t really have much room to grow and he’s not registering them to get the never-voted out.

          And he’s out of time for the ground game.

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          • As I said upthread, I’d lean towards any mistakes there breaking towards Clinton

            I agree. That’s why I have the various averages at 3-5% but my prediction is that she wins by 6%. If the polls are tied (heaven forfend) I will still feel like her chances are better than not of winning. I will just have a low confidence level.

            That said, the question to ask in these cases is “If I’m wrong, why am I wrong.” And in this case, if Trump wins, it’s because he (a) does surprisingly well among white women, and especially (b) Democratic turnout just collapses in an unforeseen way. A GOTV program is good, but it can also fail if people simply aren’t motivated.

            The only concern I really have in this area is a minor one: The unenthusiastic-about-Trump Republicans tend to be reliable voters. Unenthusiastic-about-Clinton voters are specifically the kind of people it’s hard to get to the polls. That seems less likely a problem than having a good GOTV and also the opposing problem Trump has (his base are people who talk a bigger game than they deliver in elections, while HRC’s people are reliable)… but it could cut the wrong way.

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      • If people are locked in, that would usually mean that the only remaining factor is the GOTV operation. But consider that this time, there’s also a disgust factor. People may prefer one candidate but be a little too disgusted by him/her to actually pull the lever in six weeks. Or they might become disgusted with the whole system. I suspect that it’s a real factor this cycle more than it’s ever been (making modeling hard), and it’s still quite turbulent (making modeling nearly impossible). With two candidates who repulse nearly as many of their supporters as their opponents, last-second gaffes can dramatically change the field conditions.

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        • Maybe. I think you could be right about the difficulty modeling. I think the disgust thing is a little more settled. If you’re still willing to vote for Trump or Clinton today, you will be come election day. If you’re not sufficiently motivated to go and vote against the other side because They’re Terrible, little in the next 60 days will change your mind.

          All of which means that if Trump says something super dreadful the day before the election, I will probably not make too much of it. Same the other way.

          But as I say to Morat above, if I (and the polls) am/are wrong, it’ll be because turnout comes out very skewed.

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  12. There are many ways to watch football. (A lot of these ways flow into and overlap with each other, but I hope you can get the gist of what I’m saying.)

    The first, of course, is “GO BRONCOS!” You hope for a big play, you cheer when they get it, you complain about the refs when they don’t. The Raiders suck.

    The second gets you to something like “I really like this quarterback!” or “this runningback is really good! I want him on my fantasy team!”

    The third is something like “This quarterback works really well with this wide receiver. They are a good combination.”

    The fourth is closely related to the third: “I like this coach. This coach is smart.”

    The fifth is where you start saying stuff like “this defensive co-ordinator knows his stuff” or “this offensive co-ordinator has hit his groove.”

    When you hit the fifth level, it’s somewhat difficult to go back to the whole “WOOOO GO BRONCOS!!!” thing… not that it’s impossible, of course. Many achieve it. It’s just that the game takes a different flavor for the guys who look at a play and see the offensive co-ordinator’s handiwork rather than seeing something as simple as the quarterback handing off the ball to a running back who then jukes right a bit before running and getting a first down.

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  13. I’ve definitely had the same basic set of thoughts about 538, etc, or at least a similar one. To some extent I think it comes down to probability being a surprising difficult thing for human beings to get their heads around. But in the case of these forecasts, I do think that the Nate Silvers of the world, though they’ve actually tried a lot in their podcasts and so forth, have just not explained very well what exactly it is they are saying when they say that Candidate X with a probability of winning that’s below 50% has a __% chance of winning – i.e. the favorite is that likely to lose.

    To some extent, though, I do kind of think that you have to choose in what you’re saying here between saying that it’s basically over, and not saying that Cohn has it wrong in saying Trump retains a 24% chance to win (or Silver a 32% chance). If it’s much more certain that she wins than that, then it just is. Then the probability is 90% or 95% or whatever. I’m not sure it can be both.

    But like I say, think this is really at root a manifestation of a much more general problem we have understanding probability (or perhaps probability in highly complex situations, as compared to the field goal example), that I struggle with myself. I get where you’re coming from in thinking that while she has a 24% chance of losing, it’s also much more certain than that that she’ll win. But again, I think you have to choose. Or I suppose hedge the view that it’s more certain by saying “barring sudden fatal illness, massive revelation, etc.” But then (and it might not be the case that such possibilities are why the 24%s and 32%s are still out there in the models) you might just be bracketing the very things that make that 24% number what it is, so that ultimately there’s not much disagreement, except about whether to factor in those very-low-probability shocks into one’s main view of the state of the race. (I.e., should the default be “Let’s assume stuff like that isn’t going to happen and make that how we talk bout the race,” or “That kind of stuff does/can happen, so we have to factor it into what we say about what the actual probabilities are”?)

    Anyway, it’s confusing. I’m never really sure how to come at it myself.

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    • This is (regretfully) a common problem when people are making valuations. In their minds, they mix the probability of different events to happen into somehow “believing” that the blended average is the expected outcome.

