With the recent tightening of the presidential contest I began to think about our last close presidential election (the Gore-Bush 2000 election) and I was struck by the emerging similarities. Here are just a few:
- Going into the month of September both Gore (in 2000) as well as Clinton (in 2016) had substantial leads in the polls. Clinton’s lead was around 8% while Gore’s lead was around 10%. By the end of September Gore was in a statistical tie with Bush; Clinton is now virtually tied with Trump.
- In 2000, after a long drawn-out impeachment disaster people were experiencing “Clinton fatigue” (Bill that is). Today voters are experiencing their own version of “Clinton fatigue”—this time it’s Hillary.
- In 2000 voters rated Gore higher than Bush in terms of competence and being prepared to be president. It didn’t matter all that much. Likewise, voters rate Hillary higher in terms of competence and being prepared to be president. It doesn’t seem to matter.
- In 2000 the economy was doing quite well—growing and producing jobs. Gore was unable to take advantage of that. Today the economy is also doing quite well—growing and producing jobs—but people are convinced otherwise and Hillary doesn’t seem to be able to take advantage of a relatively healthy economy.
In 2000 Florida proved to be the critical swing state (I won’t dredge up those hanging chads and that horrendous Supreme Court decision). According to poll analyst Nate Silver Florida is the state with the highest probability of being the key swing state in the 2016 election (an 18.1% chance).
- In 2000 the voter registration rolls in Florida were artificially (and illegally) depressed by state officials as they purged thousands of voters who should have been allowed to vote. Today Florida leads the nation in disenfranchising voters by denying ex-felons the right to vote. Slightly less the 7% of the voting age population is denied the vote in Florida, the highest disenfranchisement of ex-felons in the nation. (Note: Vermont and Maine allow people in prison to vote in presidential elections).
- In 2000 Al Gore was framed by the media as “dull” and “wooden.” In 2016 Hillary Clinton is framed by the media as “uninspiring” and “unable to generate enthusiasm.”
- In 2000 the Democrats surprised many by creating an effective get-out-the-vote campaign (unusual for Democrats). In 2016 it is commonly believed that one of Hillary’s advantages is her “ground game” where she has thousands of offices focused on turning out the vote.
- Media analysts were in agreement that the coverage of the 2000 campaign, with its emphasis on scandals and negative politics, undermined journalistic credibility. Coverage of scandals and negative politics in 2016 pales by comparison and the media is attacked by both Trump and Clinton as being unfair.
- In 2000 there were two minor party candidates in the race, Ralph Nader and Pat Buchanan, who probably cost Gore the election. In 2016 we have Gary Johnson and Jill Stein, both of whom will probably draw more votes away from Clinton than Trump.
So in 2000 George W. Bush won the election although he received more than half a million fewer votes nation-wide than Al Gore. Nate Silver gives the odds of a similar result happening in 2016 only at a 6.4% chance.
But, hey, we live in Florida where weird things happen all the time.
Looking into my crystal ball I see a winner vaguely coming into view. It seems to be an image of a blond woman. My hunch is that Hillary will improve her support among young people and Hispanics and her ground game will be able to turn out the necessary votes to win a close one (yet again) in Florida. Floridians will breathe a sigh of relief and feel free to name their sons “Chad” without fear that they will be laughed at when they get to junior high.
What’s your prediction?