Sunday, August 7, 2016

Clinton vs Trump.
7 August 2016,
93 days from the election

It was a bad week for Donald Trump. I fully expect that to be the lede on this blog many times between now and November. The numbers, nuts and bolts are at the end of the post, so if that's all you want, feel free to skip ahead. The beginning of this post is me playing Q&A with myself.

What were the big changes this week? The states that moved from one category to another are New Hampshire (Solid Trump to Leaning Clinton) and Nevada (Leaning Trump to Leaning Clinton).

How was New Hampshire in Solid Trump? A Republican polling company called Inside Sources has Trump winning big. I had never heard of them before, but that's because they re-branded after a disastrous 2012. There were only two polls in July, so they counted as half the median computation and swamped the other poll. A new poll made three polls and the Inside Sources numbers became just a poll to the right of the median. This is the way big swings happen in the median. It gets rarer as more polls get taken every week.

Is there any information that you need to make a better snapshot? The most glaring is the two week hiatus polling companies have taken in Ohio. There is no question that it is still a battleground state until evidence says it isn't, one way or another. 

You said you expect more bad weeks for Trump. Why? Bad things happen when he talks, and he's always talking.

I will admit I am obsessed with the election. I wish I wasn't, because it is not great for my mental health or blood pressure. I report the data I have accurately. A good week for Trump is going to mess me up if it is a major shift, but I don't know if that will happen and I'll be surprised if it is enough to swing the tide now.

Why are you skeptical he can swing the election his direction? Good question, multiple part answer.

1. His personality. Much like with Goldwater, people are pestering psychologists and psychiatrists for diagnoses. It's not that fancy. He's dishonest because lying and scamming have worked for him in the past. He is an egomaniac because he is the CEO of a company with no strong board of directors to reign him in and it is his nature.

I am more of a mathematician than a historian, but I can keep a lot of information in my brain. CEOs without restraining Boards of Directors are like absolute monarchs. Some were timid, some thoughtful, some egomaniacs and assholes. Trump is in the last category. Others of his ilk are Henry VIII, George III, Kaiser Bill and several of the Roman emperors. Trump is orders of magnitude more ignorant than the other people on this list.

2. His opponents understand his weaknesses very well and good information is spreading. He loves to talk in front of big crowds, but he must answer any slight that gets under his skin, which is nearly everything. The Clinton campaign and the media looking into his past are finding stuff that he has to respond to. Some might compare him to Pavlov's dog; I think he's more like a single celled organism.

And then there are the more clever insights. Of everything I have read this week, I give highest grades to Wil Wheaton, whose 21st Century claims to fame are equally as an actor and a board game enthusiast. He is the first person I read who came to the conclusion that Trump's constant plead "Believe me!" is actually a tell, a nervous tic that gives away information. He says it when he's lying. I give Wheaton full marks here because I hadn't seen anyone else say it before, and I'm fuming a little that I didn't see it myself. My sad excuse is that it's been so long since I played poker, my reading skills have gone to crap.

Let me repeat. My excuse is sad.

3. Trump is not running a campaign. It was obvious very early on that Ben Carson was really on a book tour and not a campaign to be President of the United States. Trump is also running a scam, but not a book tour scam.  This week, we found out clear recurring donations to his campaign were nearly impossible to turn off. (As a note of full disclosure, some left wing causes have the same bug/feature in their design, including Equality California, who wouldn't let me out of a monthly payment until the card was discarded for other reasons.) More than money, talking in front of big cheering crowds is a massive turn-on for him. He is making no effort to build his base; he doesn't want votes, he wants strokes, and cheering crowds give him big league strokes. (Aside: some people think he used the non-existent word "bigly" once. I am sure he said "big league". Let's not lie about him, the truth is bad enough.) 

4. Clinton can stumble, but to steal the spotlight from Trump's mouth, she has to fall off the side of a mountain. Bad things can still happen to Hillary's campaign, but to get the spotlight off the egomaniac Trump, it has to be a stumble that is a multiple week story with lasting consequences, somewhere along the lines of Romney's 47% comments, and even that may not be enough to turn the tide.

Enough yammering, now the numbers.