      You walk to your Board of Directors and say: “There’s this great factory we can buy for our company. I’ve run the models and the factory is worth 200 millions. However, there’s a 25% chance taxes in the state will change. Under that scenario the factory is worth 150 million”.

      A lot of people will say: “Oh, so the factory is worth 187.5 millions” (200 x 0.75 + 150 x 0.25). But that’s not true. The taxes either change, or they don’t. It’s 200 or 150. The only number that is wrong for sure is 187.5.

      Will is most likely right that the election is settled now. People have made up their minds and very few will change it now. They have registered or not. They wil or won’t vote. The 70-30 Hillary/Trump represent a combination of uncertainty in the modeling (models are vast simplifications of reality, and every simplification distorts reality) plus the effect of hypothetical stuff that could happen from here onwards, from the mundane (the economy going up-down to the stuff of Jaybird’s formula.

      The only thing we won’t get is Hillary president Mon-Fri and Trump in the weekends, because, you know, 70-30 split.

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      • Hm. I don’t think that’s right. I mean, it’s right that a 70-30 probability doesn’t mean we’ll get 70% of a Clinton presidency and 30% of a Trump presidency. But no one’s thinking we will. The fact that there are two possible outcomes just means that this is a normal, if complex, arrangement in which the probabilities that X happens and that Y happens (and Y is basically all of ~X) functionally add up to 1, and there’s no blending of X and Y. But people still have a hard time getting their head around it. But not inasmuch as they think the outcomes will blend.

        But that doesn’t mean that you have two separate probability structures for the two outcomes. I mean, you can look at it that way, but ultimately those can be blended. You’re not saying the outcomes will blend when you try to boil down big, countervailing factors in the probabilities between two totally discreet outcomes to one overall number. That’s just what calculating probabilities for discreet outcomes entails. I really think that if we say that it’s much more likely than Cohn says it is that Clinton will win, then there’s not really any way to get around saying that his number is simply too low, because of whatever factors they are that he allows to wrongly inflate the probability he sees in her losing. And I don’t think people mistakenly coming up with an impossible middle-ground outcome has much (anything) to do with it.

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      • Actually, this is not exactly a problem. subjective probabilities are not necessarily estimates of objective probabilities, rather subjective probabilities are estimates about epistemic probabilities. Its like flipping a fair coin and guessing the chance it will land heads. Either it will land heads or it will not. 0.5 is clearly wrong, nevertheless, relative to our evidence that is the best probability we can assign heads. Think of it as there being two sets of possible worlds. In one, the coin lands heads and in the other tails. But if our evidence does not indicate which possible world we are in, then our estimate of which possible world we are in cannot be 0 or 1 as that would be saying that our evidence does in fact tell us which of the two sets we are in.

        Same goes for rational expectations. Suppose I offer to play a game with you where you flip a coin. If it lands heads I pay you $10 while if it lands tails, you pay me $8. You’re never actually going to get just $1, but that number is still going to be meaningful.

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    • Well, it sort of works like this:

      (1) For the rest of the election, there is unlikely to be much variation in the results. As things are now, they are likely to be on election day.
      (a) As I believe that right now things look good for Clinton, it is likely she wins because the band of variation isn’t large enough to overcome her advantage.
      (b) My intuition, and current polling could be wrong.

      The point of (b) may come across like it’s hedging on (a), but what I was trying to do with that was apply severability between (1) and (a). Which is to say that even if I’m wrong about (a), that doesn’t nullify (1). And the post is intended to be about (1) and not (a). I probably should have picked a different title and I was less clear in the text. Which happens when I write a post in a burst.

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  14. Have any of you noodled over the whole tax kerfluffle? The NYT’s whole obtaining part one of Trumps old tax returns which suggests he claimed an almost 1 billion dollar loss a couple decades back and likely has been using that loss to not pay taxes since? It apparently went out last weekend but I haven’t seen a lot about it in the mass social media so I dunno. The people paying attention seem to think it’s a stake in the heart but I feel like it’s too arcane to get any traction.

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    • I’ve only heard a tiny bit about it. I assume the response would be that is doesn’t matter what the MSM says and trump voters wont’ care. So nothing about His Trumpness actually matters.

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    • Per the OP, I think things are more-or-less locked in barring a real October surprise. Which I don’t think this is.

      It looks like a pretty basic carry-forward. Unless they find this particular instance of it untoward, I am not too worried if I’m Team Trump. I’d much rather be fighting this battle (which involves illegal disclosures of the candidate’s private information) than the hum-drum of Trump acting like a second grader again.

      The worst thing about this is that it all harkens back to the fact that Trump lost an extraordinary amount of money. But his bankruptcies are on the record.

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        • Today he made fun of the pneumonia and suggested Hillary slept around. He’s trying to win the Miss Piggy argument.

          I think it’s safe to say he’s already in full toddler mode. Enough so that if I were the Clinton campaign sitting on this information, I would wait to release it until he’s at an equilibrium again then use it to wreck said equilibrium. Whoever the source is was probably more happy to get the information out there than trying to time the release of it, though.

