Why Clinton can’t just run down the clock to win

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.


– 538

  • Don O’Brien

    There are also wild card factors. If there were some more mass-shootings between now and November, that could be worth a coupe of percentage points. Trump might gain another point by releasing his tax records.

    • Second time around

      He would get a lot of points by proving that he is an ordinary bloke, asset rich but with very little income and some big mortgages to service.

  • Boondecker

    Clinton took a big hit with her scripted and obviously over-rehearsed attack on the ‘alt-right’ last week. She was only blasting headlines of articles she obviously hasn’t seen or read the content. It was Screaming Lord Such stuff and it showed. Generalities and non-specific commentary on a subject one knows nothing about easily gets exposed if you’re a politician. Hillary fell at the start gate.

    She also is up to about 300 days since last doing a genuine press conference compared to Trump doing one or two a week. When she finally gets around to doing one, she will be roasted by those media who do not act as her cheerleaders.


    • biscuit barrel

      Trump doesnt do ‘one or two ‘full’ press conferences a week. Largely he does what Clinton does, is meet with selected outlets and answer their questions. Trump mostly sticks to Fox news and Clinton does CNN or CBS.
      “Since a disastrous interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos at the end of July, Trump has appeared almost exclusively on Fox News. His campaign has declined all interview requests from CNN, NBC, CBS, and ABC.” -CNN Money
      Both dont have media on their plane.
      Trump has scaled back his interviews since the primaries, as its not a good tactic to make yourself available just to be roasted. Clinton would face the same pressures.

      • Boondecker

        You fell into the obvious trap of defending the indefensible. The biscuits will be broken come election day.

        • biscuit barrel

          Im only taking one month at a time, and Clinton wins last month according to polls. This month is a blank sheet and we wont know really till half way which way its trending. Then you start again for last month. By then it will be down to the 15 states that matter not a nationwide number like they are doing now. Whale will probably pick it sooner than me as he has an expert eye for such things

          • Elihu

            Millions of new registrations from people who have not voted for a long while or never voted before are not being factored in the polls of ‘likely voters’. Almost half the population of America hardly ever vote, considering voting a worthless exercise as one party is almost as bad as the other. However, this year they are coming out of the wood work and are being referred to in some circles as the “Monster Vote” and they are coming out for Trump. If this factor proves to be true, he will win in an unprecedented landslide. Check out The Conservative Treehouse for more inside information.

  • Jman

    I’m really looking forward to the debates between Trump and Clinton. They are usually very influential and I expect him to win those easily. They play to all his strength – charisma in front of the camera – while Hillary is just awful.

    • andrewo

      Never mud wresting a pig – because the pig enjoys it.

  • shykiwibloke

    Two critical factors the Clinton camp have to address IMHO – hold press conferences and get her out in front of crowds day after day after day to prove the health thing is not a factor. If they cannot do these two things, then the scandals will continue to fester before snowball into an avalanche

    • biscuit barrel

      John Key does ‘full press conferences”. When was the last time you saw a clip on TV from one. His one on one interviews are seen more widely as thats what audiences want. Yes the ‘trained journalists’ get all wrought over these but ordinary people like them and dont really go for hit jobs especially over breakfast.

      • taurangaruru

        Do you think the small population (as opposed to the USA) helps make JK’s one on one’s so successful, the 6 degrees of separation theory? We all know someone who has met JK personally & “he is a good bloke”

  • Taser

    I’m not surprised she is dropping support because she is doing the same thing as that fool Krim Dot Con did. Instead of talking policy like their opposition they continue to throw mud at them, hoping it sticks and the public quickly turn on those that carry on doing it. I don’t care either way about the USA elections but what I have seen is Trump talking policy like tax, immigration, walls and crime where Clinton just slags Trump off in nearly every sentence.

