Presidential races

Top forecaster changes call: Race no longer ‘over’

Influential election forecaster Charlie Cook is backing off his call that the presidential race is “over.”
Cook, the publisher of the Cook Political Report, made headlines last month when he tweeted: “Take a close look at the new Fox News poll released tonight. This race is OVER.” 
{mosads}Now, with polls tightening both nationally and in several key states, Cook says he still thinks Donald Trump will lose but no longer considers it implausible that the GOP nominee takes the presidency on Tuesday.  
“The race is in a different place than 8 or 9 days ago when there was virtually no path for Trump,” Cook told The Hill on Saturday. “So yes, like everyone else, we’ve revised our assessment.”
Nine days ago, Cook held a definitive view of the race. When The Hill asked whether he could imagine a “moonshot” scenario in which Trump could win, he replied, “No.”
Cook noted he still believes Trump’s chances are “fairly small.”
He said the GOP nominee needs a half-dozen or so things to go exactly right for him to win, whereas Hillary Clinton only needs one or two things to fall her way. 
Cook also thinks that if polls are within the margins of error in battleground states, then Clinton should still be considered the favorite because her team has invested in a superior get-out-the-vote operation.
“If this race got to within a point or so and I don’t think it is,” Cook said, “one candidate having a very sophisticated voter identification and get out the vote operation and the other having only a skeleton crew would very likely make the difference.”
Trump has improved his chances over the past week, partly because Republicans have been telling pollsters they’re more likely to vote for him. He’s also stayed largely on message as media coverage has focused on Clinton and the FBI’s investigation of her private email server.
Cook said he saw Republicans in a “bottom falling out” situation in mid-October. Trump was flailing against daily stories in which one woman after another accused him of sexual misconduct. He was also alienating some Republicans by obsessing over ballot fraud, telling them the election was likely already stolen. 
Over the past 10 days, however, the combination of Republicans coming home and the FBI announcement “stabilized it and tightened it up a bit,” Cook said.  
At midday Saturday, FiveThirtyEight’s forecast model gives Trump a 35.4 percent chance of winning the election. On Oct. 17, the same model gave him an 11.9 percent chance.
Trump’s path to 270 electoral votes remains narrow. He must hold every state Mitt Romney won in 2012; add Ohio, Iowa and Florida; then flip a blue state or two, like Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Nevada or Michigan. 
Early vote totals suggest Nevada is slipping from Trump’s reach, despite his strength in the polls, according to top Nevada political reporter Jon Ralston. And if the polls are to be believed, Trump has significant ground to make up in Michigan and Pennsylvania. 
Given these obstacles, Cook still thinks the question is not whether Clinton gets past 270 electoral votes but the margin by which she wins.
“I would say the chances of Clinton exceeding 330 electoral votes are better than Trump reaching 270,” he said.
“To me the question is whether Clinton gets an Electoral College vote that is in or just barely above the 270s or does she clear 300. A week or two ago she had a good chance of getting 300 or more. That is now fairly unlikely.”
Tags Donald Trump Hillary Clinton
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