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          • Enough so that if I were the Clinton campaign sitting on this information, I would wait to release it until he’s at an equilibrium again then use it to wreck said equilibrium.

            The best time to wreck his equilibrium, of course, would be the day before the next debate. The only problem is that’s a Saturday, so not a news day.

            OTOH, it’s a *town hall*, so…maybe release it mid-Thursday, let hims get totally out of control on Friday so it makes the news, and then wait for someone to bring it up at the town hall. See if he’ll go after the audience.

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            • Remember back in the primary, when people were talking about how no one had any Trump oppo research because nobody took him seriously until too late? So all they had was the well known stuff? (And even that they were handicapped because some of the stuff played to Trump’s strengths among the GOP base?)

              And that HRC wasn’t (per media reports) suffering that problem? She had time to get the ball rolling, and an experienced team to go mining?

              So…yeah. Apparently accurate.

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                • No, but Machado did.

                  Frankly, Clinton’s not having to use much. He’s his own worst enemy once the tantrum gets started.

                  No point in shooting off all your ammo when one targetted shot sends Trump into a week long orgy of self destruction.

                  I’ve literally never seen a grown man that easily manipulated, that easily enraged. The idea of him being President is terrifying.

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      • Agreed, I don’t consider it a big game changer though it really hammers down on the tax disclosure thing. I agree it’s likely that nothing illegal is going on but if it comes out that Trump lost almost a billion dollars and because of that hasn’t paid taxes for a decade plus, well, legal or not that won’t be well received.
        But I agree that it’s too arcane to likely be too salient; especially since Trump seems to be merrily manufacturing fresher news bait than that.
        I do hope that HRC is doubling down on her debate prep. Complacency on their part is the only thing I worry about.

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        • If you’re Trump, you might be looking at this optimistically. Thinking that maybe folks looking on are thinking “Oh, is that all he was hiding? I was thinking it might be something worse.” Net gain!

          If you’re Clinton, you are probably looking for some reason to claim that he shouldn’t have been able to claim the carry-forwards. And gosh, the only way to know if they’re legitimate is if Trump releases his taxes. Let’s talk about that!

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        • I think he’s in more trouble over the fact that his charity was never registered (with New York, I think). Ever. Without being regiestered (which is required because it’s how they know who to audit, to make sure it’s a real charity) They’re legally barred from accepting more than 25k a year. That’s why his charity hasn’t ever been audited. No paperwork on file, not a registered charity, not, strictly speaking, real.

          Given it’s already under investigation, he might be forced to return all the money that’s been donated to it.

          Now they’d have to prove it wasn’t incompetence (although the fact that his son’s charity is registered would argue against that), but adding “Forgot to register the charity, which means no audits” really doesn’t help the whole “It’s not my personal slush fund!” case.

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          • That seems like the most substantive story to come out in recent weeks. I’m not sure it’ll matter as much politically as it should, but a year from now it seems like it might be the ongoing Trump news as works its way through the courts.

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          • I think he’s in more trouble over the fact that his charity was never registered (with New York, I think). Ever. Without being regiestered (which is required because it’s how they know who to audit, to make sure it’s a real charity) They’re legally barred from accepting more than 25k a year.

            No.

            Charities have to be registered in New York to *solicit* more than $25,000 a year. Which means that *actual* Rich-People Foundations (Aka, a place for the super-rich to dump their own money and get a tax deduction until a real charity fluffs their ego and they hand the money over to them.) don’t have to register. They don’t *solicit* money from the guy with his name on the door.

            The Donald Trump Foundation is, uh, not an actual foundation. It sorta started as one, but stopped being that in 2008. And has *solicted*more than that much.

            In fact, hilariously, as ‘soliciting’ is hard to prove (I mean, maybe people just spontaneously wrote checks), some of the most obvious solicitation are the *actual* charitable giving^W pass-though, like when he got people to hand his charity $150,000 for the Palm Beach Police Foundation and then gave it to the Palm Beach Police Foundation and took the credit for it. There you go, that’s over $150,000 solicited by the Trump Foundation, when they could not legally do that.

            I wish the media would cover some of the subtle difference between normal charities and foundations, because there are a few:

            For example, actual foundations (And neither the Clinton *or* the Trump Foundation is an actual foundation), believe it or not, have *stricter* rules again self-dealing…a rich person donating his money to charity and then buying stuff to use himself is a common tax-dodge, whereas a publicly-joinable member-based non-profit is assumed to be paying at least a *little* attention to self-dealing by the board and corporate officers, including having ethics guidelines! And others are in the middle.

            Of course, the Trump Foundation’s board is basically just Trump’s family, which, AFAIK, means it falls under stricter scrutiny stuff even *if* it’s not actually a foundation.

            Meanwhile, a non-foundation charity is supposed to be a *lot* more separate from people than a personal foundation. The corporate structure of a foundation can basically be ‘This guy’, and as long as what gets declared on taxes as him having been given to the foundation gets *spent* by the foundation later on charitable things (Or, normally, just given to other charities), everything is good. The guy reports giving a million to it on his taxes, the charity reports getting a million, and the charity eventually gives that million to some other charity…no one’s going to audit that, except to check if that other charity actually got it. It’s not quite ‘S-Corp’ levels of personal operation, but it’s close.

