Thursday, September 10, 2020

But... But... 2016!!!
One poll and six pundits got it right in 2016.
What are they saying in 2020?

Pundits and Polls that picked Trump to win in 2016
They got it right in 2016. That wast then. This is now.
Six months after the election and three months into President Donald Trump's first term, the Dividist was still trying to figure out what happened. This blog was lying fallow, but as he said then: "With the passage of time, and with judicious use of third person plural, the Dividist has created enough distance from the election to get back to work and begin posting again." And with that, he selected among those few in the punditocracy who - unlike the Dividist - got it right and predicted that Donald Trump would win the Presidency. It was his first post after the 2016 election. The thesis was to "listen to a few notables who got it right... listen to what they said before the election and what they've said since."

Good advice then. Good advice now. We are now less than two months from the election to determine whether President Trump will serve a second term or if he will be replaced by Joe Biden. Conventional wisdom informs us that Labor Day is when most Americans start paying attention to the election. A good time to close the loop, go back, look at the sources who got it right then and see what they are saying now. We'll start with the polls.
Comparing 2020 and 2016 Polls
2016 / 2020 Comparison Graphic Credit: @Autarch

The RCP and 538 polling averages are, and have consistently shown Biden with a steady margin of 7-9% over Trump and holding the 50% mark. Clinton never achieved the 50% level in the closing months of the campaign. The Biden lead over Trump is more than double the Clinton edge in 2016 at the same time in the campaign. No incumbent President has ever won re-election with Trump's deficit and disapproval numbers. The Biden edge has been remarkably consistent. It's almost like everyone has made up their mind. Predicting a Biden win should be an easy call. BUT 2016!!!:
"The reader may recall that in the closing days of the [2016] election the most respected polling analysts in the country were fighting flame wars over whether Clinton had a 71%85% or 99% chance of being our next President. In case you didn't notice, she finished with a 0% chance of becoming President. We'll let Larry Sabato's Crystal Ball represent all the failed pundits, pollsters and prognosticators with this straightforward Mea Maxima Culpa."
But not every pollster got it wrong.

The USC Dornsife / LA Times Poll got it right in 2016:

USC Dornsife 2016

As David Lauter of the LA Times explained in a 2016 election post-mortem:
"It was the only major public survey that consistently showed Donald Trump winning. As a result, it drew frequent and loud denunciations from many Democrats, especially as election day neared and passions rose. But on Wednesday, as many other pollsters struggled to explain why their surveys seemed blind to Trump’s support, Arie Kapteyn and his colleagues were among the few who could say their work got the basic issue right."
"You have to trust the numbers,” he said. “Don’t get distracted by all the things you think about plausibility.” “What you think personally doesn’t matter,” he added. “I thought Clinton would win. But that shouldn’t change the numbers.”
That was then. This is now. What does Arie Kapteyn and USC Dornsife / LA Times Poll say now? 

USC Dornsife Poll 2020
As of 9/6/2020, the USC / Dornsife Poll says Biden will win in 2020. We can't find any quotes from Kapteyn himself on the 2020 election, but this is the survey he oversees, and these are the numbers that he says we should trust in their summary news release:  "Trump has lost ground since 2016 among key groups, down 11 points against Biden"

Running 2020 Prediction Tally for Polls & Pundits who got 2016 right: Biden 1 Trump 0 

So much for the Polls. On to the Pundits

Scott Adams Got It Right in 2016:

Scott Adams - Dilbert cartoonist and student of human nature predicted Trump would win on August 13, 2015:
"If you’re keeping score, in the past month Trump has bitch-slapped the entire Republican Party, redefined our expectations of politics, focused the national discussion on immigration, proposed the only new idea for handling ISIS, and taken functional control of FOX News. And I don’t think he put much effort into it. Imagine what he could do if he gave up golf... I’m going to predict he will be our next president. I think he will move to the center on social issues (already happening) and win against Clinton in a tight election."
After the election Scott Adams did a victory lap on April 12, 2017:
"You can tell me other presidents have had better starts. But I doubt that is the case. Keep in mind that Trump started in the deepest hole of any president, ever. He’s already halfway out of the hole and establishing himself as a strong leader on international issues."
And what is he saying today? To begin, Scott Adams has subsequently published two books "Winning Bigly" and "Loserthink." Both purport to be about persuasion and thinking while asserting he is not actually a Trump supporter. Maybe he is, maybe not, I don't know. I've not read the books and probably will not. But Trump supporters love his books.  He also performs a daily live Periscope video, maintains a prolific podcast, twitter account and blog where he comments on the political news of the day. When we've listened to them, he is almost always actively defending Donald Trump. As a consequence, he's become a Trumpist favorite and dramatically expanded his following. Does that affect his "objective" perspective? He'd say "no". But some of his insights defending Trump and attacking Biden can only be described as bizarre. For example, here when claims to find satanic symbolism in Joe Biden's campaign slogan. 

