How Trump could still win

Cecil Whig - - OPINION - Kath­leen Parker

WASH­ING­TON

— As the fi­nal pres­i­den­tial de­bate looms like a Hal­loween pinata full of Oc­to­ber sur­prises, vot­ers may be less com­mit­ted to one or the other can­di­date than the num­bers sug­gest.

And this, my fel­low suf­fer­ers, could bode bet­ter for Don­ald Trump.

Lest you sud­denly seek the high­est perch from which to hurl your­self, this is strictly my per­sonal un­sci­en­tific pre­dic­tion, based on in­stinct, ex­pe­ri­ence and con­ver­sa­tions with hun­dreds of vot­ers across the coun­try. This isn’t to say Trump will win, but it might give pause to those in­sist­ing the elec­tion is rigged.

By most ac­counts, the elec­tion is all but over. Poll af­ter poll shows Hil­lary Clin­ton win­ning. The Up­shot, a New York Times polling site, puts Clin­ton’s chance of win­ning at 92 per­cent, leav­ing Trump at just 8 per­cent. At this stage, ac­cord­ing to the site, the chance of Clin­ton los­ing is “about the same as the prob­a­bil­ity that an NFL kicker misses a 31-yard field goal.”

The Up­shot’s fig­ures are reached through a com­plex meld­ing of rat­ings from many polling groups and pro­vides side-by-side com­par­isons of other fore­casts that use dif­fer­ent method­olo­gies. Among them, for ex­am­ple, FiveThir­tyEight uses sta­tis­ti­cal mod­els; the Cook Re­port re­lies on ex­pert opin­ion and re­port­ing; and Pre­dic­tWise uses data from bet­ting mar­kets.

The Up­shot is worth check­ing out, if only to feel sta­tis­ti­cally sig­nif­i­cant.

Or, per­haps to feel there’s no rea­son to vote. If the statis­ti­cians, prog­nos­ti­ca­tors and risk tak­ers seem to have al­ready fig­ured it all out, why bother? Then again, mod­els only work if peo­ple be­have as they tend to and — cru­cially — if they tell truth when polled, give or take a hedge here and there.

In a cam­paign sea­son fea­tur­ing daily tal­lies on which can­di­date is the big­gest liar, why would ev­ery­day Amer­i­cans feel any com­punc­tion about of­fer­ing non-truths? More likely, vot­ers may feel em­bar­rassed by what they re­ally be­lieve.

For the record, Trump wins at liar’s dice — by a long shot, ac­cord­ing to Poli­tiFact. At last count, Clin­ton has told the truth 65 per­cent of the time, com­pared with Trump at 12 per­cent. Clin­ton’s state­ments have been “mostly true” 73 per­cent of the time com­pared with Trump’s 33 per­cent. In the “pants-on-fire” cat­e­gory, mean­ing not just false but a bald-faced lie, Clin­ton scores 6 per­cent to Trump’s 52 per­cent. At least he’s win­ning at some­thing.

None of the above means any­thing to Trump’s true be- liev­ers, who, ap­par­ently, can’t be lied to of­ten enough. S i m i l a r l y, Clin­ton fans can per­fume any scent of cor­rup­tion, in­clud­ing re­cent rev­e­la­tions about ques­tion­able re­la­tion­ships among the State De­part­ment, the FBI, Clin­ton char­i­ties and the Demo­cratic nom­i­nee’s war chest.

Just days be­fore a de­bate that has peo­ple buy­ing Purell by the gal­lon, The Wash­ing­ton Post learned that a top State De­part­ment of­fi­cial tried to pres­sure the FBI into low­er­ing the clas­si­fi­ca­tion on one of Clin­ton’s emails. Al­though Clin­ton had left State by the time this hap­pened, there can be lit­tle ques­tion that this was at­tempted to ben­e­fit the for­mer sec­re­tary.

At the same time, USA To­day re­vealed Tues­day that at least a dozen com­pa­nies that lob­bied the Clin­ton State De­part­ment also gave up to $16 mil­lion to Clin­ton char­i­ties. At least four of the lobbyists em­ployed by these com­pa­nies have also raised at least $100,000 each for Clin­ton’s White House bid.

The lat­ter ap­par­ently is le­gal, while the for­mer is still be­ing in­ves­ti­gated. But like Trump’s le­gal, if of­ten shady, deal­ings, some of Clin­ton’s as­so­ci­a­tions and loy­al­ist in­ter­ven­tions carry an odor­if­er­ous whiff. These sorts of high-level ma­neu­ver­ings are, be­sides, the prove­nance only of the wealthy and pow­er­ful — and would at any other time in modern his­tory leave most Amer­i­cans cold.

For now, “most” may be merely “many,” but these vot­ers, as­sum­ing they vote, could cre­ate havoc in the cor­ri­dors of com­men­tary. They are peo­ple who deeply dis­like both can­di­dates equally, which is not the same as be­ing an “un­de­cided.” Un­de­cid­eds are still wait­ing for some mag­i­cal spark that will guide them to the Truth. “Dis­lik­ers” have formed their opin­ions but, given their ob­vi­ously good char­ac­ter, could suf­fer a rush of con­science at the last mo­ment, think­ing: To not vote is to cede power to the ex­trem­ists.

The Dis­lik­ers and the Un­de­cid­eds to­gether form the Un­know­ables — this elec­tion’s mon­strous, un­quan­tifi­able X fac­tor. Most of them, I pre­dict, will fall for Trump — not be­cause he’s the bet­ter can­di­date but be­cause nearly three-quar­ters of Amer­i­cans think the coun­try is gal­lop­ing in the wrong di­rec­tion, the usual rem­edy for which is to switch horses.

In other words, it’s a pretty good guess — and even NFL great Adam Vi­natieri has missed a 31-yard field goal.

Kath­leen Parker is a syn­di­cated colum­nist. Con­tact her at kath­leen­parker@wash­post.com.

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