Clinton/Trump – Round One

Ready For Hillary

Ready For Hillary

I don’t think it is possible to overstate just how anticipated this first 2016 presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump has been. Some news outlets have predicted that this will be the most watched debate ever in the history of presidential debates, with others going further to suggest that tonight’s debate could exceed the viewing figures for the Who Shot JR episode of Dallas or the OJ Simpson trial.

I’ll be watching the debate online and following a couple of feeds. If you’re still looking for somewhere to watch, I’d recommend this live feed from Twitter. I’ve also come to really enjoy the real-time analysis of this election cycle by Nick Confessore, Maggie Haberman, Adam Nagourney and Alan Rappeport of the New York Times, and would recommend it even after the fact.

I’d expect Hillary to be able to knock this one out of the park. My concern is that she has an Al Gore moment and throws the debate by condescending to Trump, or that he gets under her skin and she absolutely loses her cool with him.

We’ll wait and see. I’m interested to see what happens in the polls in the next few days.. my electoral college prediction back in August is beginning to look a little wobbly (Clinton 452 | Trump 86).

Trump’s Concrete Ceiling

As noted back in April last year, Hillary Clinton’s successful nomination for and election to the presidency of the United States would mean securing the healthcare, immigration, and civil rights expansions of the previous eight years.

Millions of Americans across the country are looking to the Democratic torch-bearer to protect and continue Obama’s expansion of universal healthcare as well as to ensure a pathway to citizenship for undocumented migrants who already contribute to the US economy.

And we are all watching with concern to see if the hateful rhetoric that Donald Trump now supports will win in November, with all of the consequences that would bring, or if the more positive #StrongerTogether message from Hillary Clinton will win out.

Hillary Clinton's glass ceiling

Cartoon by two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning LA Times journalist David Horsey

Eight years ago, when Hillary suspended her campaign, we all noted that a particular glass ceiling was going to have to wait to be broken… despite its eighteen million cracks.

As Hillary will remind us throughout her campaign up until November 8th, it is not just a presidency at stake but a glass ceiling that needs to be shattered; a glass ceiling that Britain had broken in 1979 with the (three successive) electoral victories of Mrs Thatcher and had only been seriously threatened in the US once with the nomination of Geraldine Ferraro as the Democratic Vice Presidential candidate in 1984 (the 2008 Republican knee-jerk reaction with Sarah Palin doesn’t count as a serious attempt).

We’re aware of the historic nature of Mrs Clinton’s nomination for President by a major US political party, and of the different directions for America offered by the two candidates.

The ceiling we should really be considering is not the glass one above Hillary Clinton, but the concrete ceiling that Donald Trump is laying for himself.

A contributing editor to  pointed out that Trump’s ceiling in New Hampshire is that some 56 per cent of voters aren’t prepared to back him ever, and that’s a number that includes a higher proportion of women and young voters.

56% of NH voters would "never" back Trump

Trump’s concrete ceiling in New Hampshire | @Taniel

Donald Trump’s numbers have looked abysmal for a couple of weeks now as this Huffington Post article, All Bets on Hillary Clinton, makes quite clear.

RealClearPolitics has Mrs Clinton averaging around -10 points, climbing in individual polls since the Democratic convention from low negative double digits to low negative single digits. Mr Trump, at an average of -28 points, has seen his numbers continue to slide following the Republican convention from negative mid-20s to negative mid-30s.

If Clinton can maintain and improve from the low double-digits in the polls she will be poised to carry a number of states that haven’t voted Democrat in a long time. Some are now speculating on how far the Republican nominee has to fall before states like Texas, Arkansas, Utah and even Mississippi might just edge into the blue column this time around.

Trump vs Clinton Electoral College

Although an Electoral College tally of 452 for Mrs Clinton may seem remote, it is not beyond the realm of possibility. To save you from having to read the entire article that supports that number, Predicting November, the TL;DR version is that Donald Trump is making catastrophic errors that he may not be able to recover from, and Gary Johnson may split the Republican vote in enough areas to allow Clinton Republicans to claim victory in some unusual states…

Donald Trump’s concrete ceiling might be a lot lower than people think.


