The Optimistic Outlook for Trump on Election Day

by Jim Geraghty

From the Thursday edition of the Morning Jolt, an optimistic look at Donald Trump’s chances… whether he’s earned it or not:

The Optimistic Outlook for Trump

I’m accused of being a pessimist about Donald Trump’s chances on Election Day – accurately. But let’s take the optimistic outlook for once, and see how things look for the GOP nominee if he catches a lucky break and the ball bounces his way.

Give Trump all of the traditionally Republican Mountain West states, the Midwest, Texas, and everywhere in the South except North Carolina and Florida, which we’ll return to later. Trump’s lead in Georgia has been small but consistent. Assume Evan McMullin doesn’t win Utah.  Assume Hillary doesn’t steal an electoral vote in Nebraska. Trump’s only led one of the three polls in Arizona this month, but let’s assume that state sticks with its traditional support for the GOP nominee.

With most of the traditional Republican states, Trump starts at 191 electoral votes, and needs another 79.

Most of the polling has him ahead in Iowa, although one had him tied with Clinton. Give him Iowa’s six. The only poll that puts Trump ahead in Maine’s Second Congressional District — the larger, more rural one – is from a Democratic firm. Give Trump another electoral vote from Maine.

Now he’s at 198, needing another 72.

Let’s start with Ohio, a state where Trump has consistently performed better than he has in other swing states. The last four independent pollsters found a tie, a tie, Trump ahead by four points, and Trump ahead by one point. A new poll by Remington Research, a GOP firm, buts Trump ahead by four points. USA Today compares Trump to the legendary Youngstown Democratic congressman Jim Traficant, and there’s some fascinating parallels: populism, denunciation of trade deals, outrageous quotes and a sense of humor, and an odd haircut.

I’ve got real worries about Trump’s get-out-the-vote operation in this state – or perhaps more accurately, I think Hillary Clinton’s will be much better. But let’s assume Trump cleans up among those blue-collar, working-class white voters and put Ohio in the Trump pile. That puts him at 216.

Florida? A lot of recent polls have Hillary a small lead, but the new Bloomberg survey has Trump ahead by 2 points.

More than 2 million Floridians have cast ballots already. Registered Republicans traditionally are more likely to vote early, and we’re seeing the same trend this year: the latest numbers show nearly 876,000 Republicans have cast ballots compared to more than 862,000 Democrats. More than 336,000 voters with no party affiliation have voted. This is another one of those states where you would really like to see a presidential campaign with a perfectly-tuned, cooking-with-all-four-burners get-out-the-vote program. That is not quite the case this year:

At one point last week, Democrats briefly overtook Republicans in absentee ballots cast, marking the first time Democrats have ever caught Republicans in pre-Election Day ballots before in-person early voting begins.

But the lead didn’t last. By that point, the Trump campaign had realized it wasn’t actively calling and mailing absentee ballot voters to get them to mail their votes in. The campaign quickly instituted what’s called a “chase” program to pressure voters to fill out their ballots and send them in.

But let’s assume the Bloomberg poll accurately predicts the result on Election Day, and Trump narrowly wins Florida. That gives him two of the biggest crown jewel swing states, and he’s at 245, just 35 electoral votes away.

The bad news is that none of the remaining states that are even remotely in play give him that alone; he’s going to need two.

And a bunch of traditional “swing” or competitive states don’t look all that competitive this year: Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Virginia or Wisconsin. Trump has never led any independent general election poll in any of those states. He hasn’t led any poll in Pennsylvania since July.

If we put all of those in Hillary Clinton’s pile, along with the traditional Democratic states, she’s at 263 electoral votes. She’s knocking at the door.

Trump polled well in Nevada for a stretch, then Clinton led several in a row, and the last two independent polls have a tie and Clinton ahead by 7 points. The most recent Remington Research poll – again, a GOP firm, so take that into account if you feel necessary — has Trump ahead. But let’s put this in the Trump pile, and conclude he carries the state as a beloved employer.

A couple of polls in late September put Trump ahead in Colorado, but it’s been a consistent lead for Clinton since. Mike Pence and Eric Trump are campaigning there this week. Give Colorado and it’s nine electoral votes to Trump, and he’s at 260. 

It’s been a long time since Trump led a poll in North Carolina, except for the latest Remington Research poll. But Clinton’s lead had been from one to three points, until the latest New York Times/Siena poll. The Trump campaign is clearly focusing on North Carolina all the way to the end; I fully expect this will be one of his last visits of the 2016 campaign.