            But the corporate structure of *real* charity is supposed to be, you know, real. Actual separate bank accounts, at least two people paying attention to the money, etc.

            And there are often all sorts of other rules, especially for charities that solicit donations, like New York has.

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            • Unfortunately for Trump, he had a gigantic telethon for said foundation to solicit amounts in excess of that when he had the “Donate for the Troops” even as counter-programming to the Republican primary debate. That makes it super easy to prove solicitation.

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              • Unfortunately for Trump, he had a gigantic telethon

                We try to be laissez faire with the comments, but there are some rules that are strictly enforced. So you’ll need to start over with

                Unfortunately for Trump, he had a yuuuuuge telethon …

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          • I would have said, tongue only partly in cheek, “Not if he actually lost the ‘money’.” Mr. Trump is rich enough, and holds enough assets, to structure his holdings and income and time when he realizes long-term capital gains and losses. If presented with the opportunity to shuffle things around and concentrate all the capital losses in one place and realize a billion-dollar paper loss, take it. In future years, you can realize up to a billion dollars in long term capital gains without paying taxes on them.

            Full disclosure: The cable industry, where I did technology work for some years, was notorious for this kind of thing. Public companies worth billions, controlled by the original family owners through a small number of special shares that came with a million votes each. Incredibly complicated cross-ownership arrangements. The original family made a very handsome annual income from a company that never showed a profit.

            Fuller disclosure: When I do our taxes for 2016, I will offset some of our regular income with the last piece of a long-term capital loss incurred some years back.

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    • It’ll get traction because the press is super hung-up on the tax returns thing (not with Trump, but in general), and the press decides what gets traction kind of by definition. But I don’t think it’s going to move many votes. I think the debate really moved the ones remaining to be moved. I’ve actually been a little shocked at how many testimonials I’ve heard of people who were willing to openly say in front of a microphone that they were seriously considering voting for Trump (which is a thing all to itself), but that the debate tipped them firmly to Clinton. Not Johnson-to-Clinton, not Stein-to-Clinton. Solidly-Trump-curious to Clinton.

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      • To my infinite surprise, even a Rod Dreher, a Hillary hater of the first rate (because religious freedom (*)), is arriving to the conclusion that Trump is worse

        http://www.theamericanconservative.com/dreher/madness-of-king-donald/

        (*) Religious freedom to discriminate, because LGBT discrimination is the condensed symbol of his personal religion, all the rest, abortion excepted, being prudential issues about which you can disagree in good faith

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          • This is the best way to approach it, in my view.

            Eric Erickson reiterated his opposition to Trump in something that reads to me like it’s in a foreign language, but even as I do take swipes at him I’m glad he’s (still) landed in the right place.

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        • Man, reading that….social conservatives live in a different world at times. Don’t get me wrong, my in-laws are both very religious and conservative, long-time GOP voters. My mother-in-law routinely teaches Bible classes to adults. They are not twice-a-year Christians, but very devout. But they’re also Methodists from the mainstream Methodist church.

          At no point would either of them think or claim that their end-goal to solve society is to finish off the mistaken Enlightenment principles that America was built on to return to Christian rule.

          (It was in the quote from Michael Brendan Dougherty near the end)

          I just don’t…I can’t even wrap my mind around believing that.

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          • Dreher always tip toes around that very gingerly. It comes out in some of the essays he quotes and the like that the fundamental problem is people being able to choose not to participate etc. He also really blows the authoritarian left out of proportion; as if it’s a huge component of the Dems rather than merely an annoying presence on college campuses but then again he folds a lot of “Oh no we can’t denounce people who don’t live the way we like without getting responses we don’t like” in under the tablecloth of religious liberty. He can cry me a river on that stuff.

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            • There’s also the weird conflation of the idea of “Western” somehow predating the Enlightenment, all tangled together into some weird assumptions.

              Pre-Enlightenment religion was pretty simple in the West. By and large you were Catholic, Anglican, or Lutheran. And which one you were depended on which one your monarch was, or whose army had just finished conquering your region when you were born. (You might be Jewish, but life was pretty unpleasant if you were).

              Most of the evangelicals talking about ‘secular elites’ taking God out of the state — they belong to johnny-come-lately religions that would have been squashed like a bug pre-Enlightenment by established Churchs who wanted no competition, and frankly exist almost entirely because those Enlightenment valuesm especially in America, which avoided a state church) lets them believe pretty much what they want.

              These people literally want to revert to a state that never existed, to ‘undo’ a mistake that is the only thing allowing most of their specific sects to exist in the first place.

              I just….I can’t even understand the thinking. The very thing they claim represses them is what led to their own existence.

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              • These people literally want to revert to a state that never existed, to ‘undo’ a mistake that is the only thing allowing most of their specific sects to exist in the first place.

                This is my view of most of the radical opponents of the modern liberal state.