All Bets on Hillary Clinton

This article was originally published on The Huffington Post and is a continuation from the ‘Predicting November‘ article published earlier this week.

The entry of relative unknown former CIA agent Evan McMullin – who has never held elected office – into the race for the White House as an anti-Trump independent Republican candidate may cause excitement amongst political commentators for a short while. But for McMullin the unfortunate reality it that he is unlikely to have any lasting impact on an election cycle that is already the most unpredictable in living memory.

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have been nominated as their parties’ respective standard-bearers to do battle for the presidency, with the final blood being drawn on Tuesday November 8th.

Hillary Clinton Convention

The former Secretary of State was confirmed via popular acclamation by Senator Bernie Sanders at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia in July, as then-Senator Barack Obama had been by Mrs Clinton eight years earlier in Denver. The Democrats have, despite some admirably restrained protests by a few ‘Bernie-or-Bust’ supporters, finally united behind Hillary Clinton.

A week earlier, billionaire businessman Donald Trump had presided over a dark and dismal vision for America at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland. Some of his fallen rivals had been booed off stage and observers had been shocked by the convention’s negative tone.

The two conventions could have existed in parallel universes, parallel Americas. As Adam Nagourney noted in The New York Times, the contrast was as night and day. Yet both candidates head into November with the worst unfavourability ratings of any nominees in modern history.

It probably goes without saying that Donald Trump’s numbers are worse. Much worse.

[Continue reading here]

Predicting November

For those of you who have been following this blog for a while, you may remember that some weeks ahead of the 2012 US presidential election I called the Electoral College votes; 332 to Obama and 206 to Romney. You can read the blog post here for interest, but suffice to say it was the result of some not insignificant analysis of a large number of polls at both state and national level.

This year, 2016, we stand at the precipice of the most unpredictable election cycles in living memory, with two candidates who are the least liked in recent presidential political history going before the country in November. That said, I’m still going to try.

As Harry Enten pointed out over on FiveThirtyEight, Clinton and Trump are both more strongly disliked than any nominee at this point in the past 10 presidential cycles.

However, it is now becoming clear in the polling data that Hillary Clinton is pulling ahead of Donald Trump both nationally and in the key battleground states. Clinton has, when actually in a role, typically enjoyed relatively high approval ratings. “So I have a track record. And I’m going to remind people of that. Because it’s not just rhetoric, for me,” she said. “When I was secretary of state, I had a very high approval rating, as you can go back and check. Because I was doing a job that people could see.” Indeed, Clinton’s approval ratings hit 67 per cent in December 1998 whilst President Clinton was going through the Lewinski troubles, was 58 per cent whilst she was Senator from New York, and climbed to 69 per cent during her tenure as Secretary of State. In polls conducted in 2011 and 2012, she was more popular that both President Obama and Vice President Biden.

Conversely, Trump’s ratings in the polls seem to be in terminal decline. Each new day brings a new scandal, a new controversy, or a new viewpoint that is anathema to the American Dream. Clinton’s campaign has helpfully compiled a list of 45 things – 45 true, verifiable, real life things – that Donald Trump did, said, or caused in the week ending 7th August, and it’s no surprise that he is switching off moderates left, right and centre. You know the list:

  • Said that handling sexual harassment has to be “up to the individual” and said if his daughter were sexually harassed at work, he’d just tell her to quit;
  • Picked a fight with a baby—literally a baby—and kicked that baby out of his campaign rally;
  • Attacked the Gold Star parents of a Muslim-American soldier who was killed in combat;
  • Assured George Stephanopoulos that Russian President Vladimir Putin would not invade Crimea when Putin invaded Crimea two years ago;
  • Was gifted a veteran’s Purple Heart medal and said he “always wanted to get the Purple Heart” but conceded that “this was much easier”;
  • Called Hillary Clinton “the devil”;
  • Denied mocking a disabled reporter (spoiler alert: he definitely mocked a disabled reporter).

You can read the full list here.

