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Don’t blame ‘The Video’

Don’t blame ‘The Video’

If we aren’t careful, for the next 50 years bored kids in history classes will be told that Donald Trump would have won except for The Video. Let’s take a moment to remember that this is a false narrative.

Across the entire election cycle with exception of about 2 days, Donald Trump underperformed Mitt Romney’s poll numbers and trailed by larger margins than Romney. Here’s a look at his performance against Romney from the Washington Post:


This was never a close election, nor was it ever going to be. But when did it develop into a blowout? Don’t blame the video. America stopped flirting with their low-rent Hitler once they saw him on stage with a credible political figure. Look at the polling averages from 538 and keep in mind that there is always a lag as news starts to impact poll responses:


There are a couple of interesting insights from these numbers. First, look how little difference the video made on this race. A Presidential candidate talked about his habit of sexually assaulting women, followed by a flood of women coming forward to corroborate his own claims. The incident has barely moved the needle. Second, the withdrawal of support from numerous Republican officials has likewise done nothing to change Trump’s support (while wrecking Paul Ryan’s popularity).

Perhaps the biggest story of this election is how little impact the video had on the preferences of the vast majority of American voters. Yuck.


  1. Kathleen Parker, WaPo, offers a wonderful description of DJT as she holds the RNC leadership responsible for the mess a Trump campaign has wrought:

    “By letting Trump rise to the top, as oil slicks tend to, Priebus has left the party in such a gelatinous mess Republicans will need a hazmat team to clean it up.”

    They certainly offered no meaningful guidance but the party and all its minions have been complicit in preparing their base for a man like Trump. There’s plenty of blame to go around where a Trump candidacy is concerned.

  2. Welp, there’s number one on the oppo drop list, and what do you know? It was the models. I knew it, and it was even worse than I thought. Trump was basically an underground pimp hosting parties where a lot of underage girls were tossed around for perverted old men to have their ‘fun’ with, Trump himself included. Christ.

    That’s the first one and the second is apparently ready to come out later this week.

  3. I am torn about the article linked below, which discusses the rising realization amongst some Republicans of the toxic effect of right wing media outlets. In one sense, it is good to acknowledge that the conditions that allowed Trump to win the GOP nomination were in part driven by the craziness of Breitbart, Hannity, Drudge, and others. But at the same time, the comments largely seem to be criticisms of the batshit crazy elements of the right wing media by media personalities who are merely mostly crazy. There’s not much suggestion of what to do about it (nebulous talk of boycotts) and they underestimate the difficulty of stopping this train on tracks these very people have been greasing for years.

    1. Added to voter suppression tactics, recent protests by the Trump campaign that polls are skewed left are raising concerns about whether conservatives are being polled fairly, especially when some respected national polling experts are showing extreme variations in the surveys.

      “A new survey from the conservative outlet Rasmussen gives Trump a 1-point lead nationally. A Los Angeles Times/USC poll — one of the most accurate from 2012 — has Clinton ahead by only 2 points. And a survey from IBD/TIPP — which has been among the best for the last three presidential elections — has the candidates locked in a tie. The polls showing a tight race are particularly notable, since there are also recent surveys that suggest a landslide win for Clinton.”

      GOTV is a must! Democrats and others who do not want a Pres. Trump must vote – despite long lines, reduced voting polls, suppression of students’ votes on campuses, threats, etc. We cannot take this campaign for granted though we hope and feel Clinton will win. Vote!

      1. V L

        The LAT/USC poll has been a massive outlier so far. I’m not so sure about those numbers. But no matter what people need to vote.

        The latest news is the possibility of Clinton getting to 270 before the polls close on the west coast.

        There is a question of who that would effect more. Republicans who may be already demoralized who won’t bother voting or Democrats who will realize their vote for the presidency won’t matter in terms of the basic result.

        We’ll see but I hope Democrats are telling westerners that their vote is still needed for Clinton’s mandate, the repudiation of Trumpism and for down-ballot races.

  4. Any plans on writing up a post on what a more “successful” version of Trump would probably run on and have to do differently to win, if they could win? You’ve hinted at it a few times already but never outright predicted what such a campaign would look like.

  5. If Strongman Trump is talkin’, he’s losin’.

    That’s about how complicated this thing is.

    I was always quietly optimistic that my fellow Americans could spot a know-nothing imbecile attempting to sell them the Brooklyn Bridge for a penny, and I was right. Although I have and still worry about black swan events. It’s never a sure thing in politics.

    Sure, close to 40% of the population has essentially been brain damaged by the right-wing wurlitzer of the past 50 years shitting into their skulls on the radio and on the TV, but enough sane, reasonable people aren’t going to let an outright authoritarian just walk into the White House.