                Like the guys who feverishly clamor for a caliphate, or sovereign citizens these people are all products of modern liberalism, and have no conception of the society they supposedly want to live in, but they are certain that they would enjoy it and prosper in it.

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            • >>He also really blows the authoritarian left out of proportion

              This is what sets me off about Dreher. On Monday he’ll have a post about how some college that has a safe space with coloring books marks the total and final collapse of academia. On Tuesday he’ll quote a *clearly fabricated* story about some trans-folks standing in line for a movie and making explicit jokes, and insinuate that this forebodes a violent civil war. And then on Wednesday he’ll link favorably to a story about Russian government imprisoning some kid for using his cell-phone in a church. Like actually thrown into the stocks for heresy like it’s the 15th century. There’s no proportion to any story: if it made Dreher uncomfortable than it’s a cultural crisis, if it’s brutally punishing his enemies then it’s justifiable. A man going through life in a perpetual state of grievance.

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        • Some interesting stuff in the WaPo article Dreher links:

          Trump is getting high-level policy advice on a regular basis from senior experts such as Rudy Giuliani and retired Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn.

          What, exactly is Giuliani an expert in?

          But in August, shortly after the convention, most of the policy shop’s most active staffers quit. Although they signed non-disclosure agreements, several of them told me on background that the Trump policy effort has been a mess from start to finish.

          This is a standard Trump MO: making NDAs and non-disparagement clauses a condition of employment, to prevent public criticism. Machado became Miss Universe the year before Trump bought the pageant, which is why she’s free to criticize Trump without a lawsuit. None of the more recent winners are.

          Trump has never acknowledged the policy shop based in Washington that has been doing huge amounts of grunt work for months without recognition or compensation.

          Another standard Trump MO: not paying people.

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      • What I noticed is that the press is now more willing to call Trump out in articles. I think they got tired of being criticized for being caught with their pants down or the push back from activists and maybe readers worked.

        From the Times article:

        “The 1995 tax records, never before disclosed, reveal the extraordinary tax benefits that Mr. Trump, the Republican presidential nominee, derived from the financial wreckage he left behind in the early 1990s through mismanagement of three Atlantic City casinos, his ill-fated foray into the airline business and his ill-timed purchase of the Plaza Hotel in Manhattan.”

        Bold is mine. Previously the Times would have written something that was more on an innuendo level like “rough times at three of his Atlantic City casinos.”

        Also from the Times article:

        “The $916 million loss certainly could have eliminated any federal income taxes Mr. Trump otherwise would have owed on the $50,000 to $100,000 he was paid for each episode of “The Apprentice,” or the roughly $45 million he was paid between 1995 and 2009 when he was chairman or chief executive of the publicly traded company he created to assume ownership of his troubled Atlantic City casinos. Ordinary investors in the new company, meanwhile, saw the value of their shares plunge to 17 cents from $35.50, while scores of contractors went unpaid for work on Mr. Trump’s casinos and casino bondholders received pennies on the dollar.”

        This reminds me of Clinton I in 1992 talking about how ordinary Americans play by the rules and play fair and get screwed but the rich can get their losses and turn it into an advantage.

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    • The story is from this weekend. Not last weekend. It is the cover story of the front page of the Times today. Yes I get the Sunday Times because I am an old person and like reading physical papers.

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    • The people paying attention seem to think it’s a stake in the heart but I feel like it’s too arcane to get any traction.

      There is speculation that *that* was released now so that *later*, when the more current tax returns are released that show him paying no taxes due the previous losses, the media will be able to explain what, exactly, is going on, and Trump won’t be able to spin it as a single year thing. Get 1995 out there long enough that Donald Trump hasn’t disputed it so everyone accepts it, and then put the 2015 return out that shows him not paying taxes based on that loss.

      Of course, there is also speculation that it was released by Marla Maples, as she joint filed with Donald that year, and she supposedly isn’t happy with Donald and the way he’s been sidelining Tiffany during this election. If so, the latest returns *she* could have access to were 96, and maybe not even that. 95 is probably the most damaging she has access to.

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      • >>Of course, there is also speculation that it was released by Marla Maples

        The only “Sign Here” sticker in the whole document points to Marla’s name. That definitely made my little gray Poirot cells tingle.

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    • Can someone explain to me like I’m an idiot why paying little to no taxes is a big deal?

      One argument is that there’s something unseemly about him personally not paying more. That implies that a private citizen should not be doing ordinary things to lower their tax burden, which is … kinda weird. I mean, I get that we generally support charitable giving but I don’t think *anyone* argues that you should do it by sending more income tax to the government, right? I don’t see a lot of people getting upset that Gates or Buffet are making charitable donations through *charities* instead of through voluntary taxes.

      Another argument is that the fact that a billionaire *can* pay less than his secretary is bad. But, well, we already knew that. And the relevant statistic would be how much lost revenue this accounts for nationally, not whether Trump does it or not. There’s no policy proposal that hinges on whether Trump, individually, pays less than X … that would be crazy. Moreover, Trump is superficially *for* eliminating loopholes and lowering taxes on everybody, so his proposals already address the macro argument.

