Democratic insiders near-certain of Clinton win

By  for Politico.


Swing-state Democrats are supremely confident of Hillary Clinton’s chances Tuesday, while Republicans are considerably less optimistic about Donald Trump’s odds of winning.

That’s according to the final pre-election survey of The POLITICO Caucus: a bipartisan panel of battleground-state activists, strategists and operatives that handicapped the presidential race from the very beginning. Across 11 key states, 92 percent of Democrats expect Clinton to carry their state on Tuesday, while 59 percent of Republicans think Trump will win their state’s electoral votes

On balance, the insiders’ predictions show the electoral map tilting toward Clinton. Democratic insiders are least confident of Clinton’s chances in Iowa, where she trails Trump in the polls. Republicans are more self-assured there, but few expect Trump to win in some other battleground states — like Colorado, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin.

Here’s a state-by-state breakdown of how insiders on the ground view the race:

A majority of insiders in both parties expect Clinton to carry Colorado.

“The fundamental dynamics here have never changed: Colorado’s combination of college educated voters, Latinos, and younger voters are deadly to Trump,” said a Democrat there — who, like all respondents, completed the survey anonymously. “The race tightened post-Comey letter but has settled back into a small but significant Hillary lead.”

“At the end, I don’t see Trump being able to do well enough in the Denver ‘burbs for him to win the state,” a Republican added. “It’s telling that DCCC and [Morgan] Carroll’s campaign have spent the final 3 weeks tying [incumbent GOP Rep. Mike] Coffman to Trump. It won’t be enough to take out Mike, but it’s telling how poorly Trump must be doing in the 6th District.”

In Florida, each of the dozen Democratic insiders who completed the survey picked Clinton to win, but most of the Republicans think Trump will carry the day.

“Florida will be Florida. It will be close,” a Democrat said. “But with the surge of women and Hispanics, Florida should be with her.”

But most Republicans there see the momentum in Trump’s favor.

“The Comey letter was a game-changer for Trump. He has also been extremely disciplined the last two weeks,” said a Republican. “That has allowed traditional Republicans to come home. He will run up the score in North Florida and red strongholds like Southwest Florida.”

Both parties see Iowa going Republican after two consecutive cycles in Barack Obama’s column.

Trump’s lead has increased in Iowa over the past two weeks, and he appears to many to have locked up Iowa.

“Trump’s lead has increased in Iowa over the past two weeks, and he appears to have put Iowa away,” a Republican there said. “Demographics are destiny, as they say, and the demographics for Trump are simply too strong. While Mitt Romney struggled to win over white working class voters, Trump is winning them in huge numbers, including independents and some Democrats. Iowa’s dislike and distrust of Hillary Clinton is also a big factor in her failure to energize Democrats.”

A Democrat agreed, writing simply: “Too many non-college whites.”

An Iowa Republican added that Iowa has been hostile territory for Clinton dating back to the 2008 caucuses, when she finished behind Obama and virtually even with former Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.).

“Nine years of scar tissue have hampered Hillary here,” the Republican said. “It’s not that Trump beats her, it’s that Obama and [Bernie] Sanders and Trump have beaten her.”

Democrats are still confident in Michigan, despite the last-minute campaigning by both parties there.

“Republicans are about to learn a hard lesson in the experience of the ‘Dead Cat Bounce,’” said one Michigan Democrat. “Voters are settling now into traditional camps, but there’s not going to be a revolution in Michigan.”

Republicans, however, give Trump a fighting chance there — and are celebrating the fact they made Clinton defend a state that hasn’t gone Republican since 1988.

“Trump has forced Hillary Clinton and Democrats to spend significant time and money in the Wolverine State in a way not seen in a while — don’t forget [John] McCain abandoned Michigan in 2008, causing a down-ballot electoral disaster for the GOP — and is well-positioned for a possible electoral upset in much the same way as Sanders defied all the polls and expectations to best Clinton in the state’s Democratic primary earlier this year,” a Republican said.

The early-vote tallies in Nevada have Democrats riding a wave of optimism.

“It will be close,” said one Democrat, “but the Hispanic surge during early voting, combined with Hillary’s solid ground game, should put her over the top.”

Some Republicans agreed.

“Large early-vote turnout and [FBI director James] Comey walking back his earlier statements will push state over to Clinton,” said one Republican.

The polling has closed in New Hampshire, but the more than a dozen Democrats who completed the survey were unanimous in picking Clinton to win — with many citing the party’s organization in the state.

“Ground game, ground game, ground game,” said one Democrat. “I drive around southern New Hampshire and see Trump supporters pointlessly waving signs at busy intersections. Then I drive into neighborhoods and see Democratic canvassers everywhere. Even if the polls are close and accurate, the superiority of the Democratic ground game is worth a few points. New Hampshire looked like a toss-up in 2012, and President Obama won by 5 points. I expect a similar result.”

More than a dozen New Hampshire Republicans were split nearly evenly. “Neck and neck, but I think she prevails,” said one.

But other Republicans see it tilting the other way.

“This is going to be very close,” said another Republican. “Trump has tremendous momentum and is leaning heavily on [Kelly] Ayotte’s outstanding ground game for GOTV. It’s true that Clinton has the veterans who know where the votes are buried, but I’m going with the candidate who wants New Hampshire more, and that’s Trump.”

Democrats in North Carolina believe Clinton’s organization there will help her carry the state’s 15 electoral votes.

“The Clinton ground game is in overdrive,” one Democrat said. “That will be more than enough for her to hold onto the lead she established during early voting.”

But most Republicans see the race tilting toward Trump.