But we digress. We want to know whether Scott Adams is predicting a Trump victory in 2020 with the same certainty he predicted the 2016 victory. Listening to hours of his rambling content is not going to happen, so we searched "Trump will win" and found this June 13, 2019 - Episode 553 headline: "Scott Adams: Why President Trump Will Win 2020 in HUGE Landslide". That seems pretty definitive - BUT - after listening to the webcast, he suggests that he is just testing whether or not social media entities are discriminating against conservatives by putting those words in the title. Sounds like a copout, -as if he wants credit for the prediction but also wants plausible deniability if Trump loses. No matter. He published it. He also tweeted this. He owns it. He is predicting a Trump win. 

Running 2020 Prediction Tally for Polls & Pundits who got 2016 right: Biden 1 Trump 1 

Brad Todd and Salena Zito Got It Right in 2016 (sort of):

Todd was a Republican strategist and Zito a journalist following Trump on the campaign trail. We're not sure either of them ever explicitly predicted a Trump victory, but it was Todd's job to help get him elected and Zito specialized in stories of aggrieved Trump supporters in the heartland. We're counting them as "getting it right" because they popularized the most pithy, insightful phrase that both explained Trump's popularity with his supporters and disdain in the media. Paraphrased - "Trump's supporters took him seriously not literally, while the media and took him literally not seriously". Zito made the phrase the title of her September 23, 2016 Atlantic story -  "Taking Trump seriously, not literally."
"When he makes claims like this, the press takes him literally, but not seriously; his supporters take him seriously, but not literallyWhen I presented that thought to him [Trump], he paused again, “Now that’s interesting.”
She got the phrase from Brad Todd, who tossed it out as an offhand remark in an MSNBC segment three months before the election. After the election this is the advice he had for reporters in a CNN Op-Ed  - "Dear journalists - Stop taking Trump literally":
"The task for journalists covering Trump should be to get into the mindset of their readers, and out of the mindset of their own newsroom bureaucracies. Writing endless columns on this or that flip-flop based on Trump's conflicting rhetoric is wasting the time of the readers and viewers who have decided that's not what matters with this particular President-elect."
In our 2017 post we noted Salena Zito and Brad Todd were collaborating on a book. Zito explained their intent:
"As a journalist, I’ve spent three presidential elections crossing the country, hearing people’s frustrations concerning Washington, and I loved every mile. This book is the culmination of those travels and an effort to understand what drove people to vote in 2016 and what they’re likely to do in 2020.
That is exactly what we want to know. What voters are "likely to do in 2020."  So let's skip to the end of their book - "The Great Revolt - Chapter 12 - What comes next":
"The migration of these voters - first in the congressional elections of 2010 and 2014, and then ultimately to Trump's side in 2016 - has fundamentally altered the American political landscape for the foreseeable future... 
'What happened in 2016 is only the beginning, in fact, the truth is it is not even that, because there is no turning back,' says Ed Harry, the former union boss from northeast Pennsylvania, punching his hands into the pockets of his Penn State sweatshirt as if to drive home an important point. "...I don't think there is any way to put what happened in 2016 back into some neat place. This is the new normal, people just don't know that yet. Or maybe they just don't want to know."
So is that a prediction for 2020? We do know the "fundamentally altered" political landscape in 2014 and 2016 got altered back in 2018 when the Democrats took 41 seats and the House majority. Scanning Brad's twitter feed @BradOnMessage, I'm not seeing anything that looks like a prediction or resembles the confidence of his "seriously... literally" meme of 2016. 