      Prior to release, the potential scandals I had envisioned were: (a) some really tortured, legal-in-name-only sheltering that indicates he’s an unethical businessman; (b) compromising foreign connections; (c) clear evidence of much less charitable giving than Trump claimed. I’m not seeing that here. In fact, (a) and (c) are actually showing up in his very suspicious + illegal Foundation dealings; and (b) was scrupulously documented in the Newsweek story. So the incriminating stuff is already out there. What am I missing?

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      • “Taxes are what we pay for civilized society”-Justice Holmes.

        Most people don’t like paying taxes but I suspect many and probably most people see it as a responsibility to their country and society.

        Most people try to pay the minimum amount that they can get away with but very few people try to avoid paying taxes for years.

        https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/a-lean-toward-clinton-among-one-group-of-undecided-north-carolina-voters/2016/09/27/ff271b2e-8469-11e6-92c2-14b64f3d453f_story.html

        That comment caused a gasp in the hotel conference room where Townley and five other undecided voters in this ­battleground state were watching the debate.

        “That’s offensive. I pay taxes,” said Townley, 52, a program ­director for a local council of governments.

        “Another person would be in jail for that,” said Jamilla Hawkins, 33, who was sitting beside him in the Crescent conference room at the Embassy Suites in this city of 150,000 near Raleigh.

        Hawkins’s mother had chided her to get off the fence and support Clinton, but the 33-year-old felt no connection to the Democratic nominee. “I just wasn’t sold on her. A lot of my friends were on the Bernie Sanders train,” she said.

        Here we have someone who brags about how rich he is (whether he is that rich is another story) and his great business acumen. What is really acumen seems to be is in exploiting the system and exploiting ordinary workers and families. We know that Trump has often if not almost always refused to pay small businesses for fair services rendered and this has often ruined the family businesses that were several generations old. So not paying taxes for nearly twenty years or more just makes him look like more of a fraudster.

        Now the cynic could possibly argue that lots of his fans also want to be able to bilk the system like Trump does and would find it admirable but the prevailing sentiment (as I read it) seems to be about fair shares.

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      • The first part is that he, assuming the return is correct, had to pay that much because he was really bad at business. He has been a frequent and massive failure. His success have been from being rich enough to be above the rules. If his pitch is I’m Great and will bring you with me, then showing he isn’t great hits him in the nads.

        Second if he wants to present himself as being for the little guy how does it look for him to be one of the rich dudes who got away with having no rules or special treatment when it benefited him. While his supporters were falling down he was making bank by the special rules he claims to dislike. He is the kind of person he campaigns against. ( leaving aside the race issues of course).

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      • Because he brags about how rich is he, then says he doesn’t pay taxes.

        He might not pay taxes because he took a billion dollar loss, but people won’t care. He’s running on how rich he is, which runs right into “Doesn’t pay taxes” and people might be okay with “minimizing” your tax bill, but they don’t like “negating it”. (Remember those “lucky duckies” who don’t pay income taxes?).

        And the explanation that “I took a billion dollar bath” still runs right into his core identity of “rich” AND runs into the belief that the rules are different for the rich.

        Bob the Plumber might be out of a work a year, but he can’t parley that into years of not paying taxes because he “took a bath” in 2010″ when he was out of work. It comes across as a rich man’s loophole.

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        • My original thought is that it might be damaging in that it cuts against his alleged Business Genius, doesn’t it?

          But people already know about the bankruptcies. I’m not sure how this is worse.

          My general sense, at least for myself, is that I wouldn’t care if it were a politician I otherwise support. I wouldn’t like it, necessarily, but it wouldn’t be especially damning.

          My dislike of Trump in particular makes it somewhat hard for me to gauge.

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          • The big issue is that when ordinary people declare bankruptcy, they usually don’t get to continue on with an ultra-luxury lifestyle and wearing suits that costs thousands of dollars and hosting beauty contests like Miss Universe and then being “I am Mr. Super Big Business on the Apprentice.”

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              • If the many stories about his companies stiffing contractors and not paying people for work they did hit the media big time that will be a bit uglier. Taxes is easier to brush off since we’re all supposed to hate hate hate taxes. Screwing over regular people cause you dont’ want to pay is bit different. In fact if i was in the Hill Camp i’d be lining up that attack now.

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                • The contractors thing seems like a more sensitive area for Trump. Seems like it’s already out there, but if Hillary can line them up just so, who knows? Just gotta decide if this is better or worse than Toddler Trump.

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                  • A few days ago I said this first debate was a test, and I’m not sure what the next attack is.

                    But I bet there’s a contractor story being constructed right now for the *next* debate, some guy who did work for Trump and then didn’t get paid and his business collapsed due to it.

                    Whether they’ll use that, or just use the personal insults again, we’ll have to see.

                    The best, of course, would be a *combination*…I wonder if there’s some non-gorgeous *woman* that Trump refused to pay. See if they can get a ‘normal everyday woman that went bankrupt due to Trump, *and* he’s decided to personally belittle how she looks’ story.