With Clinton now beginning to attract considerable support from Republican officials (including former Ronald Reagan aide Doug Elmets, Representative Richard Hanna of New York, former Gubernatorial candidate and CEO of Hewlett-Packard Meg Whitman, former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, former Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson, former National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft, and others), the term “Clinton Republican” is beginning to re-enter the US lexicon, much as “Reagan Democrat” did in the 1980s.

What’s more interesting is the list of Republicans who, whilst not necessarily endorsing Clinton, have said that they simply cannot vote for Trump – including three 2016 US presidential candidates as well as the 2012 Republican nominee:

  • Barbara Bush, former First Lady;
  • Jeb Bush, former Florida Governor, 2016 presidential candidate;
  • William Cohen, former Secretary of Defence;
  • Jeff Flake, Arizona Senator;
  • Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Senator, 2016 presidential candidate;
  • Larry Hogan, Maryland Governor;
  • John Kasich, Ohio Governor, 2016 presidential candidate;
  • Mark Kirk, Illinois Senator;
  • Mitt Romney, former Massachusetts Governor, 2012 Republican presidential nominee;
  • Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Florida Congresswoman;
  • Ben Sasse, Nebraska Senator;

Put simply, this is not a typical election cycle and Donald Trump is certainly not a typical party nominee for the presidency.

So where do both candidates stand in the national polls at this point in time?

According to an ABC News/Washington Post poll released Sunday, Clinton has widened her national lead over Trump to 8 points. In a two-horse race, the poll give Clinton exactly half of the vote with Trump taking 42 per cent. Interestingly, the 8 point lead remains even when you factor in Johnson and Stein to make it a four-horse race: Clinton 45, Trump 37, Johnson 8 and Stein 4.

This continues a trend in recent days of Clinton getting some out-of-the-ballpark numbers over Trump:

  • Polling by NBC News/Wall St. Journal released Thursday 4th gives Clinton a 9 point lead over Trump (Clinton 47, Trump 38);
  • McClatchy/Marist, on the same day, puts Clinton a whopping 15 points clear of Trump (Clinton 48, Trump 33);
  • Again, Clinton’s lead in both of these polls remains the same even when Johnson and Stein are brought into the race (albeit dropping 1 point to a 14 point lead in the Marist poll).

Fascinatingly, given their usual bias toward and in favour of Republicans, even FOX News put Clinton 10 points clear of Trump on Wednesday 3rd, following polling by NBC News/SM earlier in the week that gave Clinton an 8 point lead with 50 per cent of the vote. In every reputable poll you look at (yes, there are outliers from other polling companies – the same companies I discounted back in 2012 for having weak methodologies), Clinton is storming ahead. CBS NewsCNN/ORC and PPP (D) have all also given Clinton strong leads in recent days.

Some might dismiss this as the “post-convention bounce” factor, but I think it is substantially more significant than that for two main reasons. First, Trump had his own “mini-bounce” after the Republicans met in Cleveland from 18th-21st July but this quickly dissipated in the wake of more incredible comments from Trump and his campaign, and when voters began to learn that his GOP convention was akin to the foretelling of the Apocalypse with no positive vision for the country. Second, as Gabriel Debenedetti of Politico pointed out a couple of days ago, Clinton has the highest approval rating over a Republican presidential candidate since at least 2004 – beating Obama at this stage in both 2008 and 2012.

August 5th Polling

(It should be pointed out that in the two days since Gabriel posted this, Clinton’s lead over Trump has increased further to a clear 7 points nationally.) Looking at the graph above, you can see that Clinton has held substantial leads over Trump long periods, and her numbers seem to be climbing back to the heady heights of 23rd March with an 11.4 point lead. Whether the lead returns to its maximum, back in July 2015, where she commanded 20 points clear of her Republican rival remains to be seen, but if Clinton can work back into the low double-digits she will be poised to carry a number of states that haven’t voted Democrat in a long time.

So what about those states, and what about a prediction for the 2016 Electoral College results? I’m quietly convinced that Clinton is going to win this by a landslide, and that Independents and moderate Republicans are going to vote for her once they get into the privacy of the voting booth on Election Day. The more that people see of Donald Trump, and the more that they realise that – despite what Gary Johnson and Jill Stein say – this is an election between two candidates, they will go with the “least worst option”, whatever their views of Clinton. Stephen Colbert excellently demonstrated this point on his show a week or so ago with a segment entitled “The Lesser of Two Evils” – definitely worth a watch.