“Polling is mixed, but Trump has a narrow lead on average,” a Republican said. “Enthusiasm for Trump, a favorable early voting composition, and weak African-American support for Clinton will likely be enough to give him a narrow edge.”

The polls have closed in Ohio over the past week, and Democrats are increasingly optimistic.

“I have organizers [living] with me, and my house is a staging location, and this weekend was the first time in a month that I thought we just might pull this off, but it will be close,” a Democrat said. “Don’t expect Ohio to be called on November 8th.”

Most Republicans see Trump winning, though one cautioned, “It will be close.”

One Republican who picked Clinton knocked Trump for spurning the state down the stretch.

“Trump’s decision to go to Minnesota instead of campaigning for Ohio’s must-have 18 electoral votes in the final days will allow Hillary to squeak by,” the Republican predicted.

In Pennsylvania, all Democrats and most Republicans project Clinton as the winner of the commonwealth’s 20 electoral votes.

“I do not think much has really changed over the last several months,” said one Democrat. “I know that a big deal is made out of the fact Trump spent time and resources here over the last few days and that Clinton is finishing her campaign in Philadelphia. But over the last several cycles, GOP candidates have made one last run at Pennsylvania and even drew good crowds. … But it was a mirage.”

“Trump had made an impressive turnaround, but in the end, the Democratic turnout machine in Philadelphia will ensure a Clinton victory,” a Republican added.

Clinton’s lead has been durable in Virginia, and most insiders in both parties expect her to prevail there.

“Probably conventional wisdom, but, from personal observation, turnout for Hillary in northern Virginia, particularly Fairfax County, is steady and powerful,” a Democrat said. “That will boost her fairly substantially over the winning mark for Virginia.”

“Despite a feverish last minute attempt to make Virginia seem interesting this cycle, it’s not,” added a Republican. “It never has been. Trump makes as much sense in the commonwealth as an igloo in Virginia Beach. He’s a horrible fit for the state’s electorate.”

Similarly, most insiders agreed that Clinton has the edge in Wisconsin, which hasn’t voted for a Republican since 1984.

“Trump has got close, but the race has settled out without Trump getting the traction he needed to swing independents his way,” said a Republican. “And the gender gap he has caused to widen makes it too tough to close the gap.”

But, one Wisconsin Democrat humbly conceded, this race has been full of surprises.

“She is up in the polls,” the Democrat said. “But hey, I’ve been wrong about so many things this past year, so who knows?”

Insiders are split on who will control the Senate.

Overall, insiders were divided on which party will control the Senate next year, with Democrats (89 percent) more confident than Republicans (77 percent).

On a state-by-state level, insiders mostly agree that incumbents Michael Bennet in Colorado, Marco Rubio in Florida, Chuck Grassley in Iowa and Rob Portman in Ohio will win re-election. But insiders are divided by party in Nevada, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

In Nevada, Democrats like Catherine Cortez Masto’s chances to defeat GOP Rep. Joe Heck in the race to replace retiring Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid.

“Early vote Democratic turnout will save Catherine Cortez Masto from losing to Joe Heck,” predicted one Democrat. “It’ll be an uncomfortable close victory — likely 10-15,000 votes will decide the race.”

Republicans, meanwhile, predict a repeat of four years ago, when appointed Sen. Dean Heller withstood Obama’s victory to win a full term.

“This will likely follow the same pattern at 2012, when Obama won the state but many Dems did not bother with the down-ballot races, so the Republican won the Senate seat,” a Republican said.

Democrats in New Hampshire were split between Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan and GOP Sen. Kelly Ayotte.

“If Trump can keep his losing margin within 5 or 6 percent, [Ayotte] has a real chance to survive,” a Democrat said. “While Democrats most definitely have the party machine cranking, there’s a lot more independent support for Kelly Ayotte just based on the fact that she’s more likeable and personable than Hassan.”

But others disagreed.

“Maggie has run a terrible campaign,” a New Hampshire Democrat said. “She has been hurt by the heroin epidemic and her superdelegate status for Hillary in a Bernie state.”

Republicans are cautious, however.

“The last-weekend Trump collapse has seriously threatened Ayotte,” said one Republican. “She needs to run at least 7, 8 points ahead of Trump, and even that may not be enough.”

In North Carolina, Republicans picked GOP Sen. Richard Burr to win a third term over Democrat Deborah Ross. Most Democrats chose Ross, but some said Burr could pull it out.

“I hope I am wrong but Burr will squeak this one out,” a Democrat said. “Ticket-splitters will carry the day for him.”

Most Democrats like Katie McGinty’s chances of unseating GOP Sen. Pat Toomey in Pennsylvania.

“Toomey has run a textbook campaign, but there is no chapter for dealing with Donald Trump at the top of your ticket,” said one Democrat. “He was in a no-win situation and was never able to give a satisfactory answer as to whether he would vote for him.”

Republicans were split but said Toomey could over-perform the top of the ticket.

“Toomey will win by a hair,” one Republican predicted. “On Election Day he’ll perform in the Pittsburgh media market at or near Trump and will outperform Trump in the Philadelphia media market.”

And in Wisconsin, while Democrats unanimously picked former Sen. Russ Feingold to defeat the man who unseated him six years ago, GOP Sen. Ron Johnson, some lamented how close the race has drawn.

“If Russ Feingold, one of the most honest, transparent, intelligent senators we’ve ever seen, loses to Ron Johnson, a superficial, shallow ignorant candidate, I will be very depressed,” said one Democrat.

Republicans, on the other hand, think Johnson has the momentum.

“Ron Johnson has crawled back to make the race a toss-up, and Russ Feingold hasn’t done anything to stop the bleeding,” a Republican said. “Johnson’s message and ads are superior to Feingold’s media. Plus, Russ looks tired.”


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