If Trump wins North Carolina and all of the other states outlined above, he finishes with 275 electoral votes, and becomes the 45th President of the United States.

As noted, that’s the optimistic scenario. Right now, I wouldn’t want to bet any significant amount of money on him carrying most of these states. A giant question is whether the get-out-the-vote operations of independent right-leaning groups and the GOP senators in those states – Portman in Ohio, Rubio in Florida, Burr in North Carolina, Heck in Nevada – can make up for the late-starting, under-funded Trump volunteer get-out-the-vote operations. If so, we shouldn’t expect Trump to underperform his final polls.  

Gotta Have Art

by John J. Miller

Hillsdale College seeks a tenure-track art professor. Want to teach at the best college in America? Details here.

Out of This World

by Jay Nordlinger

Today, we publish Part IV of my series on Bruce and Suzie Kovner, the philanthropists. They are big backers of music, among other things. Bruce is chairman of the board at the Juilliard School.

From Part IV:

At 15, he was in the car with his mother, and something came on the radio. “What in the world is that?” he wondered. It was not exactly of this world: It was a movement of Holst’s Planets, “Mars.” It set him on a new course.

The first record he ever bought was of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony — how can you do better? — and he bought it from the Exodus Book and Record Shop in Sherman Oaks, Calif. The shop was owned by Leon Uris, who had written a novel of the same name: one of the best-selling books of the time. Bruce’s parents did not listen to classical music. But they did their son a great favor: They signed him up for the Columbia Record Club. In came a starter set of (other) canonical symphonies. The first record that Bruce chose for himself was of the Brahms Piano Concerto in B flat, with Sviatoslav Richter as soloist and Erich Leinsdorf conducting the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. (That was another really good choice.)

Yes. To hear this astounding recording, of this even more astounding work, go here.

Richter recorded it on his first U.S. tour, in 1960. He was 45 and probably at his zenith. He is the subject of maybe the most beautiful compliment ever paid by one colleague to another.

Emil Gilels came over first (from the Soviet Union). Audiences and critics were, of course, ecstatic. He commented, “Wait’ll you hear Richter.” (N.B.: Gilels needed to take a backseat to no one.)

One more excerpt from Part IV, please. Bruce is a conservative — a classical liberal, more precisely — and he also does a lot of hanging out in arts circles. No doubt, he hears his views insulted regularly. (I would know.) How does he respond?

I asked him this, and he answered, “I never fight back, but I do sometimes find an opportunity to explain why certain principles are effective. If I have the opportunity to explain how markets work, I do so. If I have the opportunity to explain the nature of innovation, competition, creative destruction, trade — all of the principles not only of markets but of the entire great liberal enlightenment — I do so. But I don’t do it in the context of battle. I do it when someone is interested in why something happens that he doesn’t understand.”

Those seeking to understand are lucky to have Kovner around. So are those who don’t, whether they know it or not.

Krauthammer’s Take: ‘The Universe of Trump Supporters Is Simply Not Large Enough To Carry a Plurality’

by NR Staff

Charles Krauthammer affirmed the superior enthusiasm of Donald Trump supporters over Hillary Clinton supporters, but also noted that Trump’s core support is not populous enough to win the election at this point:

I think enthusiasm for Trump surely exceeds that on the part of Democrats for Hillary Clinton. It’s not enough because the universe of Republicans — at least it’s not enough now — the universe of Trump supporters is simply not large enough to carry a plurality. I do think it’s interesting and important that the race has tightened.

To some extent we are back where we started the beginning of the year. But if you look at the seminal event of the last month, which was the release of the [Access Hollywood] tapes, the accusations, when the bottom dropped out for just a few days of the Trump campaign. I think the real story is the narrowing as a result of that. That was an occasion where Trump could have just disappeared. He didn’t. He has held his own and two things have happened. One is that for Hillary there have been these WikiLeaks releases, which have cumulatively, not individually, but cumulatively reinforced the impression of a thoroughly corrupt campaign, and a cynicism of depths that we haven’t seen. And I think that’s been important, and you add Obamacare, which is an extremely important issue that swayed two midterm elections and crushed the Democrats. It’s now back as a result of those released numbers.

Mike Pence Comes to Utah. (Yes, Utah.)

by Tim Alberta

Salt Lake City — Less than two weeks from Election Day, Republican vice-presidential nominee Mike Pence stopped here for a campaign rally on Wednesday afternoon.

Here, as in Utah.

A state Republicans have carried in every presidential election since 1968.