    Of course, a clever populist who can play the dog whistle is probably coming in 2020, so heads up, y’all.

    1. Said right-wing populist would have to be clever enough to make up for about 10% of the population that Trump is about to outright lost. They’d probably need some minority votes to cement their victory and they’d be running against an incumbent. How doable is that? We’d probably need at least a couple real Clinton scandals for it to work.

      1. Keyword there is “real”. Their fake ones don’t seem to work like they used to. Still, future white nationalists are going to be at a disadvantage due to demographics regardless so I’d be curious as to how they could pull off taking the White House successfully.

      2. V L

        It’s alot more than 10% when you look at the minority voters that no Republican will ever win.

        The problem for a more sane/clever fascist is that every election cycle the base of voters that their message would automatically appeal to shrinks.

        However it is a question if those white college educated voters turned off by Trump can be seduced to support someone who can at least appear competent.

        Thankfully, I don’t see anyone in the current generation of GOP presidential wannabes who aren’t tarnished by Trump or are smart and smooth enough to clean up Trumpism.

  6. We always have had vulgar ignorant people in our society. And demagogues who will take advantage of them. Which is why the founding fathers created the electoral college. To provide some insulation. I have to admit I was shocked at the how large that the deplorables group is.

  7. I assumed he was toast after the video was released but now after listening to republican political analysts (Steve Schmidt, Michael Steele etc) they argue like you Chris, his boat sprung a leak 32 minutes into the first debate and has been leaking ever since.

    Given his supporters zeal for his candidacy, akin to a tent revival its a jolt that the video didn’t sink him faster but I guess he is their last great white hope and the cause more important than the man. So, all transgressions are forgiven…for the cause.

    I am not a conspiracy nut but I am struck by this article in Wired about his nightly news program streamed on his facebook page. It went live during the last debate and starting this evening is now a nightly event at 6:30ET. Was this a ploy to launch a Fox like streaming program outdoing FOX? Did he jump into the race to launch this and he unexpectedly won the nomination?

    Did his publicity stunt in the primary get away from him?

      1. They may for a while, but I think Chris Ladd has a better theory about DJT. He thinks Trump fades, flames out. The worry is what happens to all these people and their anger and concerns? They may have chosen to support a candidate who was horrible but their problems will still be there. That is what needs to be addressed, along with and in proportion to all the other business of the nation that has been in neutral due to Republican obstruction.

        The old saying, “fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.” Some other demagogue may replace Trump but I agree with Chris – Trump has caused a lot of pain and dissension and people need some space.

      2. I’ve been tickled by the stories about apartment building dwellers in New York wanting to remove the name tRump from their buildings.

        Apparently, even cab drivers rag on them when dropping them off.

        And in Washington, the new hotel had lots and lots of empty rooms during a recent conference when every other hotel was maxed out.

        If the egoism that prompted his political life also ruins his financial life, we’d have tragedy in the original sense of the word, i.e., one caused by personal failings such as a moral weakness. Should this come about, I would see no need to use today’s sense of tragedy, i.e., a deeply sorrowful event. Some things are deserved.

    1. EJ

      It’s always remarkable how many people are willing to overlook horrific behaviour so long as it occurs off-camera. When they see it for themselves it makes an enormous impact, even if they had already known that it was happening.

      There’s probably an academic term for this.

      1. Apparently, for the next two weeks, we’ll be “exposed” to a nightly preview of bad behavior live, online, from the Trump gang. For more detail, links are included. Of particular interest is how much revenue this programming is capable of generating for Trump, et al….Pretty sick way to make a living, but then, why would Trump or any of those he would sign or those who would watch, care?

        Reports Mike Pompeo, Politico:

        WELCOME TO TRUMP TV (ON FACEBOOK) — “Donald Trump campaign advisers Boris Epshteyn and Cliff Sims will co-host a live nightly show on the Republican presidential nominee’s Facebook page every night through Election Day. … According to a Trump adviser, Epshteyn and Sims will host the nightly half-hour show from the Trump campaign’s ‘war room’ in Trump Tower. …The show is intended to serve as a lead-in to Trump’s rallies, which the campaign is also planning to broadcast live on Trump’s Facebook page for the remainder of the presidential campaign, the adviser said. It will also air at the same time as the nightly newscasts on the broadcast networks.”

