October Surprise: This Race Is Over
We now know -- thanks to October -- who will win on November 3. The reason we know is found in early voting data.
October voting is no longer the exclusive domain of the Democratic Party. Both parties vote early and in ever-increasing numbers. Which makes the October vote an early “action report” on the election outcome that’s more reality based than the polls or the mainstream media.
Who you vote for is a secret. When, where, and how many voters cast their ballots is not. It’s data. In this case, data in its most meaningful form: the number of early votes by registered Democrats and the number of early votes by registered Republicans.
Convincing the other party’s voters to vote for your candidate is a long shot. Getting your voters to turn out for your candidate is how elections are won. It’s called GOTV, for Get Out The Vote.
GOTV plus voter enthusiasm invariably equals winning results at the polls.
In the final weeks of the campaign, enthusiasm for Donald Trump, demonstrated at multiple daily rallies, has been far beyond what it was four years ago. Will enthusiasm help produce another winning voter turnout for Trump?
Spoiler alert: Data generated by early voting says “yes.”
To understand why history will likely repeat itself, it’s important to look at voter turnout in party strongholds, districts where support is expected to be high. The highest Democratic voting percentages are often in districts with large majorities of African-American voters. The black vote is a key component in the strategy of every Democratic election campaign, especially Joe Biden’s. Accordingly, black turnout provides the best way to measure enthusiasm for the Democratic Party’s candidate and ultimately to project a winner.
Take North Carolina. In 2012, black voter turnout for Barack Obama was understandably high. Black voters made up 27 percent of North Carolina’s total number of voters that year. In 2016, Hillary Clinton’s turnout among blacks in the Tar Heel state dropped to 22 percent. This year, with Biden running, North Carolina’s black turnout for early voting is 19.5 percent.
Then there’s this: the black vote that is coming out is not all coming out for the Democrat.
A poll by the University of New Orleans of likely Louisiana voters reported that 28 percent of blacks preferred Donald Trump. That’s driven largely by black men, among whom Trump's 43 percent edges Biden's 42 percent.
A Rasmussen national survey, reflecting the same trend, shows Trump's approval among likely black voters at 46 percent. Approval does not translate directly into votes, but there is too much action -- in the form of early turnout -- behind that number to dismiss it.
In 2016, Trump asked African-Americans what they had to lose by backing him instead of his Hillary Clinton. Apparently, now they know. Under Trump, blacks saw record employment, the creation of economic opportunity zones, increased funding for black colleges, and the lowest incarceration rate for blacks since 1995.
If the most reliable Democratic voting bloc loses its enthusiasm for Biden, his chances in the South and elsewhere disappear.
Florida shows how that looks. Sunshine State Republicans outperformed expectations in early voting. Democrats are ahead in mail-in ballots, but not by the numbers needed to beat the GOP on Election Day when Republicans traditionally come out to vote in droves.
Rasmussen’s Daily tracking poll found that by the end of October over 31 percent of black Florida voters said they would vote for Trump.
Trump broke through the Democrat’s Blue Wall defense in 2016, and now he looks like a serious threat to their Black Wall in 2020. Trump is still going to lose the black vote. He’s just going to lose it by less.
The question, again, is how many early-voting Democrats actually voted Democratic. Trump won with backing from Democrats in 2016. Why would they abandon him now?
Donald Trump has "overwhelming support among Republicans," says Pew Reports. Biden's support from fellow Democrats stems largely from their dislike of Trump more than an affinity for Joe. And Biden can't attract a crowd much larger than his Secret Service detail. That’s certainly not true of Trump.
In fact, there’s no better source of actionable data than a Trump rally, because everyone who wants to attend has to provide contact information to get a free ticket. The campaign then uses this data to turn every event into a force-multiplier. First, each rally reaches millions of voters live at the venue, on cable TV, and on YouTube. Then millions more engage on Facebook and Twitter.
After the rally, a campaign team targets those who attended with digital ads that recipients can retarget to their contacts as look-alike campaigns on social media.
The party also mines the same data for useful insights and information it can convert into turnout. Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel noted that 45 percent of the attendees at an October New Hampshire rally were not registered Republicans and 20 percent did not vote in 2016.
Who would wait in line for hours to see a Trump rally in October and then not vote for Trump in November? It’s easy to predict there will be many new Trump voters this year in more states than just New Hampshire.
In modern times very few vice-presidents or serial losers in primaries succeed in winning the White House. Joe Biden has both of those things going against him. And that’s before factoring in China/Burismagate allegations directed at him and his family, Barack Obama’s low-impact performance on the campaign trail and the anti-police riots in Philadelphia, all of which will help Trump.
Finally, there’s the matter of polling. Most polls are commissioned by media organizations that are openly hostile to Trump. Why should anyone believe them now making basically the same anti-Trump predictions that were completely wrong in 2016?
One polling company, though, stands out. The Trafalgar Group accurately predicted Trump would win Michigan and Pennsylvania in 2016. Now Trafalgar forecasts Trump will take Florida, Michigan, and Arizona.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer could be more disappointed than Joe Biden on election night. Trafalgar has African-American GOP Senate candidate John James slightly ahead in Michigan. Trump may drag Sen. Martha McSally over the finish line in Arizona, and Alabama will return its Senate seat to the GOP.
It’s also hard to see how a cresting wave of Trump enthusiasm won’t create a GOTV result that keeps Colorado Republican Sen. Cory Gardner in his job.
The bottom line is simple math. When you add the electoral votes from reliably red states to any breach in the Blue Wall, Trump wins again, possibly even bigger than he did last time.
That may not be the October surprise you expected, but then that's why they call it... a surprise.
Jerry Cave is the president of Cave Communications and has written for a number of publications, including The Atlantic where his 2016 article The Shock Jock Candidate, predicted Donald Trump's presidential victory six months in advance.
Bill Thomas is the author of Club Fed: Power, Money, Sex and Violence on Capitol Hill and other books. He has written for Vanity Fair, The New York Times Magazine and many other publications. He is also a former editor and writer with The Economist Group.