A state Mitt Romney won with 73 percent of the vote in 2012, John McCain won with 63 percent of the vote in 2008, and George W. Bush won with 73 percent of the vote in 2004.

A state where Republicans have controlled both chambers of the legislature for four decades; where Democrats haven’t won the governorship since 1981; and where Republicans currently control every statewide office, both U.S. Senate seats, and all four congressional districts.

This is where the GOP ticket is campaigning 13 days before the election.

There is no shortage of empirical, quantitative evidence to demonstrate that Trump has alienated portions of the Republican base — and that as a result, Hillary Clinton has become the overwhelming favorite to win the presidency. But nothing says more about the state of the race — and the fractures inside the GOP — than Pence’s taking an October 26 detour through perhaps the most conservative state in the country.

Time is a precious resource for presidential campaigns, especially down the home stretch of an election. Under normal circumstances, Trump and Pence would be spending virtually all of their time in the four states that will decide who wins the White House — Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and North Carolina — and scattering their remaining visits between other less-critical but still-important battleground states.

These aren’t normal circumstances. Trump has proven deeply unpopular in Utah, largely due to the state’s sizable Mormon electorate, which has consistently rejected his candidacy. (The Republican nominee hasn’t broken 40 percent in a single poll of the state.) As a result, he isn’t just in danger of giving this state away to Clinton; he could also lose it to Evan McMullin, a Mormon ex-CIA official and Utah native who is running as a third-party conservative and is breathing down his neck.

The Real Clear Politics average shows Trump ahead by 5.5 points in the state, but that’s skewed by a single CBS News/YouGov survey showing him leading by 17. The three most recent polls show Trump up one, McMullin up four, and Trump up one. When Republicans chart various paths to 270 electoral votes, Utah’s six have long been considered automatic. With Trump atop the ticket, that’s no longer the case.

This puts Trump’s campaign in a predicament, forcing his brain trust to choose between two bad options. Either they ignore Utah and risk losing its six electoral votes by a slim margin that could have been avoided with a last-minute play; or they divert time and resources to make the last-minute play, and in doing so invite unflattering news reports of what it says about Trump’s campaign.

After weighing these options — which, according to campaign sources, were the subject of intense disagreement inside Trump Tower — they chose the latter.

That said, campaign officials in New York agreed that Trump himself shouldn’t step foot in the state; his visit would likely do more harm than good. Pence, a devoutly religious Evangelical, was the infinitely better option. Plus, he was already set to campaign on Wednesday in Nevada and then Colorado. He was planning to fly over Utah; it was the perfect time for a quick stop.

Such was the backdrop when Trump’s running mate arrived here Wednesday afternoon and stood before a noisy crowd of roughly 1,000 people packed inside a small, wooden-floored event center in this city’s downtown. A series of introductory speakers delivered rah-rah lines bashing Clinton and touting Trump’s shake-up-the-system mentality — all the trappings of a typical campaign event.

But it wasn’t typical. Many of the speakers sounded more worried about McMullin than Clinton, and devoted roughly equal time to decrying the candidacies of both. Tana Goertz, a Trump-campaign adviser and former Apprentice contestant who emceed the event, set the tone early by calling McMullin’s campaign “a joke” and urging Republicans not to back the third-party hopeful.

Pence alluded to the GOP’s internecine warfare in his remarks, describing how Trump has been fighting “all on his own” to win the White House. With a closing argument aimed at assuaging the lingering concerns of on-the-fence Republicans, however, Pence claimed that the party is now finally “coming together” behind its nominee.

His presence in Utah, however, suggested otherwise — as did the absence of the state’s Republican leadership.

Indeed, the most jarring aspect of Wednesday’s rally was the visible lack of party support. Despite its being the GOP ticket’s first — and likely only — campaign event in Utah, none of the state’s top elected Republicans were present. Not Governor Gary Herbert. Neither Senator Mike Lee nor Senator Orrin Hatch. And none of the four congressmen: Rob Bishop, Chris Stewart, Jason Chaffetz, and Mia Love.

Utah’s state GOP chairman led the pledge of allegiance, and the state’s speaker of the House delivered the final, brief introduction of Pence. Yet in contrast to Clinton and Tim Kaine, who are campaigning across the country with local party officials and down-ballot candidates, Pence was on his own Wednesday.

The best Trump’s campaign could do was bring Raul Labrador, a tea-party congressman from neighboring Idaho, across the border for a fiery speech. Labrador, a Mormon, graduated from Brigham Young University and has ties to this state. He was invited at the last minute on Wednesday morning, a campaign official said, and he joined the other speakers in criticizing McMullin’s candidacy.