As far as Zito is concerned, she deleted her twitter feed after aspects of her book was challenged by liberals on social media in 2018. She continues to cover the same ground in 2020 as she did in 2016 - recently chiding Joe Biden on the pages of the Washington Examiner for failing to learn the lessons she discovered on a recent Pennsylvania road trip:
"As he entered Ligonier, Latrobe, Irwin, and Greensburg, he would have been overwhelmed by the amount of support for Trump in signage: large ones, small ones, homemade ones, and also flags, so many flags. In a moment of reflection, he could have asked himself the question that both Republican and Democratic establishment types have never publicly asked: Why? Why did all of you reject us? What did we do wrong along the way, and how can we make it right? ... Instead, he came across as a pandering politician who says one thing in one room and another later on, leaving the people most affected by his decision unmoved."
She also scored a tarmac interview with President Trump after his Pennsylvania rally. He rewarded her softball questions with his seriously and literally incoherent responses:
Zito: "How important is Pennsylvania for you?"

Trump: "Well, Pennsylvania's very important. I went to school here. I know the state very well, and I think we're going to win Pennsylvania. I think you see this is not the crowd of somebody that comes in second, Salena. If Biden came here, you'd have 200 people show up, if that. You saw what happened. You saw what showed up yesterday when he went to Wisconsin. He had nobody. Today, he had nobody. Today, he had nobody. So, I just think we're going to do very well. I say this, because she got it better than anybody and earlier. I will never forget your piece. She wrote an article on the road. She was on the road. And she said, "Things are going on that you've never seen before." Let me tell you. There's more enthusiasm now than there was four years ago."

Zito: "I just drove all 67 counties in Pennsylvania. I'm not going to argue with that. The intensity level is pretty high."

Trump: "There's never been anything like it. Now, we had a lot last time. You wrote about it. A lot. But this blows it away. They love the job I'm doing. I'm doing the right job."
Zito seems to agree with Trump's prediction that he'll win PA - a critical battleground state. Todd seems more focused on Senate races and striking a cuatious tone about Trump's prospects. So let's call it a split decision on their 2020 predictions. 

Running 2020 Prediction Tally for Polls & Pundits who got 2016 right: Biden - 1.5 Trump - 1.5

Professor Allan Lichtman Got It Right in 2016:

Allan Lichtman, Professor of History at American University, correctly predicted the outcome of every US presidential election through 2012 when this September 28, 2016 article was published in the Washington Post. He also got 2016 right:
"So very, very narrowly, the keys point to a Trump victory. But I would say, more to the point, they point to a generic Republican victory, because I believe that given the unprecedented nature of the Trump candidacy and Trump himself, he could defy all odds and lose even though the verdict of history is in his favor."
Prior to the 2018 election, Professor Lichtman made another prediction in this Politico preview of his upcoming book:
"Several Democrats have predicted that the first thing they’d do if they win the House next year is impeach Trump. It may not take that long, Lichtman argues, writing that his book is meant to “explain how Trump threatens the institutions and traditions that have made America safe and free for 230 years..." 
After the Democrats took the House majority in 2018, the President was indeed impeached by the House, but not convicted in the Senate. Which brings us to Professor Lichtman's prediction for the 2020 Presidential Election:
"He has correctly predicted the winner of each presidential race since Ronald Reagan's reelection victory in 1984 using his "13 keys" system. Now, Lichtman and his "13 keys" are ready to call 2020. In an interview with CNN, Lichtman was definitive in his answer: "The keys predict that Donald Trump will lose the White House this year."
You can argue about the merits of Professor Lichtman's "13 Keys" methodology, but you cannot argue about his track record or the unambiguous nature of his 2020 prediction. 

Running 2020 Prediction Tally for Polls & Pundits who got 2016 right: Biden - 2.5 Trump - 1.5

Michael Moore Got It Right in 2016:

Michael Moore, award winning documentarian and progressive propagandist, knew Trump could get elected because he talked to Trump supporters. In July, 2016, he enumerated "Five reasons why Trump will win":
 "I am sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but I gave it to you straight last summer when I told you that Donald Trump would be the Republican nominee for president. And now I have even more awful, depressing news for you: Donald J. Trump is going to win in November. This wretched, ignorant, dangerous part-time clown and full time sociopath is going to be our next president. President Trump. Go ahead and say the words, ‘cause you’ll be saying them for the next four years: “PRESIDENT TRUMP.” 
He got that prediction right, so let's see what he's got to say about 2020. 

