This election has certainly not lacked for drama. Between cable news and the social media scrutiny it seems as if everyone is thoroughly engaged. Will that engagement guarantee that people head to the polls on November 8th though?
We are still in the relative early days of social media and politics, so there isn’t much history to go on. There is no way to know if the seemingly heightened anxiety and constant chatter will translate into turnout. It’s important to remember that complaining is the end game for a lot of people.
In recent weeks, both sides have expressed concerns about low turnout by their respective constituencies. Because this is 2016 and everything has to be weird, both sides have the same root cause for the fears: Trump’s recent struggles.
Republicans are terrified about turnout in the November elections, as they watch the backlash erupting after Donald Trump was caught on tape bragging about groping women and making other unwanted sexual advances a decade ago.
While GOP party leaders and elected officials began abandoning Trump in droves Friday and Saturday, Republican strategists also worried that a similar reaction among the party rank and file may condemn battleground GOP senators and House members to a down-ballot wipeout in a month, if large numbers of their base voters simply stay home out of disgust with Trump instead of voting down the ticket.
“The party should be terrified of turnout problems among ‘establishment’ Republicans and voters who are not tuned into down-ballot races,” said one national Republican strategist. “This a serious, serious problem.”
“My greatest concern is turnout, and my biggest challenge is Donald Trump,” said another GOP consultant working on a swing-state Senate race.
Another national Republican strategist — who, even before Trump’s comments, described GOP hopes of holding the Senate as “in the ICU” after his lackluster performance during and since the first presidential debate — said turnout was now the primary worry for the rest of the Republican Party.
The Democrats, on the other hand, are worried that all of this will make their voters cocky and lazy (lazier?):
Hillary Clinton’s campaign is confronting an emerging risk to her presidential ambitions – if Donald Trump continues to trail her in opinion polls many Democrats may simply stay at home on Election Day.
Without enough popular support, Clinton would enter the White House lacking the political capital she would need to drive through her agenda. In the worst-case scenario it could cost her the presidency if Republicans turn out in big numbers on Nov. 8.
Clinton, the Democratic nominee, has spent much of her campaign sounding the alarm over the prospect of a President Trump. She has struggled to lay out a compelling vision for her presidency and has failed to excite key constituencies, including millennials, minority voters and liberal Democrats.
Opinion polls show that many voters are backing Clinton primarily to stop Trump, the Republican nominee, from getting into the White House. If they believe he has no hope of winning, then what would their motivation be to turn up at the polls?
The underlying problem for the Democrats that the advocate media won’t talk about is the fact that she can’t inspire the people they need to vote for her. They are struggling with disgruntled factions just like the Republicans are, but the media won’t go there.
As for Trump, this week is worse than last, but there is still no reason to write him off. Hillary is that awful. Updating an old line about the weather: if you don’t like the polling numbers right now, wait five minutes, they’ll change.
If both parties suffer anemic turnouts, does that help any of the other candidates?
Latecomer Evan McMullin’s contingent in Utah is getting more motivated, and FiveThirtyEight details how that long shot can work. Yeah, it’s a long shot, but a long shot that could be greatly aided by mainstream Republican and Democrat voters feeling underwhelmed.
What if both major parties experience similar levels of drop-off? That might just make the whole thing a wash.
Veteran political watchers, the honest ones anyway, know that the Democrats are far superior at manufacturing feet to the polls on election day. They’ve had an overall superior Get Out The Vote machine for decades. The Republicans are the party that left GOTV in the hands of an untested system in 2012 and they haven’t really made it clear how that’s been rectified for this election, if it even has. Democrats are relentless even when they are winning. In 2012 the Democrats were sending emails to Los Angeles voters late in the morning and early in the afternoon on election day exhorting people to get out and vote. Yes, in Los Angeles. Barack Obama had things wrapped up here before I finished breakfast that day. Once the Democrats smell even a trickle of blood, they call for extra sharks.
If it comes down to just GOTV, the GOP struggles in even the calmest of election years. With all the fracturing on the Republican side this year, that could mean even more.
Then again, there are still probably a lot of voters out there who either aren’t being reached by pollsters, or who may not vocally support Trump but won’t hesitate to do so on November 8th.
I’ve said for months that the only prediction I’m making for the rest of this election is that I won’t be making any more predictions for the rest of this election. As of now, I can see both a scenario where the electorate is just worn out and stays home, or it rides a wave of anxiety about the other side to record turnouts.
So, yeah, anything could happen.