No, It’s Not Astonishing that Trump Is Running a Tight Race


Rich Lowry:

Hillary’s lead in the RCP average is down to 2.7. Assuming Trump can deliver a good speech on Thursday night, he should be tied or ahead as Hillary goes into her convention. It’s an astonishing statement of Hillary’s weakness that Trump, running an amateurish campaign on so many levels, is competitive.

I don’t want to be an endless Pollyanna about this stuff, but Lowry is just wrong. Trump is running a different campaign, but that doesn’t mean it’s either bad or amateurish. After all, he blew away the cream of the Republican Party with his supposedly amateurish campaign. Were they all astonishingly weak too?

Beyond that, the increase in partisanship over the past couple of decades means that candidates of both parties are pretty much guaranteed 45 percent of the vote. As my father once told me about my grandmother, the Republican Party could nominate Mickey Mouse and she’d still vote for him. Well, now they have, and there are a lot more people like my grandmother than there used to be.

So it’s going to be a close election. And poll numbers bounce around. And convention bounces are normal. And sometimes all that bouncing will take Trump into positive territory.

Remember 2008? That was as Democratic a year as you could hope for. Republicans had been in power for two terms. People were tired of the war. The party was enmeshed in scandal. The economy was imploding. Everything pointed to an easy Democratic victory. And Barack Obama was nobody’s idea of a weak candidate. But take a look at the chart below. Do you remember that? In June McCain pulled to within a point of Obama. He did it again in August. And in September he spent nearly two weeks ahead of Obama. And then he lost by seven percentage points.

There’s no guarantee this will happen again. But the fact that Trump is running a tight race is nothing unusual. Quite the contrary: it would be surprising if it were any other way.