For what it is worth: Nothing is ever certain, and much could go wrong, but my money remains on a Trump victory. Why?
1) It feels a whole lot like Reagan in ’80 and Newt in ’94.
Reagan was disliked by the establishment (who liked Baker or Bush), viewed with suspicion by professional conservatives (they liked Phil Crane, not a divorced, former Democrat, big spending governor), and regarded with condescension by the media and left (who saw him as stupid and a dangerous cowboy). Those camps could not fathom the breadth and depth of his popular momentum.
Ditto the GOP taking the House in ’94 ― I was on CNN five weeks prior to that election, and produced outright guffaws and rolled eyes from everyone when I said that the GOP would win not just the Senate, but take the House. The signs were all there but because the idea seemed so preposterous, they couldn’t see.
More recently Matt Bevin was left for dead by most of the smart money in his race for KY governor, and Brexit was “sure” not to pass. Trump is an extension of that zeitgeist for many ― a long awaited reclaiming of control of their lives, of their country, of their self-identity.
2) Who are you going to believe, polls or your lying eyes?
I started asking people in the spring for whom they were voting. A surprisingly large percentage of not-supposed-to-be-a-Trump-supporter types turned out to be exactly that. That includes rich and highly educated people, women, blacks, Hispanics and Muslims. A bunch of anecdotes, but interesting.
Everyone keeps saying this election is about Trump. But I have come to believe it really is about his supporters, who to a person are deeply versed in all his flaws and faults and support him regardless. For them, this is about one or more of the following:
deep antipathy for Hillary and all she represents and would do,
disappointment with a broken system they feel has ignored and in some cases harmed them for years, or
a reclaiming of the country and their own lives and personhood.
They genuinely love and worry about their country and they want to feel proud again to be an American.
3) If what got incinerated was a phoenix, don’t bet against it rising.
If you’ve seen someone succeed at something five or six or nine times, how smart is it to bet they won’t do it the 10th time? How many times was seemingly everyone sure that Trump was finished ― only he came back stronger than before? Many of us missed, time and again, the meta messages Trump was sending that galvanize his support and many miss it still.
4) Stages of Grief
For two-thirds of GOP voters, Trump wasn’t just another candidate ― he was the one potentially viable candidate they feared. So with Trump triumphant, enter the stages of grief ― denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and finally acceptance, each at his or her own pace.
You can tell many are at that nadir of depression by the way those who are the most depressed about Trump interpret Trump. Having a predisposition, as understandable as it might be, can hinder our understanding of what is happening. If someone starts with the assumption that Trump is ignorant, stupid, or dangerous, it rules out considering the possibility that comments like “founders of ISIS” could simply be brilliant hyperbole.
In contrast, allowing the idea that Trump is actually as smart as his overall track record, even discounted, indicates, permits the perspective that his repeated “gaffes” are purposeful, and a calculated strategy to garner millions of dollars in free media, wherein his larger point gets made for him, over and over. That’s no mean feat in a media environment stacked in favor of the left and Democrats and against conservatives and any GOP nominee.
5) It’s still summer.
I have found that many folks who are normally GOP voters but who are unhappy about Trump largely fall into two camps. The first are those who object because Trump isn’t solidly, reliably conservative on their priority issues. The second are those who, at bottom, find Trump personally objectionable, as does almost everyone they know, so they feel that the prospect of supporting him would violate the way they see themselves and wish to have others think of them.
These are real concerns that even many Trump supporters say they have worked through. But if folks are hitting despair in August, that means they have September and October to move to acceptance. Why would they? Because Hillary’s presidency and all it implies will become so much more real.
Between the choice of someone who will get pretty much every policy decision wrong, versus someone who might get some of them right, more and more people who presently can’t see voting for Trump will decide that on the “lesser of two evils” spectrum, they will be a Trump voter, even if they are not a Trump supporter.
One cannot discount the barrage of negative ads that will come against Trump. And who knows what new revelations will shift the ground yet again? But particularly with increasing Clinton pay-to-play revelations, if by early October the social opprobrium shifts from “how could I possibly support him?” to “how could I possibly enable her?”, Republicans will win the presidency.