aside But For FBI Director James Comey, Hillary Clinton would be The Next US President

cartoon-dt-kissing-comey-imrsI am convinced that the FBI’s letter, instigated by its Director James Comey was the proximate cause (the final straw) that caused the democratic presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton to lose to the republican presidential candidate, Donald Trump. If the vote were held on October 27, 2016, the day before the controversial FBI “October Surprise” letter was made public, Hillary Clinton would have prevailed.

According to Nate Silver, as of October 27, she had an 81% chance of winning, but after the letter was released, her chances went down to 65%. This is true despite all the obstacles Mrs. Clinton had to overcome, starting with her husband Bill Clinton’s foolish interference by his importune meeting with the DOJ chief, Loretta Lynch at an airport where he spoke to her for about 20 minutes. This placed Loretta Lynch in a position where she felt obliged to recuse herself from taking any part in the investigation regarding Mrs. Clinton’s email handling while she was secretary of state from 2009-2013. This move, put the FBI director in the driver’s seat.

Then there was the NY Times headline news item published on March 2, 2016 which exposed questions about Mrs. Clinton’s email handling while she was secretary of state but without appropriate and sufficient context. And yes, Mrs. Clinton and her team responded to these events in the worst way possible by avoiding the press, avoiding answering questions, instead of immediately tackling this issue head on and aggressively.

Enter the Russians onto the stage of the 2016 presidential elections. With the exception of the president-elect, it is now widely accepted that the Russians hacked into democratic campaign related websites followed up by the transference of the collected data to WikiLeaks. Julian Assange then leaked this material which was then reported on by most US media outlets, again without adequate context.

Comey-Clinton

However, the historic intervention into the election by the FBI Director James Comey is what lost the election for Hillary Clinton and yes, this can be proven.

The 1/11/17 VOX publication provides this proof. The following excerpts are from the article,  “4 pieces of evidence showing FBI Director James Comey cost Clinton the election,” by Steve McElwee, Matt McDermott and Will Jordan:

clinton-side-by-side-photo-w-dt-and-hrcbn-pz697_trumpc_j_20160926224757
TRUMP-CLINTON

“Donald Trump has called his election a historic landslide, but it was anything but. Only two other presidents have been elected with smaller popular vote margins since records began in 1824. His edge in the Electoral College, while decisive, depends on less than 80,000 votes across three states (Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania) out of more than 135 million cast nationwide. It was a very close election.””In a close election, there are a million reasons “why” it was close. Trump’s popularity with working-class whites. Turnout among the Democratic base. Campaign malpractice in the Midwest. Jill Stein. Millenials. Most are probably true in the sense they could move enough votes.”

“The Clinton campaign, however, has centered its why-we-lost narrative on the “Comey effect,” along with another outside factor, Russia’s hacking of DNC and Clinton campaign email accounts. The “Comey effect” refers to the impact of FBI Director James Comey’s October 28 letter to the House Judiciary Committee announcing the discovery new emails that appeared pertinent to their closed investigation of Clinton and his subsequent letter on November 6 that absolved Clinton (after millions of votes had already been cast early).

COMEY-CLINTON

Many people — most notably Trump and other Republicans — have scoffed at the claim that the letter changed the outcome of the election, suggesting that it’s a convenient excuse for a weak candidate who made some questionable strategic decisions.

 But the Comey effect was real, it was big, and it probably cost Clinton the election. Below, we present four pieces of evidence demonstrating that this is the case.

“When we began looking at the data, we were skeptical that Comey’s intervention was decisive. Politicos are notoriously prone to attributing election outcomes to gaffes and other oversimplified causes. It was once posited that a single awkward scream cost Howard Dean his shot at winning the Democratic primary, that the Willie Horton ad destroyed Michael Dukakis, and that the notorious “47 percent” video from 2012 caused Mitt Romney’s loss. Research since has debunked the idea that these incidents were decisive factors. In almost every case, the effects of supposed “game changers” tend to be smaller than broader structural factors, including the state of the economy, the popularity of the incumbent and how long a single party has held the White House.”

“But Comey’s letter is unique for a few reasons. First, it was an intervention by an institution that Americans have largely perceived as nonpartisan. (Indeed, the FBI actively works to foster that image.) Second, the intervention was almost perfectly timed to impact Clinton at the worst time — dominating the final week of campaigning as an unusually large number of undecided voters made up their minds. Finally, it aligned perfectly with the narrative pushed by Trump — and bolstered by the media’s obsessive coverage of how Clinton handled her State Department email, and the slow-drip release of hacked emails — that Clinton was somehow fundamentally corrupt.” (NY Times had 2 days where it made the Comey letter headline news, again without adequate context.) cjones01142017

 “Understanding what happened in 2016 is crucial to understanding how to move forward, as efforts to reform the Democratic Party will be largely based on the stories the party tells itself about its defeat this time around — and those stories will also shape narratives about future presidential contenders.”
Exhibit 1: the state polls

“First is battleground state polling data from the late stages of the campaign. One of the reasons the outcome on November 8 was shocking for so many is Trump notched surprise victories not only in purple Florida and Ohio, but also supposedly stalwart blue states like Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.”