        Trump TV might not be such a financial stretch after all? “Suppose [it] charges consumers a monthly subscription fee of $9.99,” Jennifer Saba writes on Reuters Breakingviews. “The channel might entice, say, 500,000 subscribers once up and running … Advertising would boost the top line, maybe adding about 15 percent to overall revenue. Then it’s a question of how much Trump would spend. Figure about $20 million a year to account for technology, a studio and staff as a baseline. On top of that, he’ll need on-screen talent … Fox News anchors Bill O’Reilly, whose contract is up for renewal next year, and Sean Hannity make in the ballpark of $20 million … Assume he signs them both, and add in the roughly $15 million a year Trump collected for ‘The Apprentice’ … That equation almost breaks even.”

    1. If the D’s make a significant gain in the House, but do not take control, then Ryan’s future is very much up in the air. Most members of the Freedom Caucus will probably survive, but their numbers will be reduced. The Freedom Caucus could well rebel and refuse to accept Ryan as Speaker. The question is could they find someone to replace him? I doubt that. What happens, then?

      Possibly, the moderate R’s could rebel and form an alliance with the D’s. They might find a moderate R who could be elected Speaker with the D’s support and essentially form a coalition majority. The Speaker could then ditch the Hastert Rule and work with the D’s, to actually form a governing majority. That is frequently how parliamentary governments work. Something similar to that happened in WA in 2012 when the R’s first took control of the Senate. I’d like to see Pelosi as a coalition Speaker, but I do not think the R’s would accept that.

      As for Ryan taking that route, as Mary suggests, I do not think it possible. Ryan is too enthralled with passing his “A Better Way” agenda, which is nothing more than Ayn Randism ran amok and in possibly making a run for the Presidency in 2020 with a very conservative platform, similar to “A Better Way”. Prioritizing actual governance, would end both ambitions permanently.

      Regardless, I think there will be some major political intrigue coming out of the House.

      1. I am far more worried by Paul Ryan “reasonable” Ayn Randism than Trump’s vulgarity. Trump will fail for one reason or the other. (I am actually surprised it was due to debates, as debates are more about showmanship than anything real. Yeah, Hillary won, but it should not matter. It should matter that Trump policies are unworkable).

        But if ultra-libertarianism gets cemented as respectable position, I see a lot more trouble down the line.

      2. I don’t think the pent-up energy of the left, like Bernie fans, etc., will allow Clinton to drift to the right. They aren’t going to support forming coalitions with any GOP moderates. And even people like Ryan, known as a moderate, is actually very far to the right compared to Republicans of former times.

      3. Bernistas can wish all they want but Clinton won the nomination and she has already shown she will be accommodating but not supplicant. I believe that HRC wants her legacy to be one of bringing people together for the purpose of governing. They don’t have to “like” one another, but they have been elected and are being paid to work together. If Clinton can get things done with Ryan, she should. Remember, she effectively has only two years to get her highest priorities done. She is a master at working the system. Whatever anyone thinks about her personally, she is just as much a policy wonk as Ryan and much more experienced. Let’s see first that she wins, how big her win is, and then judge her on what she accomplishes. You have to admit, she’s come a lot farther than anyone believed possible even with DJT as her opponent. Maybe the gods will smile at her for another two years and let her prove her capabilities.

      4. I just read the linked article, Mary. Great! The willingness to compromise was one of the major reasons that I was a supporter of HRC from the beginning. While I liked what Sanders said, I also felt that he would not be able to get most of it through Congress. I felt that HRC, would have a greater opportunity of getting her program through Congress. I have felt for sometime that there needed to be a greater willingness to compromise. Our present system has made that difficult with the constant threat of being primaried.

      5. Several items of interest that I think are worth keeping an eye on:

        – What’s the divide between House Republicans who stick with Trump/Trumpism and those who don’t?

        If Republicans maintain control of the House, but only by single-digits, there’s no way Paul Ryan (if he wins reelection, naturally) hangs on as the Speaker. An emboldened Freedom Caucus would never abide it and thanks in no small part to Trump and especially Steve Bannon (seriously, did you hear that he actually gave a direct order to “destroy” Ryan? Seriously.), his support among Republicans and especially Trump Republicans has just fallen through the floor. He’s finished.

        There’s no way Republicans come together in such a scenario on a Speaker that isn’t a complete nut. So, as you’ve inferred, they have to pick their poison; either bow down and kiss the proverbial ring of a group of assholes or work with Democrats to actually get something done.

        – How effectively does Clinton court those moderate Republicans? This is important. She’s got to convince them that they’re going to have a voice and say in what happens. These Republicans are going to catch a lot of heat and so they’ve got to be able to go home and have a real case to make for why they did the right thing.

