How Did Trump Win? The FBI and the Russians.

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis, the election, and more, subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.


Sam Wang has crunched the data from polls released in October to judge the effect of FBI Director James Comey’s letter on the election:

From opinion data alone, it is possible to estimate when a change occurred. This can test between alternative explanations, which include not only the Comey letter (October 28th) but preceding events such as the announcement of a hike in Affordable Care Act premiums (October 24th).

I calculated a day-by-day margin using polling data from the Huffington Post…After the Affordable Care Act premium hike announcement, opinion did not move for days…However, the big change does coincide well with the release of the Comey letter. Opinion swung toward Trump by 4 percentage points, and about half of this was a lasting change.

Naturally there’s a chart to go along with this. Here it is:

Hillary Clinton lost 4 points when the letter was released. She eventually gained back some of that, but it looks like 2 points were permanent. This jibes well with Nate Silver’s estimate that the Comey letter cost Clinton 2 points.

It is traditional at this point to acknowledge that lots of things affected the election: bad campaign strategy, rural blue-collar whites, etc. This is what you’ll read about in all the post-election thumbsuckers, but this kind of stuff happens to all campaigns. The Trump campaign certainly made lots of mistakes too, though no one talks about them anymore. The difference here is that things like the Comey letter don’t happen to all campaigns. This was an egregious intervention in the campaign by the director of the FBI, who was motivated at least partly by his fear of a rogue group of agents who were dedicated to Clinton’s defeat.

This is decidedly not normal. Comey knew exactly what he was doing. He was warned that it would be an unprecedented act of interference in an election. But he went ahead anyway, and went ahead in a manner perfectly calculated to do the maximum damage. The press played along and the rest is history.

Without Comey’s letter, Clinton likely would have won the popular vote by 4 points and the Electoral College by 300 votes or more. Who knows about the Senate? Maybe Democrats would have won that too. Eliminate the Russian ratfucking and Clinton would have won in a landslide. Instead, a game show host is about to be sworn in as president of the United States and everyone is convinced that the Democratic Party is practically on its last legs.

This. Is. Not. Normal.

SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

payment methods

SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate