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The 2016 Presidential Election Live Blog and Analysis

November 9, 2016 12:00 AM
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The latest update: Marco Rubio, again.

As the nation’s voters cast their ballots, Ryan Lizza and Benjamin Wallace-Wells offer closing thoughts on the Presidential race and other issues to be decided in today’s election. This post will be updated throughout the day.

In the Presidential race, Florida looks incredibly close: Clinton is running up even larger margins than expected in the cities, and Trump is doing the same in the exurbs. But the Senate race is already over: Marco Rubio has won.

Rubio has had one of the most dramatic years in recent political history. At the outset of the election, he seemed to many insiders the most dynamic Presidential candidate in the Republican race, and the one who seemed like he might help give his party some hope among non-white voters. But, as the Republican base grew more conservative and angry, Rubio was trapped as the candidate of the Party’s dwindling élite, and then, once Chris Christie caught him repeating a pat phrase in a New Hampshire debate (the phrase was “Let’s dispel with this fiction that Barack Obama doesn’t know what he’s doing”), his candidacy became a joke. But Rubio maneuvered his way back into the race for his Senate seat (persuading a political ally to drop out), endorsing Trump but (a little weirdly) rarely mentioning his name. Then, in the debates, he blew away the weak candidate that the Democrats had put forth, the congressman Patrick Murphy.

So much is up for grabs in the Republican Party tonight. But its two most impressive victories so far have come from moderate senators—Rob Portman, in Ohio, and Rubio, in Florida. In the exit polls and the electoral results, the divide between the Democratic base and the Republican one seems as sharp as ever—demographics are sorting the electorate into opposing camps. But if Hillary Clinton wins, and if the Republicans choose to pull back to a more familiar kind of politics, Rubio might be better placed than seemed possible a few months ago. He still has the talents that initially recommended him; he still offers the chance to break his party out of its familiar demographic box. Rubio is still just forty-five years old.—B.W.W.

The share of the white vote, which has been steadily declining by two points every four years … declined by two points over the past four years, from seventy-two per cent to seventy per cent.

The African-American share of the electorate dropped by a point, from thirteen per cent to twelve per cent, a fact that had been detected in the polls and some early-vote totals in the days before Tuesday. Not surprisingly, enthusiasm among black voters seems to have been slightly lower for Hillary Clinton than for the first black President.

But other nonwhite parts of the electorate saw an increase. Hispanic and Asian-Americans, which are the two fastest growing demographics in the United States, each grew by a point. Hispanics went from ten per cent to eleven per cent, and in four years they may be equal to or a larger share of the electorate than African-Americans. Asian Americans increased from three per cent to four per cent. While Republicans and Democrats used to compete aggressively for Hispanic and Asian-American voters, both groups have been trending toward voting overwhelmingly for Democrats, just as African-Americans have done for decades. When we have more detailed national exit polls, later tonight, we’ll know just how much Donald Trump accelerated these trends.

We haven’t seen the final breakdown of the white vote by education yet, but it’s worth noting that the college-educated white vote, which has been a source of strength for Clinton, has actually been growing in America. It’s non-college-educated whites, the main source of Trump’s support, who have been responsible for the decline of the white voter as a percentage of the over-all Presidential electorate. As I wrote recently, “Trump was banking his entire campaign on the fastest-shrinking faction of voters.”

There’s lots more information that still needs to come in, but just by the demographic breakdown that’s been reported so far it is hard to see how Trump wins. His campaign was premised on an enormous surge of white voters, which does not seem to have materialized. In fact, over all, Trump just might do worse with white voters than Romney did.

If the demographic breakdown isn’t enough to please the Clinton campaign, take a look at the approval and disapproval numbers that have been reported in the exit polls. Clinton’s favorability rating is forty-four per cent and her unfavorability rating is fifty-four per cent. Not great, but Trump is viewed favorably by just thirty-seven per cent of voters and unfavorably by sixty-one per cent.

As has been the case all year, Clinton and Trump are the most unpopular major-party nominees since the advent of modern polling. But it’s not equal, and it would be extremely unusual if Trump’s disapproval rating were seven points higher than Clinton’s and he still managed to defeat her.

We won’t have a winner called for a while, but the exit polls on demographics and approval ratings give us a clear indication of where things will end up tonight.—R.L.

There’s some awful, murky news out of Southern California this evening. Several people have been shot, and at least one killed, near a polling site in Azusa, in Los Angeles County. Police have not yet apprehended the shooter, who they have described as heavily armed. We don’t yet know what motivated the shootings, or whether it might be related to the election. “A very volatile and critical situation,” a spokesman for the Azusa Police Department said.—B.W.W.

The first exit polls have been released, and they answer some questions about when voters made up their minds.

About sixty-two per cent of voters said they decided who to vote for by the end of August, which was long before the Presidential debates, the “Access Hollywood” tape in which Trump bragged about sexually assaulting women, and long before the October 28th letter from James Comey alerting Congress to the fact that the F.B.I. was reviewing Clinton-related e-mails found on a computer belonging to Anthony Weiner, the husband of Huma Abedin, Clinton’s longtime aide.

This statistic is also consistent with an electorate that is deeply polarized and whose members know well in advance which side they support: almost two-thirds of voters don’t need the final campaign to help them decide.

About a quarter of voters made their decision in September and October, in the thick of the fall campaign and some major events, but still well before the Comey letter. Twelve per cent made their decision in the final days of the campaign.

These numbers are very similar to 2012, when sixty per cent decided before September, twenty per cent decided in September and October, and nine per cent decided in the last days of the campaign.

So far, there’s no evidence that Comey or any other October or November surprises made a significant difference.—R.L.

Some interesting things have been happening in Georgia. In the past four Presidential elections, the Peach State has gone for Republicans by margins of eight, five, sixteen, and eleven points. In the past month of this election—through Trump’s surge and Clinton’s rebound, the margins in polls of Georgia have shrunk. In the six polls released since the beginning of November, Trump has led by between one and five points, and FiveThirtyEight’s weighted polling averages suggest he has a four-point lead in the state, which would make it significantly more Democratic than Indiana and only a touch more Republican than Ohio and Iowa, both of which Obama won twice. The coastal South has been slowly, steadily growing more progressive, as educated, Democratic-leaning migrants of all races have moved to the region, strengthening coalitions that had depended more heavily upon African-Americans: this has happened first in Virginia, then in North Carolina, and now maybe in Georgia. (Even South Carolina looks to be significantly more competitive than Indiana.) The shock would be if these states, growing more liberal, and the Midwest, growing more conservative, pass one another by.

There are plenty of political associations you could draw in the map of this election. But this one holds some cultural weight. The South has long been the conservative heartland. And, because the line of division between North and South traces the nation’s original fracture, we assume that between liberals and conservatives there is a profound historical cleavage, hard to repair. But the emerging conservatism of the Midwest and the growing progressivism of the southeast reflect much more recent changes. Maybe the regional cast of the country is not as fixed as we think. No one state, or one election, can confirm a change like this. But I’ll be watching Georgia and South Carolina—not in the expectation that Clinton can win them, but to know, this time, how many Midwestern states they can pass, and how far they will go.—B.W.W.

Earlier today, Donald Trump and the Trump campaign filed a lawsuit in Nevada against Joe P. Gloria, the registrar of voters in Clark County, home to Las Vegas and the overwhelming majority of citizens in the state.

The hundred-page filing, which is filled with Trumpian hyperbole, alleged that various irregularities took place during early voting at four Las Vegas polling places, some of which apparently had high Hispanic turnout. The essence of the complaints is that there was confusion about whether the voting places had closed, and that some voters may have voted after the close.

According to the lawyer for Gloria, in a hearing this afternoon, Nevada law says that during early voting, as long as a line exists at a polling place, voters can join it and vote. She pointed out that this standard is different from what occurs on Election Day, when voters who are in line by the time the polls close may vote, but that no new voters can be added to the line.

It’s unclear if the Trump campaign understood either of these laws. I watched the hearing this afternoon live, and Trump’s lawyer was pummelled by an incredulous judge, who pointed out that the main remedy the Trump campaign sought—preservation of voting records at the four polling places—was already mandated by Nevada law. The Trump lawyer further demanded that personal information about the volunteer citizens who work at the polls be retained. Asked why, the Trump lawyer suggested he wanted to interview the poll workers.

The judge would have none of it, citing the poll workers’ privacy rights and suggesting that Trump’s Nevada staffers or others—she actually mentioned “Internet trolls”—might have malevolent intentions. “It’s disturbing to me to think that those individuals might be harassed.”

At the end of the hearing, the judge dismissed the complaint and announced that she would not be issuing any order.

There’s not always much going on on Election Day, so disputes like this often receive outsized attention, especially on cable news. These kinds of lawsuits are often filed, and they’re usually dismissed quickly, as was the case today. What’s different this year is that Trump has suggested that he might not concede the election if he loses; he has seemed to suggest that his supporters should monitor polling places in minority neighborhoods, and polls show that most Trump supporters believe that, as Trump has repeatedly said, the election will be “rigged.”

The Trump campaign was laughed out of the courtroom in Nevada today. Normally, this kind of frivolous legal action wouldn’t merit much attention. Perhaps it’s nothing. But it’s worth keeping an eye on whether, if the results are close tonight, Trump uses incidents like this case in Nevada and elsewhere to fan doubts about the outcome.

Donald Trump called into Martha MacCallum’s show on Fox News this afternoon, and, after a few opening Election Day pleasantries (the Republican nominee is feeling “really good about tonight”), MacCallum asked him about the lawsuit his campaign brought today, challenging the early vote at four Las Vegas polling places. Trump seemed a little vague about the lawsuit. He said his campaign staff “felt it was a pretty bad situation.” The lawsuit they proposed “sounded like a good one to me, so I let them bring it.” Then he said that his campaign had to keep the system honest. “I’ve been talking about the rigged system for a long time, Martha,” Trump said.

MacCallum sounded like she’d been waiting to hear that word, “rigged.” Quickly, she asked whether Trump would accept the result of the election if Hillary Clinton won it. “Will you accept that decision tonight? From everything you are saying, it makes me wonder.” Trump wouldn’t commit. “We’re going to see how everything plays out tonight,” he said. “I want to see everything honest.” MacCallum asked how he felt “about the peaceful transition of power that America prides itself on.” Trump said, “I do love it.” Then he said, “I also think when you see what’s going on with Hillary and the F.B.I. and the Department of Justice . . .” and he was off again, about Clinton’s e-mails. Trump did not say that he would accept the results of the election. He did call the system “broken.”

Yesterday, the former George W. Bush speechwriter David Frum speculated on Twitter about what would happen if, in the event of a loss, Donald Trump refused to concede. Frum saw two crucial groups within the conservative movement. First were the Republican elected officials, who, Frum argued, seemed unlikely to back Trump. “I have perfect confidence that Republican electeds will in fact step up & do the right thing,” Frum wrote. “I’m more worried about Fox & talk radio.” In the end, Frum thought, even those “disruptive forces will balk at the ultimate disruption. If politicians—and even talk radio—do draw back from the brink, Trump himself will get the message and change the subject.”

That sounds about right to me, though maybe a touch too pessimistic. The Fox News anchors have not sounded very open today to Trump’s allegations that the election is being rigged. It was the network’s star newsman, Chris Wallace, who, as moderator of the third Presidential debate, asked Trump whether he would respect the “peaceful transition of power,” calling it “one of the nation’s longest traditions,” and asking the Republican nominee if he was “saying you’re not prepared to commit to that principle.” Today, MacCallum echoed Wallace’s language exactly and grilled Trump just as aggressively.

Fox News is a little hard to read at the moment, its factions rearranging themselves after the allegations of serial sexual harassment that brought down its impresario Roger Ailes this summer. The talk-show host Sean Hannity seems all in for Trump; the news division and the network’s star Megyn Kelly are much more skeptical. If Trump loses, he may refuse to concede, or he may (more typically) hedge, and try to draw out the mystery—“keep you all in suspense.” But if the Republican Party’s leadership doesn’t back his claims, and Fox News doesn’t either, you wonder who else would follow him.—B.W.W.

This morning it has been hard to talk about anything but the election, and yet there is nothing new to say. The candidates are settled at home polishing their speeches, there are no polls left to come in, and there is no news. This is a problem for everyone, but it is a particular problem for the cable-news networks. Even the most polished analysts struggle to find anything to say. In the last hour, David Gregory was asked on CNN to speculate about what surprises could be predicted.

In the absence of news, CNN deployed what it called a “ballot cam,” in which reporters at polling places around the country had precinct staff explain to them how votes were actually processed: where the ballots were taken and how they were read. MSNBC reporters interviewed the Ohio secretary of state, who said that despite the hot talk of Trump supporters going into minority neighborhoods to intimidate voters, there had been no major issues. Fox News visited the Trump campaign’s social-media command center, which turned out to be a bunch of young people slumped in their chairs and tensely monitoring screens, just like the rest of us.

Slowly an impression began to accumulate of the awesome volunteer machinery of the election. Each time that CNN cut to a precinct, volunteer staffers were seen carefully rearranging ballots, crossing off names, counting and checking. When an MSNBC reporter checked in on the lines outside of a Philadelphia polling place, a precinct-worker gently redirected him away from the prohibited zones. Because of the fury of this election, and of the uncertainty over what the reaction of Trump and his supporters might be, there has been extra tension surrounding the act of voting. Checking in with the cable networks this morning has been to be reminded of the inertia of the voting routine, and to wonder, tentatively, if this might turn out to be a pretty normal Election Day, after all.—B.W.W.

Nate Silver has posted his final forecast of the year, and it remains an outlier compared to the predictions of most other forecasting sites. Silver predicts that Donald Trump has a 28.6 per cent chance of winning today. The Huffington Post, which has been a hub of methodological criticism of Silver’s forecast this week, has Trump’s chances below two per cent, as does Sam Wang, at the Princeton Election Consortium. The Times’ Upshot forecast is in between, giving Trump a fifteen-per-cent shot.

Silver’s estimate is puzzling because on Election Day in 2012, he gave Mitt Romney a nine-per-cent chance of victory, while Clinton ends the race with a larger lead over Trump in polls than Barack Obama had over Romney. So why is Silver more bullish on Trump?

First, Clinton’s overall lead over Trump—while her gains over the past day or two have helped—is still within the range where a fairly ordinary polling error could eliminate it.

Second, the number of undecided and third-party voters is than in recent elections, which contributes to uncertainty.

Third, Clinton’s coalition—which relies increasingly on college-educated whites and Hispanics—is somewhat inefficiently configured for the Electoral College, because these voters are less likely to . If the popular vote turns out to be a few percentage points closer than polls project it, Clinton will be an Electoral College underdog.

As always, Silver provides lots more detail on each of these issues. To his first point, that Clinton’s lead is not big enough to overcome a potential “normal” polling error, I don’t see why this would have much impact, since Obama’s lead over Romney was narrower and yet Silver’s model gave Romney only a one-in-ten chance.

The bigger issue seems to be Silver’s caution about undecided voters. He notes that in 2012 only 3.1 per cent of voters were undecided, whereas this year, the final polling averages say that undecideds and third-party voters make up 12.5 per cent of the electorate.

There’s a lot of debate—and folklore—about how undecideds break on Election Day. There used to be a school of thought that argued that they generally go against the incumbent. The theory was that if you hadn’t made up your mind, there was probably something you didn’t like about the better-known candidate in the race—generally, the incumbent—and you were more likely to swing toward the lesser-known agent of change—the challenger—at the end. There’s no incumbent this year, but Clinton fits the model better than Trump. However, the so-called “incumbent rule” has been shown to be wrong. The more commonly accepted scenario now is that undecided voters eventually vote at a similar percentage as compared to the rest of the sample population.

Silver’s third point is that Obama had stronger polling numbers in the swing states in 2012 than Clinton does now. Clinton may have lots of “wasted” votes in big non-swing states, like Texas and California, which inflate her national vote total relative to her Electoral College strength.

As a non-statistician, I have always thought that most of the fancy forecasting models are way too complicated. Simply averaging polls will get you a highly accurate forecast. I remember that in 2000 I kept an Excel spreadsheet of state-polling averages, which correctly predicted forty-nine out of fifty states—and the fiftieth was Florida, which was essentially a tie.

But I also don’t understand the level of vitriol that was spewed at Silver by conservatives in 2012 and some liberals this year. Silver has always been extremely transparent about his models. And, in the end, his conclusion is the same as the conventional wisdom we started with in this race many months ago: “Clinton is probably going to win, and she could win by a big margin.”—R.L.

“The idea still is to win,” Gary Johnson, the Libertarian candidate for President, said on CNBC yesterday. In surveys taken during the summer, Johnson had polled in the high single digits, and there had been a great deal of speculation about whether his presence on the ballot would pull more Trump or Clinton supporters. But by the eve of the election, he was generally around four or five per cent, and the talk of Johnson as a spoiler had almost entirely receded. Yesterday, he rejected the notion that he was taking voters from anyone. Had the Libertarian Party not been on the ballot, he said, “just consider that all my voters would’ve stayed home.”

Johnson is the most interesting interview among the three major candidates, perhaps because his brand—the Libertarian brand—is built on unpredictability, or perhaps because he’s just like that. (See Ryan’s fun Profile of Johnson.) When a Johnson sentence begins, you do not always know where it will end. In the past few weeks, his running mate, the former Massachusetts governor William Weld, has devoted himself to attacking Donald Trump, and particularly the Republican nominee’s immaturity in the face of criticism. “His face turns red, he waves his arms, he interrupts everybody, he stands on one leg and holds his breath until he gets what he wants,” Weld said recently. Johnson seemed less eager to single out Trump. “Neither one of the candidates are about free markets,” he said.

In 2016, both major parties have moved away from libertarianism, and both candidates are broadly disliked, and yet, as the election has gone on, the movement has been away from Johnson, not toward him. Third parties aim to be a fallback choice when the two main parties are roundly despised, but the Libertarians’ task is compromised because the Party’s beliefs are so specific. During the Tea Party era, and after it, libertarianism was often said to be a rising force in the G.O.P.—but Rand Paul’s Presidential campaign never got going, and the Party’s voters wound up nominating a wannabe autocrat. Johnson can still influence a close state election in the west—perhaps in Colorado, where at least one analysis this morning suggested the race might be closer than previously thought. On CNBC, although he insisted his aim was still to win, Johnson had a different target in mind: the federal funding and ballot access that the Party would earn for 2020 if he can win five per cent of the national vote. For a third party to get on the ballot in fifty states takes what he called a “Herculean effort.” Five per cent, Johnson said, “is significant.”—B.W.W.

For the past seven years, Chris Christie has turned his Election Day trip to the polls into a media event. He has always informed the press of the time and place, and answered questions from reporters.

The man who was almost Donald Trump’s running mate, and who remains the head of his transition team, has seen his approval rating fall below twenty per cent as his support for Trump, and the recent trial and conviction of two former aides in the Bridgegate imbroglio, has turned off most New Jersey voters. The governor has been less eager to advertise his support for Trump in recent weeks. reports that, this morning, Christie essentially snuck in and out of his local polling place without any fanfare, and then sped away in his S.U.V.

“Christie declined to take a reporter’s questions about what role, if any, the governor might take in a Trump administration should the tycoon prevail,” the report notes.

Do click the link for the headline and the picture, which say all you need to know about Christie’s place in American politics as this election comes to a close.—R.L.

Steve Schale, a longtime Democratic strategist and the go-to source for Florida data, has written his final update analyzing the early-vote numbers down there. His bottom line mirrors the final polls: Hillary Clinton is likely to enjoy a narrow victory in Florida.

Two stats stand out. First is that the white vote is down two points from 2012. Second is that the number of voters declaring no party affiliation has surged to its largest share of the electorate—and it’s more diverse than it’s ever been.

Schale notes a couple of good data points for Donald Trump, including the fact that Democrats have a smaller edge in votes going into an Election Day than they have previously. But, overall, he’s bullish on Clinton.

“Those are not equal ledgers,” he writes. “And pretty much everything that Hillary Clinton wanted to have happen to position herself to win Florida has happened.”—R.L.

After tomorrow, recreational marijuana may be legal in a huge swath of the United States. Voters in California, Arizona, Nevada, Massachusetts, and Maine will be deciding on ballot proposals legalizing pot for recreational use. According to a summary at NORML, the pro-pot advocacy group, recent polls suggest a win for legalization in all of those states.

Most of the western United States may soon have legalization. Marijuana is already legal in Washington, Oregon, and Colorado, so pretty soon you might be able to take a road trip from Seattle to Portland to Los Angeles to Las Vegas to Denver and never touch a marijuana-prohibition state. (Two caveats: for the foreseeable future it will still be against federal law to transport pot across state lines, and your journey would require you to get out of your car at Four Corners Monument and carefully step from northeastern Arizona into southwestern Colorado.)

It’s not too surprising that liberal states, like California, or libertarian states, like Nevada, are ready to embrace legalization. The interesting question is whether pot will become an issue like same-sex marriage, which went from politically taboo to widely embraced in a few years, and where opposition is gradually crumbling as the population ages, or more like abortion, where the electorate remains evenly divided on the issue decades after the Roe v. Wade decision.

While it’s true that legalization in California, with a population of almost forty million people, is likely to have an enormous impact on the national debate, to get a sense of where this issue is headed, pay attention to the red and purple states that have marijuana ballot proposals tomorrow. Marijuana legalizers have pursued a gradualist strategy whereby they first push to legalize medical marijuana and then, after it succeeds, they move on to legalize recreational use. (California has had medical marijuana for years and is now making the leap into recreational.)

Voters in Florida, Montana, Arkansas, and North Dakota will all be making decisions about medical marijuana. Florida is a large and closely divided state, and Montana, Arkansas, and North Dakota are deep-red states. It’s not too surprising that the West Coast is about to embrace legalization, but if marijuana prohibition starts crumbling in places like Arkansas it will be a sign that the issue may have transcended the partisan divide.—R.L.


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