Nate Silver crunches the numbers and discovers Clinton steadily bleeding support at a rate that won’t get her over the line.
Last week, Politico reported that Hillary Clinton’s campaign was set to employ a “run out the clock” strategy, declining to respond to recurring controversies even at the risk of seeming nonresponsive. In the abstract, such a strategy could make sense. Clinton has a fairly clear lead in the polls. There are only 10 weeks to go until the Nov. 8 election — and less than that until early voting, which begins in late September in some states.
But Clinton shouldn’t get too complacent. After mixed evidence before, it’s become clearer, at least according to our forecast models, that Donald Trump has regained some ground on her. Clinton’s national lead in our polls-only forecast has gone from a peak of about 8.5 percentage points two weeks ago to 6.5 percentage points as of Sunday evening — that is, a 2-point gain for Trump over two weeks. Correspondingly, Trump’s chances of winning the election have improved from a low of 11 percent to 19 percent.
By the time a team defends a lead to win, they tend to lose. Teams win because they try to win every encounter on the field and they ignore the score board. The score board is simply an outcome of winning everything you do.
None of this is to say that there’s been some game-changing shift toward Trump. There probably hasn’t been, and you wouldn’t necessarily anticipate one given that, after such an action-packed period earlier this summer, there have been a lot of slow news days amid the August doldrums. Generally speaking, polls don’t move suddenly without a good reason.
But the polls can move gradually, whether because they’re reverting to a previous mean (a convention bounce wears off) or because of the cumulative effects of the campaign (an undecided voter finally makes up her mind). Lately, that movement seems to be slightly toward Trump.
And doing so at a rate where Clinton needs to stop the rot.
If Trump keeps gaining 1 percentage point a week, he’ll beat Clinton by a couple of percentage points on Nov. 8. Hence, Clinton should probably not be picking out the White House drapes just yet.