      6. We might all be surprised at how the American people will react to a government that actually works. No one is going to be happy with everything – especially if there is compromise – but after this campaign, I think our elected leadership has a real opportunity to use the fatigue and disgust of the public to great advantage – if they will do so with clarity, integrity and a higher purpose than their respective parties. As someone who believes deeply in the democratic process, I think we must try.

  8. Nate Silver has explained the “plateauing” effect of Clinton’s numbers this way: there is a reasonable “ceiling” in polling and she’s already there.

    The really, really sad thing about the video is that it didn’t move the needle. It should have been shocking to conservatives – it wasn’t. The “why” is more important than the fact that the video was inconsequential to the Trump supporters. What does this say about: the moral values of our country; our deepening political divide; our male-dominated culture; our over-saturation with media; our “winning” at any cost mentality? Those are the big questions, not the juvenile vulgarity self-absorbed men indulge in.

    1. Second point (sorry): “the withdrawal of support from numerous Republican officials has likewise done nothing to change Trump’s support (while wrecking Paul Ryan’s popularity)”

      Might I dare suggest that the withdrawal of Republican support from Trump was never about him – it was always about “them”. Political survival is ugly to watch. I really don’t think Ryan’s popularity was impacted but his functional operating capability may be. If the Freedom Caucus presses its agenda on a wounded Ryan, he still can win by doing what he should do as leader of the House – ditch the Hastert Rule and work with the majority he has. It’s called: governing through consensus, and, it’s how Democracy is supposed to work.

      1. Governing through consensus? How democracy is supposed to work?

        Yes, I remember that. Long ago (it seems now) there was a Democrat in the Senate who was FAR left of Hillary, but who had put a lot of effort and a lot of political capital into forging respect (and alliances) across the aisle. He believed in doing his best to achieve the achievable, rather than tilting at the windmill of perfection.

        Fellow’s name was Kennedy, I seem to remember.

    2. It is not so much the moral values oof the country because most people do not approve of such actions and language. What is does do is lift the “moral” veneer the conservatives , ultra-religious types in particular, they always cloak themselves with. In the end they did not care that a New York City slum lord with a history of failed marriages and assaulting women that is an openly racist authoritarian that has a history of supporting abortion as long as he was STIGGINIT to the liberals.

      Their short term support will mean for a lifetime they will bear the Scarlett T and in the immortal words of LT. Aldo Raine:

      “So. I’m ‘onna give you a little somethin’ you can’t take off.”

  9. The video did not make an immediate marked difference. I have been following 538 closely for several days. What I am finding to be interesting is that Clinton’s probability of winning (using the Polls Only Forecast) increased on essentially a linear basis from Oct 7 through Oct 17, when it reached 88.1%. Since then it has declined slightly to 85.4% again on a somewhat linear curve, but has essentially plateaued. Whether this is due to the various other women coming forward, polling lag, people pretty much having decided, or other factors, I do not know. In any event, Clinton does have a very high probability of winning at this point, barring any major upsets.

    Your point that The Video did not make a significant difference is well taken. The only time that the curves showed Trump with a significant chance was the end of July, just following the conventions. That was due to the lag effect on the polls. At that time the polls probably showed the Republican Convention, but not the Democratic Convention. From the time the polls started incorporating both conventions Clinton has had a steady lead.

    1. Also, I am watching AZ very closely on 538. The Polls-plus forecast shows AZ as light pink with the Polls-only and Now-casts showing it as light blue. The more detailed historical curves show Trump as improving. Certainly, HRC has recently been putting a lot of resources into the state. If AZ flips that will be a major item of news on Nov 8.

      I have been expecting AZ to become a battleground state. As I’ve said the Phoenix area is rapidly growing and will start dominating the state in the near future, if not already. There is also the growing Hispanic population, the Native American population. Also the Tucson area is fairly liberal. A wild card is the Mormon population in Northern AZ. During the next several election cycles AZ will be worth watching.

      1. Except that many of the polls will not be updated. The few daily trackers and some of the larger outlets will come out with final numbers 95% range.

        If every single pollster put out a Nov 4th poll, then yes… I think your asymptotic theory would be accurate.

      2. Dammit… sorry.. wordpress ate most of my comment because I tried to use the less-than and greater-than symbols.

        Try again:

        Except that many of the polls will not be updated. The few daily trackers and some of the larger outlets will come out with final numbers in the “less than 10 days out” range but most of the 538 model is built on aging, albeit accurate, numbers.

        This prompts Nate to include a statistical caveat that the polls could be wrong and Trump could bring out a wave of under-polled first time non-LV voters on election day. That is theoretically possible.

        This is what prevents Clinton from getting into the “greater than 95%” range.

        If every single pollster put out a Nov 4th poll, then yes… I think your asymptotic theory would be accurate.

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