For context, it's important to note that Michael Moore is a far left Progressive that actively supported Bernie Sanders in the 2020 Democratic primaries against Joe Biden, as he did against Hillary Clinton in 2016. As such, his comments from October of 2019 should not be a surprise - "Michael Moore: 'Joe Biden is this year's Hillary':
"Liberal filmmaker Michael Moore says Democratic presidential front-runner Joseph R. Biden is too much like twice-failed candidate Hillary Clinton to win the 2020 election against President Trump. “I don’t even want to say it out loud,” the “Fahrenheit 11/9” director told MSNBC on Tuesday. “Joe Biden is the center. Joe Biden is this year’s Hillary. Joe Biden is not going to excite the base to get out there and vote on November 3rd, 2020.”
More surprising, is that with nomination long over, with the Sanders / Warren Prog wet-dream in the rear-view mirror, and less than two months to the election, Michael Moore doubles down:
"Filmmaker Michael Moore warned Democrats that President Trump appears to have momentum behind his reelection campaign in key battleground states, with the progressive activist saying enthusiasm for Trump is "OFF THE CHARTS" compared with Democratic nominee Joe Biden... "Are you ready for a Trump victory? Are you mentally prepared to be outsmarted by Trump again? Do you find comfort in your certainty that there is no way Trump can win? Are you content with the trust you’ve placed in the DNC to pull this off?"
Is this really a prediction? Or is it a warning? Is he just being hysterical with these histrionics to motivate Democratic voters? The Dividist cannot read his mind so we'll take him literally and seriously and put him down as predicting a Trump victory again. If it happens, he'll certainly say "I told you so!" again.

Running 2020 Prediction Tally for Polls & Pundits who got 2016 right: Biden - 2.5 Trump - 2.5

Ann Coulter Got It Right in 2016:

On June 19, 2015 - Ann Coulter made the call on Bill Maher's show. The liberal audience and panelists laughed:

She got the last laugh on Nov 8, 2016.

After the inauguration, in a 2017 Daily Caller screed, Anne Coulter - AKA the Trump Whisperer was not making predictions, but seemingly guiding the President along her preferred policy path.
"If voters wanted more Middle Eastern wars, there were plenty of other candidates offering that: Marco Rubio, Lindsey Graham, Carly Fiorina and Hillary Clinton, for example. And we must never forget Jeb! though it proved surprisingly easy to do so in 2016. But we picked Trump..We want the “president of America” back — not “the president of the world.
We're not sure if  that is indeed what "we" want. But, in any case, by February, 2019, it was not clear whether even Ann Coulter wanted Donald Trump back as President:
"President Donald Trump's announcement Friday that he was declaring a national emergency wasn't received well by all Republicans, none more vocal than Ann Coulter... She said she did not want to leave the impression that she in any way influenced the White House. "Nor did I have any influence on the captain of the Titanic, the operators of the Hindenburg or the 9/11/2001 Terrorism Prevention Team," she wrote...  "The only national emergency is that our president is an idiot," Coulter said during the show. She added that she was grateful Trump distanced himself from her. "Thank god he’s relieved me any responsibility for what he’s been doing," she said, adding "That was the biggest favor anyone could do for me."
More  recently, in her 08/26/2020 column, Ann Coulter wondered "Are the Media Trying to Throw the Election to Trump?":
"Trump fumbles the ball, followed by the media throwing an interception, then Trump commits a personal foul, but the media blows the field goal, then Trump throws the ball out of bounds. Does anyone want to win this election? As the country burns, Trump sits in his bed sending out gratuitously bad-ass tweets … followed by utter spinelessness. He talks like he’s Yosemite Sam, then does nothing. This is the worst of everything... "Trump didn’t end the carried interest loophole giving billionaire hedge fund managers a minuscule tax rate... Trump never produced an infrastructure bill... he’s put his incompetent son-in-law in charge of everything."
It's somewhat ambiguous whether that's a clear prediction that Trump is going to lose. It's certainly not as definitive as her 2016 prediction that Trump would win, but it's probably as close as Coulter can get given her prior support of him. She's basically saying he's going to lose unless the incompetent liberal media bails him out. In any case, she's definitely not saying Trump will win. Advantage Biden. So who's laughing now?

Final 2020 Prediction Tally for Polls & Pundits who got 2016 right: Biden - 3.5 Trump - 2.5*

There you have it. Biden wins according to a majority of those who accurately predicted Trump's 2016 victory. 

*Your mileage may vary. Past performance does not necessarily predict future results. All predictions subject to change without notice. Some assembly required. Avoid alcoholic beverages while using these predictions. Fasten your seat belt. Elections are closer than they appear. If you have an erection lasting more than four hours call a doctor.

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