I feel like America is gonna have a bad time.
The new Washington Post/ABC News national tracking pollfinds Donald Trump leading Clinton by one point in the four-way match-up, 46-45, while Clinton leads in the head-to-head by 48-47. You shouldn’t overreact to individual polls — instead, keep focused on the national and state polling averages.
But plainly, the race is tightening, and it’s increasingly possible we’ll see a very close finish. Which means that it’s time to start pondering an Election Day nightmare scenario that is made up of two parts. First, the tight finish produces an outcome that is contested well beyond Election Day, with Trump (should he lose) claiming the results are rigged. Second, Trump supplements his claim about the rigged outcome by continuing to point to the FBI’s latest discovery of emails as proof of an ongoing cover-up of Hillary Clinton’s criminality.
This morning, election rules expert Michael McDonald arguesthat if the outcome is close, the election could very well “go into overtime,” adding that “in this environment,” this could “rip this country apart.” McDonald posits that in a very close finish, Trump could be favored on election night, but over subsequent days, as the vote counting continues afterwards, Clinton might then edge into the lead:A Democratic shift from election night to the final tally of votes is predictable. All states count some ballots late, and those tend to break towards Democrats. Nothing nefarious occurs: the casting and counting follow procedures laid out in state law. Some of the states that count more late ballots are key battlegrounds, magnifying the suspense on Election Night.
Mail ballots are one of two types that can shift election results. Many states require mail ballots to be receivedby election officials on Election Day. Others continue to accept ballots postmarked on Election Day, up to two weeks following the election. Among these states are Iowa, North Carolina, Ohio, and Wisconsin.
These late ballots may break towards the Democrats. My analysis shows more Democrats than Republicans in Iowa and North Carolina have yet to return their mail ballots. Why? These voters tend to be younger people who tend to return their ballots later. If Trump is slightly ahead in a late mail-ballot return state, he could fall behind after all the mail ballots are counted.
Then there are provisional ballots. States are required under federal law to provide them to anyone with a problem at the polls — a voter who doesn’t have the required form of ID, for instance, or whose name is missing from the voter registration rolls. Election officials review provisional ballots and allow voters to clarify their eligibility after Election Day. In the four states that report separate results for provisional ballots, the voters who cast them broke strongly for the Democrats. So if the presidential race is particularly close, provisional ballots could tilt it.
There’s still more in the link, but you get the idea. Meanwhile, Bloomberg Politics reports that both sides are now gearing up in a serious way for the possibility of a legally contested outcome.
In other words, if you think this election will finally be over next week, well, I have some bad news.
That's the nightmare scenario, yes. The good news is that I still believe we'll be looking at an Obama 2012-level win, if not an Obama 2008-level win for Clinton next week, an election that Trump will be forced to accept as a loss.
The bad news is the GOP is probably going for total scorched earth staring November 9th no matter what Clinton's winning margin is. Hopefully we can wrest control of the Senate away from them and get something done, but until that happens, the Republicans plan to punish as much of the country as possible for daring to vote for the Democrats.
Hopefully we'll punish them back.