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                    • So I Googled “Trump contractor” and there’s an article in Forbes, WaPo and the Charlotte Observer all about different contractors that got stiffed by Trump. This strikes me as a a winning strategy, hit national and local. media with idividual stories that just drip drip drips out. It’s basically the way the email story cut against Clinton. If there’s a new story evey week, then it makes the issue look more real.

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            • Trump has never declared personal bankruptcy — four businesses in which he held various sorts of stakes declared bankruptcy. How much he lost (or gained) depends on what sort of ownership stake he held. I’ve seen cases where holders of special senior debt ended up with very large equity stakes in a debt-free profitable company that they could unload after a couple of years for a large capital gain. In Chapter 11, it’s commonly the junior debt holders that take a big haircut, and the common shareholders that get nothing.

              When I worked in the cable industry, John Malone’s reputation was, “If John approaches you about a deal, demand cash and nothing bigger than a twenty.” Despite that, Malone has continued to get people to invest in risky propositions on terms where he can’t lose.

              Trump strikes me as playing the same game, and doing just fine doing so.

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                • I keep waiting for someone to bring up the one-two question of:

                  1) Why will no large bank except Deutsche Bank loan you money anymore?

                  2) Considering how much you owe Deutsche Bank, what do you think about the fact they will have trouble playing their fine for their role in defrauding people during the mortgage crisis?

                  EDIT: Oh, and one more:

                  3) If the German government is forced to bail out Deutsche Bank, how do think you’d be able to handle being in debt to the German government *and* still interact with both Germany, and the EU where Germany is one of the most powerful players, impartially?

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                  • 2) Considering how much you owe Deutsche Bank, what do you think about the fact they will have trouble playing their fine for their role in defrauding people during the mortgage crisis?

                    And, maybe most importantly, does the size of the fine have anything to do with the fact that they’re Trump’s bank?

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                    • I don’t know how that’s ‘most important’…the size of the fine is pretty much in line with what other banks were originally hit with(1), and Deutsche Bank was an *extremely* bad actor leading up to the mortgage crisis, so it’s not like the DOJ was going to go soft on them.

                      And the investigation and everything was started well before this election cycle began.

                      The problem is that Deutsche Bank, unlike other banks that already settled, operates in an *extremely* risky manner and is very highly leveraged, and the fine could quite possibly break it.

                      1) They settled for less…like it appears that Deutsche Bank is also being offered, for 5.6 billion. Whether or not Deutsche Bank will agree to the settlement is unknown, because they might not be able to safely pay *that* much!

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                      • I don’t know how that’s ‘most important’…

                        It’d be using the power of the government to corruptly swing elections (even if it takes Billions of dollars and corrupting the judicial process). My expectation is that holding Trump’s charity up to a microscope (where Clinton’s pretty clearly has not been) is another example.

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          • It’s a combination of (a) the scale of the loss; and (b) the fact that taking a massive loss may have benefited him for a stunning amount of time. First, I don’t think there’s a good way to spin losing nearly a billion dollars in one year and still claim you’re amazing at business. The fact that he earned it back eventually definitely helps, but Clinton can say (fairly or unfairly) that if you’re actually a business genius, you just don’t fail that spectacularly, that he was bad at business, and that ordinary people paid the price for it.

            Point (b) highlights a fundamental unfairness: when you or I declare bankruptcy, it hurts us for years afterwards: destroyed credit, maybe foreclosed on. We definitely don’t get to use our bankruptcy to avoid paying taxes for the next two decades. Now, Trump’s spin on this seems to be that this is unfair and that he’s the only one who’s willing or able to fix it. But Clinton can then counter that point easily. As she noted in the first debate, despite Trump’s rhetoric about the elites, all of his actual proposals are designed to benefit guys like him. If he really believed that the tax and bankruptcy systems unfairly benefit him, he would be proposing changes that are bad for him, which he’s not doing. There’s a very demonstrable disconnect between his rhetoric and reality, and I think this reveal positions Clinton to highlight it effectively

            Also, there’s a second-order effect: Trump’s reaction to it. You know Clinton will bring it up at the next debate to get under Trump’s skin, and I don’t see him being disciplined enough to give an answer that won’t come off as callous to the people he stiffed and tone-deaf to the problems of people who don’t own businesses.

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          • A lot of this has to do with the assumption that candidates be judged according to their own stated metrics.

            If Bernie Snaders had once filed bankruptcy of a business he once owned, it’s a deal but not a huge one. But Trump is different because this touches on the very narrative he is running on.

            It’s like having one of those kind of unethical but not really illegal charges come to light. Those hit Clinton harder than they do Trump, because a big part of the narrative she runs on is that she’s a Public Servant.

            Candidates always whine about what stories the press run with, but a lot of that is their own doing.

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          • Generally, that they showed an operating loss (or at least, no profit). The thing people are fussing about is that if you’re in a capital-gains business, you get to carry the losses forward to offset future gains. No one, personal or business, gets to carry operating losses forward. I’m not complaining — if we taxed capital gains but made people eat all of the losses, no one would undertake risky things.

