2016 Was Not a Tight Race


I suppose this is hopeless, but I want to try one more time on the Comey thing. The most common response to the suggestion that James Comey’s letter was the turning point in the 2016 campaign is this:

In a race this close, lots of things could have tipped the result. The Comey letter is just one of many.

But this isn’t true. Take a look at 538’s polling numbers in the final two weeks of the campaign:

On the day before Comey sent his letter, Hillary Clinton had a 6-point lead. There is no ordinary campaign event that plausibly could have turned that into a loss. Not dumb ad buys. Not bad internal polling. Not bad speeches by the candidate. Nothing. It’s just too big a lead.

The Comey letter was a bolt from the blue and it cost Clinton three percentage points. This is the only thing that made the race close to begin with. Once Clinton’s lead had been cut by three points, then an extra point of support for Trump in the last couple of days—which 538 and others missed—was just enough for Trump to eke out a 2-point popular vote loss and a miracle Electoral College victory.

That wouldn’t have mattered without the Comey letter. None of those little things that everyone keeps pointing to would have produced a Trump win. It’s true that in a tight race lots of things can make the difference between winning and losing, but it wasn’t a tight race. Not until James Comey sent out that letter, anyway.