It seems that this message has been taken to heart by voters in what are traditionally Republican-leaning states. Looking at data published since the start of August, and following the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia:

FloridaSuffolk University polling puts Clinton 6 points clear over Trump, and 4 points clear when all four candidates are considered.

GeorgiaAtlanta Journal-Constitution polling gives Clinton a 4 point lead over Trump in a two-horse race, and a 3 point lead in a four-horse.

MissouriSt. Louis Post-Dispatch gives Clinton a 1 point lead (I expect this to jump once Senator Claire McCaskill gets going on the campaign trail a bit more).

The other states with polling data from August are either solidly Democrat or (exceptionally!) solidly Republican, so I haven’t included these. In North Carolina Clinton is just ahead with a 0.5 per cent lead over Trump (according to the RCP aggregate). Trump’s previous lead has completely collapsed in Arizona, Nevada, and Oregon with Clinton pipping ahead by similar (or slightly larger) leads as in North Carolina. Even in states that you might expect to be firmly Republican – Kansas, Arkansas, and Mississippi – Trump’s lead in the polls is slipping.

So, what am I predicting at this stage?


Once we have another week of clear poling data at both the state and national level, I’ll recalculate across the board. I’m particularly interested in seeing some more numbers for Utah, Montana, and Texas – these are bellwether states for different strands within the Republican umbrella, and will be indicative of different trends within the party and its “coming to terms” with Trump.

What do you think of the map I’ve predicted? Do you agree in general with the direction of travel in the polls? Are there individual states you disagree with?

Do leave your thoughts in the comments, and I’ll look to answer any questions / comments in my next prediction.

I’ve put a little flutter on the above with the Bookmakers, similarly to what I did during the UK’s 2015 General Election… that turned out pretty well. Here’s my betting slip:

May 2015 Betting

Until next time!

Why I’m Backing Brexit

EU Demands

As we enter the final hours of the EU referendum campaign, I want to take this opportunity to set out for all exactly why I believe that the UK is so much better off outside of the European Union.

For me, this is about one key issue: democratic accountability. There are many many other factors that inform my opinion, but this is the fundamental overriding concern that supersedes all others.

We Brits believe, by and large, in a system of government that has been exported and taken up around the world. Known as the “Westminster system”, our parliamentary democracy allows for the sharing and discussion of ideas in the common aim of improving the living standards and conditions for everyone in this country.

Of course we – as parties in a political system – have huge disagreements about the way we approach answering these questions, and that is both right and proper. Our system allows the voters – the true experts in this referendum – to kick out a government every five years if they don’t agree with them and choose a new direction.

Having worked in Parliament I do not believe that there are any MPs who genuinely get out of bed in the morning with a desire to make things worse, and if you are someone who believes the Tories are all awful and want to hurt the poor and the disabled, then just stop reading now. You’re wrong and enough said about that sort of toxic politics.

The key failing of the EU is that it is answerable to absolutely nobody. It is governed by the Five Presidents whose names, for the majority who don’t know, are Juncker, Tusk, Schulz, Draghi and Dijsselbloem. We didn’t elect them and, more importantly, we can’t get rid of them.

So when the EU draws up plans to force the UK to guarantee the gas supply for other Member States – by turning our own small businesses off – we have no recourse under Qualified Majority Voting to stop the Council from pushing their will upon us. How could we – we have only 8.4 per cent of the votes. This isn’t some idle scaremongering – the Commission’s “Winter Package” outlines in detail the threats to our energy security, hard won by successive UK governments.

When the proposals for an EU Army come forward, to build on the EU Battlegroup that has been in existence since 2007, it is NATO that will suffer from a duplication of efforts and structures. NATO, which has been the cornerstone of the European defence for the last half-century and which has ensured peace across the Continent, is a non-negotiable redline. The EU’s attempts to resolve conflicts have led to misery and the deaths of untold numbers; it was only through the interventions of NATO in the Balkans that brought that dreadful situation to a close.