“Looking back at the widely used RealClearPolitics polling averages shows there was actually a lot of variation in the errors across states. As others have pointed out, one key factor affecting the size of errors was the share of voters in a given state who are white without a college degree. Much of what pundits are describing as error, however, might better be described as the “Comey effect.” States that showed some of the biggest surprises — where Trump outperformed polls — also tended to be states where there were fewer polls toward the end of the race.”donald-t-great-post-cartoon-anti-mediacwy8bjdusaau_fc

“In other words, pollsters didn’t get things wrong so much as fail, in some states, to speak to voters after a decisive event had taken place. RCP underestimated Trump’s margin over Clinton by less than a point (0.8), on average, in the seven battleground states where five or more polls were conducted between October 28 and Election Day. But in the other seven states, where fewer than five polls were conducted, the polling averages undershot Trump by 2.7 points.”

“Take Wisconsin, where Trump beat his polling average by more than 7 points: only two of the polls included in the final RCP average were conducted entirely after Comey’s letter was published.”

Data from RealClearPolitics; chart by McElwee, McDermott, and Jordan.

“To be sure, the gap with Clinton was narrowing before Comey dropped his bombshell, but the pace also picked up significantly after that. For example, averaging across 14 battleground states, the race moved 1.1 points in Trump’s direction in the week following the third and final debate — but Trump gained an additional 2.4 points after October 28.”

Exhibit 2: the national polls

“The effect of Comey’s late intervention into the election is also clear in the national polls. As neuroscientist Sam Wang showed, Clinton’s margin over Trump falls dramatically in national polls directly after the Comey letter and never recovers. At the time, statistician Nate Silver noted that the Comey letter coincided with “a swing of about 3 points against her” — a massive swing in a tight election. These public polls are supported by internal polling from both campaigns suggesting that Comey was a massive blow to Clinton at a pivotal moment in the election.”

Sam Wang, election.princton.edu

“It’s worth noting that Comey also made headlines in July, when he testified in Congress about Clinton’s email server and then announced he would not charge her, while at the same time declaring her behavior “extremely careless.” In the words of Nate Silver, “That period produced about a 2-point swing against Clinton.” In other words, every time Comey and emails were driving the news cycle, Clinton’s national polling numbers took a significant hit.”

Exhibit 3: The early voting numbers compared with the late deciders

“Early voting numbers are also suggestive of Comey’s impact on the race. Take for example a noncompetitive blue state like Rhode Island, where there was no contest but the presidential race. In 2012, Obama’s margin between absentee and Election Day ballots was similar, and Obama actually performed about 5 points better on Election Day.”

“In 2016, Clinton pulled in the same margin with absentee voters: 60 percent compared to Obama’s 61 percent. But something rather remarkable happened on Election Day — her support collapsed, dropping by a net 13 points. In Florida, Clinton won the early vote 52 to 48, but Trump won the Election Day two-party vote 56 to 44 percent.”

“Steve Schale, a Florida political consultant who managed Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign in Florida, found this difference between early vote figures and Election Day ballots even more stark in the swing I-4 Corridor that stretches across central Florida, from Tampa to Daytona Beach. Here, Schale found that Clinton won the early vote with 56.3 percent of the two-party vote, but only won 47.3 percent of the Election Day vote — a highly unusual gap suggesting a pretty significant late surge.”

“These early voting numbers are supported by data on “late deciders”: voters who chose their candidate in the last week titled strongly towards Trump. And no media event was more important in the late stages of the campaign than Comey’s letter, which suggests that the most plausible explanation for the strong break in late-deciding voters was that letter.” Graphic from fivethirtyeight.com showing that voters who broke in the last week broke for Trump.

FiveThirtyEight.com

Exhibit 4: media coverage of email, email, and more email

“The Comey effect dominated media coverage in a way few events did during the campaign, other than Trump’s famous “grab ’em by the pussy” Access Hollywood video. During the final days of the election major newspapers published 100 stories, 46 of which were on the front page, about or mentioning the emails.” The tone and tenor of coverage shifted markedly against Clinton in the closing week of the campaign.”