The only other federal lawmaker in attendance was Pence’s friend Jeb Hensarling, a congressman from Texas. He did not speak at the event.

Pence’s speech was largely boilerplate, pitching Trump as a strong, fearless visionary who embodies “the spirit of America.” He urged attendees to get their neighbors to the polls on Election Day. And he asked Republicans to “come home” and support the GOP ticket, despite reservations about his running mate.

It was unclear whether Pence would tailor any of his remarks to address the unique situation in Utah. At he moved to closure, however, he did precisely that, clarifying that while he respects the right of anyone to vote for any candidate, “This is not the time to make a statement. . . . There are only two names on that ballot that have a chance to become president of the United States of America.”

Without mentioning McMullin specifically, Pence continued: “A vote for any candidate other than Donald Trump is a vote for a weaker America at home and abroad. A vote for any candidate other than Donald Trump is a vote for an America that continues to walk away from our highest ideals of life and liberty and the Constitution. A vote for any candidate other than Donald Trump, bottom line, is a vote to make Hillary Clinton the president of the United States of America.”

At this, the audience unleashed its most boisterous ovation of the afternoon. It had the sound of a collective release of pent-up frustration — not just with McMullin for mounting a spoiler bid in Utah, but with the state’s most powerful Republicans for turning their backs on the party’s presidential nominee.

This anger seems unlikely to abate in the immediate aftermath of a Trump defeat next month. The degree to which grassroots Republicans blame the party’s elite for torpedoing Trump and facilitating a Clinton presidency could go a long way toward determining how quickly the GOP’s wounds begin to heal — or whether they close at all.

In this sense, Utah could be the canary in the coal mine. No state saw more of its Republican leaders abandon Trump; Lee, the junior senator, even called on him to quit the race. At the same time, roughly half of the state’s GOP voters have split from the party entirely to support a candidate who more closely aligns with their values. None of this was lost on the pro-Trump crowd Wednesday afternoon — and none of it may soon be forgotten.

As Pence whipped his audience into a frenzy with calls for party loyalty, one man’s voiced boomed from the back of the room and drowned out the rest: “Mike Lee sucks!”

Texas Futile Care Law Scorned by State AG

by Wesley J. Smith

I have long believed that Texas’s futile care law is unconstitutional.

Specifically, the law permits a hospital bioethics committee to kick a patient out of wanted life-sustaining treatment that is working–e.g.., keeping the patient alive–based on the subjective values of doctors and the members of the hospital administration-appointed committee.

A lawsuit (Kelly v Houston Methodist Hospital) sues HMH for its attempt to force a now deceased patient out of the ICU. Now, Ken Paxton, the Texas Attorney General, argues that the law upon which the hospital’s decision was based is unconstitutional. From the AG’s amicus brief:

The Due Process Clause of the U.S. Constitution provides that “[n]o State shall . . . deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” U.S. CONST. amend. XIV, § 1.

A statute is unconstitutional under the Due Process Clause if the government is depriving an individual of a constitutionally protected interest and is using insufficient procedures to effectuate that deprivation.

Section 166.046 badly fails the due process test. The statute leads to the denial of a constitutionally protected interest—the right to life and the right to determine one’s medical treatment. And it does so through woefully insufficient procedures—Section 166.046 not only denies patients sufficient notice and opportunity to be heard, it does not even afford patients with a neutral arbiter to decide their fate.

Right. The decision makers are employees of, or volunteers for, the hospital. And since these cases often deals with situations that can cost the institution a lot of money, the decision makers have an institutional vested interest in the outcome.

Moreover, there is no right of appeal, or even, a written record kept upon which the bases for the decision can be determined in a court of law.

There was a time that, as a lawyer (forgive me), I would have found it shocking for an attorney general to advocate against state law.

No more. After California’s AG and governor refused to defend Proposition 8, that a made a ban on same sex marriage part of California’s Constitution–and to general applause–I have concluded that such legal niceties have become archaic.

So, good for Paxton. For the sake of vulnerable patients and to stop the futile care train in its tracks, let’s hope the court takes the AG’s friendly advice.

Little Common Ground on Obamacare

by Ramesh Ponnuru

A number of liberal commentators have taken a recent column of mine to be blaming Obama for failing to work with Republicans to fix or at least improve Obamacare. They retort that Republicans aren’t interested in compromising with Obama on health care. Republicans haven’t proposed any improvements to Obamacare. Brian Beutler lays out this case.