  • xennex

    Let me refresh your memories from 2012. All major conservative commentators predicted either a Romney win or Romney landside. On election night fox news had an cringe worthy moment where their commentator could not accept that Obama had won the 270 electoral votes, and many others seemed shocked that Obama could have won. My point is to keep your eyes open and not wallow in denial.
    The GOP has made a real mess out of this election – rather than accepting that changing demographics require a larger vote from minorities, they’ve doubled down by nominating someone who has gone out of their way to insult and abuse minorities and women. Now is the center-right female vote looks very shaky, which is going to be a big problem. If you look closely at the demographics the only thing keeping the GOP in the running for many years was a higher voter turnout. Motivate the other groups sufficiently and you get an outcome like 2008.
    Many people I know dislike Trump as much as Clinton, and simply will not vote at all. Obviously this is a huge problem for the GOP as whilst the presidential vote doesn’t really matter except for a handful of states, they will be lucky not to lose both houses if voter turnout is low.
    My only hope is that the GOP can re-invent themselves and discard the special interest groups which have pulled the party in such a way many voters are now alienated. The way things are now is a shame and embarrassment.

    • Observer

      The GOP’s decline has been inevitable with the decision to amend the immigration laws in 1965 which set a course for Euro-Americans to eventually become a minority. Hispanics tend to have poorer socio-economic outcomes so naturally are going to gravitate to the more redistributionist Democrat Party. A similar phenomenon is seen in Europe with migrants largely supporting leftist parties. NZ has a skill based system, so migrants tend to be more middle class and more likely to support centre-right parties.

      “In Sweden in 2010, the left got 77 percent of the vote of non-European immigrants in a year when only 43 percent of native born Swedes voted for the left. This is not explained with immigration policy; in Sweden the right has consistently favored higher levels of immigration than Social Democrats. Non-European immigrants are the fastest growing population group in Sweden.

      In U.K in 2010, 68 percent of ethnic minorities voted for Labor while only 31 percent of White British voted for Labor.

      In 2009 in Germany 84 percent of Turkish immigrants voted for the left in a year when only 39 percent of native born Germans voted for the left.


  • kayaker

    In a weak moment, somewhere on the interwebs, I signed up for Hillary Clinton updates. Every day there’s half a dozen or so begging emails. “Even just a $1” to meet a $10m++ target that week. I’m quite bemused. She has heaps of celeb support. The best one I got though was an invite from Barbra Streisand to a Barbra/Hillary event in New York in September. Pity I’ll miss it by a week. I did reply to that effect, but no response. As yet. Or am I a downunder delusional?

    • taurangaruru

      What happens to the money donated if it is not spent? Does it end up in the Clinton Foundation aka Hillary’s & Bill’s grocery fund?

      • kayaker

        It could be added to the squillions they already have in reserve.

  • Intrigued

    Assange – the handler of stolen communications – is promising something significant on Clinton before the election. It will be interesting to see what – if any- changes his information will mean for the polls. He suggested in a Fox News interview with Megan Kelly last week that his release would ensure that Clinton would have to respond to it – rather than duck and dive as she did with the DNC revelations. As the messenger, he will of course be roundly and justifiably attacked for his peddling in stolen communication but – if – as he suggests, it is significant and it is bad for Clinton – that could be a game-changer. She might not be able to run out the clock then – “depending on how it catches fire in the media” as he put it.

  • Blueburd

    The key for Trump will be the debates. Crooked Hillary is a weak debater (Bernie owned her) and if he hammers away at just how crooked she is and whats happening with the DOJ and her emails he will break her down.

    I think it is dangerous to rely on an stolen material that Assange has. If it was as had as he makes out it should be in the hands of the authorities and key media and not “saved” for a specific moment. Whats chances it’s similar to CrimDotcon moment of truth.

    The work Judicial Watch are doing on Crooked Hilary has more substance than Assange

  • Metricman

    Show me somebody, anybody, who will admit to voting for Len Brown? That is why Trump will win comfortably.

  • Elihu

    Millions of new registrations from people who have not voted for a long while or never voted before are not being factored in the polls of ‘likely voters’. Almost half the population of America hardly ever vote, considering voting a worthless exercise as one party is almost as bad as the other. However, this year they are coming out of the wood work and are being referred to in some circles as the “Monster Vote” and they are coming out for Trump. If this factor proves to be true, he will win in an unprecedented landslide. Check out The Conservative Treehouse for more inside information.