Shorenstein Center

“Coverage of Clinton’s emails eclipsed her policy proposals and ended up being the only story about Clinton that stuck with voters. While 79 percent of registered voters had heard “a lot” about Clinton’s emails, only 23 percent heard “a lot” about Trump’s housing discrimination, 27 percent heard “a lot” about the Donald J. Trump Foundation’s illegal political contribution to the Florida attorney general, and, surprisingly, only 59 percent had heard a “a lot” about the Hollywood Access tape. The word clouds below show, in graphical form, that emails were the central way that most voters understood Clinton.” gallup 2016 word clouds

Gallup

“During the entirety of the general election campaign, June 7 to November 8, Gallup found that Clinton only sustained a “lead” in media coverage, meaning more Americans were hearing about Clinton than Trump, four times. Two were email related: FBI Director Comey’s press conference in late July, in which he called Clinton “extremely careless,” and Comey’s server-related announcements in late October and early November. (The others occurred during Clinton’s bout with pneumonia and during the party’s convention.)”

“The Shorenstein Center found that negative coverage of Clinton’s campaign was fueled by allegations of “scandal.” As the chart below shows, “scandal” coverage toward Clinton peaked in the final week of the campaign, consuming more than a third of her coverage. The timing was perilous.”

Data: Shorenstein Center. Graph: McElwee, McDermott, and Jordan.
The upshot:

“It’s true that there are other possible explanations for a late shift in vote intentions, but thus far there is no alternative explanation of merit. (The cyberhacks were surely important, but their effects would have been felt more steadily throughout the campaign.)”

“Instead, the evidence is clear, and consistent, regarding the Comey effect. The timing of the shift both at the state and national levels lines up very neatly with the publication of the letter, as does the predominance of the story in the media coverage from the final week of the campaign. With an unusually large number of undecided voters late in the campaign, the letter hugely increased the salience of what was the defining critique of Clinton during the campaign at its most critical moment.”

“The appeal of big-picture narratives about demographics, along with anecdotal evidence of big mistakes by the Clinton campaign in certain key states, makes it easy to point fingers. But looking specifically at the three “Rustbelt” blue states mentioned at the beginning of the article, no unifying picture emerges. Most stories mention Michigan, where Clinton didn’t campaign, rather than Pennsylvania, where she campaigned intensely. Indeed, these three Midwestern states (Wisconsin being the third) provide essentially an A/B/C test of different campaign strategies —and in each state she came up just short.” 

Democrats cannot rely exclusively on the presidency

“Democrats must focus down-ballot where the problems are more acute (for instance, failing to run candidates in winnable elections). Because presidential elections are so variable and are so strongly dependent on outside forces, the low-hanging fruit for the Democrats is focusing on organization and mobilization down-ballot. “

12 comments

  1. Very specific targets were selected in states that suffer the most from budget cuts to public education and infrastructure. I’ve read that some red state counties are so poor that people can’t afford broadband internet access or cable television. Fox News is carried on most local channels.

    Putin’s operation was detailed and timed

    It’s astonishing to contemplate that the non-revelations produced by Wikileaks provided the cover
    for one of the most extraordinary character assassinations in political history. One that was both obvious and so cover.

    The kind of weaponized propaganda campaign that cripple the perceptions of those most affected by it.

    • Dear Rob,

      Let’s face it, the Russians succeeded in sabotaging the 2016 presidential elections including catapulting their favored candidate DT into the WH.

      But what President Putin does not comprehend is the US culture. DT cannot kill off his detractors, critics, protestors, and journalists.

      President Putin may have taken advantage of the US open society, but it is this openness that is about to bite him back where it hurts.

      Hugs, Gronda

  2. One could even surmise that the FBI “conspired” to help swing votes toward Trump. It’s no secret that Trump had insider connections with high level FBI informants who were disgruntled with the agency.
    Timing of the “October Surprise” letter was quite suspicious and intentional, the pretext being that the Director had to address WikiLeak documents which may put the FBI agency in a compromising position if Comey did nothing. So he covered his butt and threw Hillary under the train, the rest is history.

    • Dear 1EarthUnited,

      For me the point is not that he threw HRC under the train but that he robbed the American public of knowing that the winner of the 2016 presidential elections won fair and square .HRC did win the popular vote but it was the electoral college voting system that carried the day for DT who won by about 80,000 votes in three states.

      It is possible that DT would still have been the winner, but now his victory is tainted.

      In addition, by his going against the FBI’S own rules, he harmed the reputation of the FBI as being a non partisan arbiter of justice. To my way of thinking, what he did amounts to an “Abuse of Power.”

      Ciao, Gronda

  3. They chanted “Lock her Up,” when its Comey who should be going to jail. Trump too, but that’s obvious. Well written and I can only imagine how much time was involved writing this post. Thank you

    • Dear Bradley,

      Welcome! We will have to wait and see what happens to FBI Director Comey.

      What I am also interested in, is the NY FBI who were pushing for the OCT surprise letter. If they shared confidential info with folks outside the FBI who were not entitled to this data, then they were doing what they were accusing HRC of doing.

      Thanks for stopping by, Gronda

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