And when the Eurozone – 19 Member States and counting – has to move to full fiscal, financial and political union to survive, we will be utterly helpless to stop them. Forget the Prime Minister’s pledge that “ever closer union” will be disapplied to the UK, that still has to be negotiated, but consider that if the EU’s attention is focused on saving the Eurozone, they won’t be focusing on UK priorities. And the Eurozone has to fully integrate: they need shared taxation, social benefits, working conditions, criminal justice system, ad infinitum in so many policy areas.

If you haven’t read the Five Presidents’ Report, which makes plainly clear the direction of travel for the EU, I strongly urge you to do so:

“Progress must happen on four fronts: first, towards a genuine Economic Union that ensures each economy has the structural features to prosper within the Monetary Union. Second, towards a Financial Union that guarantees the integrity of our currency across the Monetary Union and increases risk-sharing with the private sector. This means completing the Banking Union and accelerating the Capital Markets Union. Third, towards a Fiscal Union that delivers both fiscal sustainability and fiscal stabilisation. And finally, towards a Political Union that provides the foundation for all of the above through genuine democratic accountability, legitimacy and institutional strengthening.”

This is so patently not for us, and the Remain campaign cannot spell out how these four areas are in Britain’s best interests. I am staggered that anyone would want to continue down this path towards a United States of Europe.

So the future for the EU is self-evident. The question that we must ask ourselves is: do we want to continue to be dragged down a road that this country will never accept, and that political leaders from all sides have said we will never travel.

Unless, of course, you believe that we should abandon Sterling in favour of the Euro… there are plenty of economists who have agreed with you there! The same ones who told us that if we left John Major’s Exchange Rate Mechanism we would be crippled for decades, or that if we didn’t join the Euro the City would collapse. They’re the same folks telling us that Brexit will be a bigger disaster than the 2008 financial crisis… so believe who you want!

I am an internationalist. I believe in looking out from these isles across the world and setting out sights on the global stage. 92 per cent of the world’s population lives outside of the EU, as does 80 per cent of the world’s economy. We have a fantastic Commonwealth of 2.2 billion people who have never understood our relationship with the EU and who we have been stymied from trading freely with.

Our strong friendship with the US is clear and, despite Obama’s dire warnings of being at the back of the queue, senior US Congressmen including the Chairs of various US Committees – including the Armed Forces and the Intelligence Committees – have rubbished the idea that the US would penalise a post-Brexit Britain. The powerhouse economies in the Asia-Pacific region, where most of the growth is happening, are waiting for us to trade with them. The EU has utterly failed to agree any kind of free trade agreement with China, whereas much smaller economies around the world have managed just fine.

There are those who say that Leave is a leap into the dark, that we don’t know what is around the corner, and that we must stay with EU for stability.

I say the opposite. We know where the EU is headed, we know that its intent is a federal European super-state by the back door. We know that they are determined to complete their project.

This isn’t our direction, this isn’t our project.

For so many reasons – fifth biggest economy in the world, London as the most powerful city in the world, our world-beating financial services sector, our links to the Commonwealth, our status as one of the permanent seats on the UN Security Council, our intelligence sharing through SIGINT, our fantastic UK-fought and UK-won protections for workers and LGBT rights, our world-class universities and creative sectors (Star Wars!!), our ability to take on any challenge the world throws at us – we will be absolutely fine if we Vote Leave.

The City is going absolutely nowhere, stay or go, we will trade freely with the rest of the world, we will continue to exert more soft diplomatic power than anyone else on this planet, and we will always look globally rather than regionally.

I am convinced that Voting Leave is the right thing to do for our future, and to make politics more accountable again. It is for the citizens of any democracy, any country, to decide who governs them and not to have government foisted upon them.

If you want to read more detail about what the Rewards of Leave could be, have a look at these eight very detailed policy briefings from the EU Fresh Start Project, set-up to advocate for the UK’s place in a reformed EU but which has now pivoted to Leave after the failure of the renegotiations:

Vote Leave!