Solid Trump (more than 95% Confidence of Victory [CoV]): ND WY ID WV OK AL NE KY KS LA TN SD MO AR TX AK MT MS SC IN 
Total: 158
Leaning Trump (between 50% and 95% CoV for Trump): AZ IA GA UT
Total: 39
Toss-up (exactly 50% CoV): OH 
Total: 18
Leaning Clinton (between 50% and 95% for Clinton): NH NV OR FL WI
Total: 56
Solid Clinton (more than 95% CoV for Clinton): NC VA ME CT PA NM MI CO DE WA NJ NY MD CA RI IL VT HI DC MA
Total: 267

The current count: 
Clinton 323  
Trump 197
Toss-up 18 

The change from last week is that one Solid Trump and one Leaning Trump moved to Leaning Clinton. That is the direction the wind is currently blowing. More than that, if prior data, both in terms of previous years and the change from July to August can be trusted, Ohio will likely move to leaning Clinton and Oregon and Wisconsin will both move to Solid Clinton. While Ohio would be nice to know, if Oregon or Wisconsin makes the move and everything else remains static, Clinton has enough electoral votes in the Solid range to win.

To repeat: If Oregon or Wisconsin polling looks better for Clinton in the next few weeks, Solid Clinton makes her president, as in "Game over, man!" Trump's odds will shrink to less than a tenth of a percent.

And now the odds of victory. Here are the 15 states with the highest expected value, which makes them most likely to sway the tide. Of those 15, the 11 that really can be seen as battleground currently are written in order of most likely Trump first to most likely Clinton last. Ohio is a toss-up right now, so you can see the cut-off point.


Current probability of victory if the election were held today:

Clinton 99.6%
Trump 0.4%

Yes, that's right. Trump was at 1.1% in last week's snapshot and things got worse. Looking back at my data, Romney was as 0.4% when his worst gaffe completely sunk in, but he got something like a second wind after Obama had a bad performance in the first debate. The way things are going, I'm not sure there are going to be any debates.

I'll be back next weekend, both Saturday and Sunday. The Saturday posts will be about the Senate races.


  1. I understand why you've got Wisconsin in the Lean Clinton column, but it should be pointed out that we haven't gone for an R President in 22 years....

    1. The line I made for Lean to Solid is 95% and WI is currently at 91.29%. 95% is arbitrary and even so, one more strong poll from Wisconsin in the next few weeks will push it back to Solid.

    2. I am heartened to learn we are able 90%. The way my fellow residents keep sending some of the stupider Republicans back to run the state makes me worried, sometimes...

  2. I'm surprised that so few people recognized early on, as I did, that anyone who says "believe me" so often is not to be believed. Just to pat myself on the back, I noted it near the start of the yam-colored demogorgon's campaign. I shouldn't be proud though; I am reminded once again of a particular Francois de La Rochefoucauld aphorism: "Those who are incapable of committing great crimes do not readily suspect them in others." Pupienus' corollary: Those most ready to deceive are most likely to suspect deception.

    I'd say it's not really a tell, a la at the poker table, nor is it a tic in the usual sense. It's more a character trait (fault, to be sure), the standard MO of someone whose success is entirely due to successfully conning people for decades, one who is a master of deception.

    He says it when he's lying

    Dear prof, I don't have a doctorate in math (though I will admit, under pressure, to a couple math degrees). As noted above, he is constantly lying and also constantly saying it. Even (especially!) with an r value of 1.0 we can't make any claims about causation. From an information theoretic standpoint, there's no signal, it's all noise.

    And WhyTF doesn't this blog get more attention?

    1. Good morning! I am not surprised that other folks besides Wheaton had sussed this out. It's just that he was the first I heard say it and I was embarrassed that I hadn't thought of it already.

      The blog is getting a little more attention because I'm making some effort on Facebook and Twitter. It hasn't quite caught fire yet, but it is making some progress.

      Thanks for stopping by.

  3. Trying to send readers your way, Matt. Keep up the great work!



    1. It's working, buddy.Let's see how much people want to know about the Senate races this weekend.

  4. I'm an Illinois resident. Tammy v Mark. Watching the NV, AZ PA and OH and FL carefully. An chance you might dig into the House. What's the likelihood of a predictive House takeover relative to National poll % spread? I've passed your blog onto others as well. Good stuff. Thx. PW

    1. I don't have the resources to do anything on the House numbers that I'd be happy to publish. Thanks for asking.

  5. Well. After calling for either armed insurrection or the assassination of his opponent, Trump's polls MUST be going up UP UP!!!

    Ironically, the bumper stickers that say "Hillary for Prison" need to be revised a this is a felony that could result in five years in prison. As opposed to what Clinton did, which is an offense...well, it's not, but she might receive a sternly worded note from I.T.....

    1. When it's August and you have three agonizing months to go and the crowds are chanting "LOCK HER UP!", I guess this is the next logical step in escalation.