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      • Can someone explain to me like I’m an idiot why paying little to no taxes is a big deal?

        I can’t. Trump’s response to the accusation was spot on (not the “it shows I’m smart” comment, the other one): that he availed himself of the laws currently on the books, and if someone doesn’t like those laws they should change ’em.

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      • Thanks, I’m starting to see what people are talking about. A couple of thoughts:

        (1) On Trump’s wealth, I’m really dubious that the mainstream media (and especially the Times) will have any penetration on this with the low-edu Republicans that are Trump-curious. It’ll be a “Me, or your lying eyes?” moment to the Trump voters I’ve interacted with: “He’s not rich?! Look at his penthouse! Look at his helicopter! Look at his WIFE! And you’re tellin’ me he’s not rich? Get tha fuck outta heah, I’d kill to be that poor”. Either you buy into his blue collar billionaire aesthetic or you don’t, but that ship has sailed.

        (2) On the returns themselves, I find this narrative to be very compelling: “I don’t like taxes. Trump doesn’t like taxes. He doesn’t pay taxes and he’s going to help me do the same”. This goes hand in hand with his “I will be YOUR voice”/”I’m with YOU” messaging, which has been pretty consistent all the way back to the convention. Thinking about it in terms of moral foundations is an oversimplification, but I think it’s consistent with how people are reacting: liberals are sensitive to harm (Trump stiffed folks) and fairness (Trump’s not paying his fair share); conservatives are feeling that, but are additionally sensitive to liberty (taxes are theft), loyalty (Trump’s doing what’s best for his shareholders and family), and authority (Trump is not playing by the rules). If Trump is able to thread the needle on liberty + loyalty without disrupting the other issues I predict he’ll survive this fine, and may even benefit by taking the focus off Machado. If Clinton is able to find really compelling workers that were screwed and frame this loophole as something that’s deeply unethical and anti-capitalist, this will hurt.

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          • >>That word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

            I’ll put it this way: if Trump was using the “Rich Uncle Pennybags Loophole that was shoved down our throat under the cover of darkness in a smoke-filled back room” Clinton could make the case that this is crony-capitalism and try to appeal to moderate Republicans’ value of authority; if Trump is using a fairly standard write-off that anyone with capital losses can leverage (as now appears to be the case), then such an attack would backfire.

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        • liberals are sensitive to harm (Trump stiffed folks) and fairness (Trump’s not paying his fair share); conservatives are feeling that, but are additionally sensitive to liberty (taxes are theft), loyalty (Trump’s doing what’s best for his shareholders and family), and authority (Trump is not playing by the rules).

          I think there is right and wrong in here.

          I think most conservatives are pretty sensitive to fairness, and Trump stiffen people is a bad thing for them. FWIW, I don’t see any conservatives (even on talk radio) defending him on that front. Instead, they are simply refusing to believe he could possibly do it (i.e.: the liberal media is making it up). I see them quoting his defenses of a lot of terrible things, but I never see them quoting his defenses of stiffing people. They prefer to pretend it doesn’t exist.

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          • Good point Tod. It’s like climate change, in a way: rather than confront and respond to the evidence and facts it’s easier to just deny ’em and assert they’re part of the liberal conspiracy.

            And I don’t mean that as any sorta judgment, really (at least not in this comment). Just description. That’s the state of play anymore. Our politics has constructed so many easy, reallyreally easy, ways outa politically uncomfortable beliefs.

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            • Our politics has constructed so many easy, reallyreally easy, ways outa politically uncomfortable beliefs.

              Which goes not only Both ways, but every which way (even for the folks who pride themselves on being above all that nonsense), I should add.

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  15. So I am not sure what to make of this article:

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/finally-someone-who-thinks-like-me/2016/10/01/c9b6f334-7f68-11e6-9070-5c4905bf40dc_story.html?postshare=4211475384578495&tid=ss_fb

    On the one hand, the woman and her boyfriend live in a part of the United States that is not only dead, it is more or less decaying and rotting. I feel great sympathy for people who grew up in areas where the economy is dead and they have nowhere to go.

    On the other hand, she seems to believe in a lot of things that are absolutely delusional and dangerously so. I didn’t even know that it was a right-wing conspiracy that Michelle Obama did not give birth to her daughters.

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    • I’d argue that the woman seems to have some very serious pre-existing and possibly entirely biological mental health issues and here socio-economic problems are making them worse. There are plenty of people in similarly bad socio-economic systems with similarly Far Right politics, and in other instances Far Left politics, that do not need to undergo involuntary psychiatric treatment.

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      • The woman in question seems to be a very special case as you noted above but your generally right. A problem is that creating your own information circuit is easier now than ever. LGM has some intelligent people but they seem unable to talk about politics and policy with people who disagree with them .

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    • she also believed that [Obama] was likely gay, that Michelle Obama could be a man, and that the Obama children were possibly kidnapped from a family now searching for them.

      Not that she didn’t invent any of this. They’re beliefs that are out there among the paranoid right.

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