In January I described the phenomenon of a preference cascade and posited that Hillary Clinton would eventually find herself on the wrong end of one. In February I noted that the cascade looked like it might have started. Indeed, a few months later it looked like that might have been the case – except that it proved to be too little, too late. The tide turned against Hillary at the end of the Democratic party’s primary process, but by then she’d secured enough delegates to win anyway.
Today, however, the situation has changed. The anti-Hillary preference cascade has blasted into full swing.
Five weeks ago the Real Clear Politics polling average showed Clinton with a 7.9% lead over Trump. Democrats and mainstream media sources declared the race over. Trump had no way to close such an insurmountable lead. He might as well pack it in, they told us. Nate Silver showed Trump at one point with just a 12% chance of winning in November.
Except that today the polls have narrowed dramatically. Today’s RCP polling average shows Clinton with a mere 1.8% lead over Trump. To be sure, that’s still a strong lead. Yet it is no longer a commanding lead. In a mere five and a half weeks, Trump has moved the polls by six points. To the best of my knowledge, this is unheard of in presidential politics.
Keep in mind, also, that this massive shift in the polls does not yet fully include any of the following:
- Clinton’s “basket full of deplorables” comment – the 2016 version of Mitt Romney’s 47% gaffe.
- Reactions to the news of Hillary’s health issues over the weekend.
- Any new information from the 600+ megabytes of new information on the DNC leaked by WikiLeaks earlier this week.
- Reactions to the child care plan Trump announced yesterday.
Most damning of all, it does not include the fact that Hillary Clinton has a proven history of choking under pressure. By next week the polls will factor in all of the elements above. As a result they will crank the pressure all the way to eleven.
This is the beginning of the preference cascade, not its end.