They’re reading me wrong. My actual argument has two parts. First, liberals and conservatives have different views of what health insurance should do that are hard to reconcile. (See this follow-up to the column for more on this.) Second, Obama pretends that these differences do not exist in order to portray Republican opposition to his policies are unreasonable. So, for example, he suggests that conservatives should be pleased that Obamacare allows states to opt out of the law in favor of their own policies. But those state waivers apply only to policies that reflect liberal assumptions about health insurance.

My argument, in other words, isn’t that Obama has failed to find common ground. I’m not sure there’s much common ground to be found.

If you want our health-insurance system to rely much less heavily on federal regulation, very few of the “fixes” for Obamacare that liberals are suggesting are going to have any appeal—leaving aside any partisan desires to stick the Democrats with the flaws of Obamacare. So let’s stop pretending, as Obama does, that it’s only crazed partisanship that is stopping Republicans from working with him on those fixes.

My column closes with Obama’s analogy of Obamacare to a “starter home.” He says that people buy them expecting to make improvements. I note that sometimes people decide these homes aren’t working out for them and try to move somewhere else.

In case anyone still doesn’t get the point of that analogy, I’m not suggesting that Republicans improve Obamacare. I’m suggesting that they replace it. 

The American Public Opposes a New Assault Weapons Ban

by David French

Here’s a dash of good political news. Americans are turning against assault weapons bans:

Support for a so-called assault weapons ban in the U.S. just hit a record low of 36 percent, according to a new Gallup poll released on Wednesday. The poll showed that 61 percent of American adults now oppose a ban. That level of opposition is the highest ever recorded.

Increasing opposition to the 1990’s-era gun ban isn’t just limited to Republicans. Gallup’s data show that opposition to the ban has increased across the board. Barely 50 percent of Democrats currently support the ban today, compared to 63 percent support from Democrats in 1996, just two years after the federal ban was signed into law. Less than a third of independents currently support a ban, while Republican support hovers at 25 percent.

Indeed, the Gallup chart shows a material drop since 2012:

Over at The Federalist, Sean Davis offers his theories as to why — despite persistent media scaremongering — Americans love their rifles:

Which brings us back to Gallup’s alleged paradox of opposition to the so-called assault weapons ban increasing in the midst of a wave of terrorist shootings. There is actually nothing at all paradoxical about it. Americans understand that terrorists want to murder us, and that our laws are no obstacle to their blood lust. They will use planes, or bombs, or trucks, or knives, or boxcutters, or guns. Just as strict gun control laws in cities like Chicago and Washington, D.C., have done nothing to prevent sky-high murder rates in those cities year after year, poorly thought out laws regulating rifles will do nothing to prevent terrorists from trying to murder innocent Americans.

Americans also understand that while gun control laws don’t necessarily deter violent criminals or terrorists, they do make it harder for innocent Americans to protect themselves from those same criminals and terrorists. And when you take into account the U.S. government’s continued failure to protect its people from terrorist attacks, increasing opposition to laws that make it harder for people to defend themselves and their families makes perfect sense. If the government is not willing or able to perform its duty to protect the homeland, then people will feel compelled take matters into their own hands, and they will bristle at any attempt to neuter their right to self-defense.

I’d also note that there’s another reason why support for a ban is dropping — weapons like the AR-15 have been demystified. Americans have bought them by the millions, and millions more have either fired an AR-15 or know a friends or neighbor who owns one. Like any weapon, you have to know how to use it and handle it appropriately, but its popularity isn’t due to the bloodthirstiness of its owners but rather the elegance and utility of its design. As my colleague Charlie Cooke has written, the AR-15 is the modern musket on the mantle:

In truth, the AR-15 is the contemporary equivalent of the musket—an everyday gun for everyday citizens. Fundamentally, the AR-15 is democratic. It is the yeoman’s gun; the people’s gun; the Brown Bess of our era. It is what William Blackstone was referring to when he praised private arms; what George Orwell had in mind when he sought to keep the “rifle on the wall of the labourer’s cottage;” what Ida B. Wells imagined when she recommended that endangered blacks give a rifle “a place of honor” in their homes. As the standard firearm of its day, the AR-15 does not represent some bizarre over-extension of the right to keep and bear arms. It is the very core of that right.

This is exactly right, and with every AR sold, more Americans enjoy the benefit of greater liberty and security. In other words, the AR-15 is its own best argument.