An article in Tuesday’s New York Times entertained the seemingly growing possibility that Hillary Clinton could become the first “landslide” presidential-election winner in more than three decades. And recent polls do show her standing on the rise while Donald Trump’s falls.
But before assuming that the electoral rout is on, keep in mind that most analysts repeatedly — and inaccurately — dismissed Mr. Trump’s chances at winning the Republican White House nomination in his first bid for elective office.
Keep in mind, too, that while “The Donald” has extraordinarily high “negative” poll numbers, so does Mrs. Clinton.
Sure, as John Harwood wrote in his latest dispatch from the Times’ “Letter From America” series, Mr. Trump’s “tempestuous persona, harsh rhetoric and thin preparation have repelled important segments of his own Republican Party as well as Democratic constituencies.”
Plus, the Times’ new average of assorted polls reflects Mrs. Clinton’s upward trend this month, showing her with a 45 to 39 percent national edge. Last week’s Washington Post/ABC News poll, which gave her a 48-36 percent edge, also reported that nearly one-third of Republicans and GOP-leaning independents — and two-thirds of all voters surveyed — deemed Mr. Trump unqualified for the presidency.
Then again, a Quinnipaic University poll released Tuesday gauged Mrs. Clinton’s lead at a scant 42-40 percent. A Rasmussen survey released Thursday showed Mr. Trump ahead by 43-39 percent. And recent polls in the “battleground states” of Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania remain relatively close.
Remember, too, that each of the last six presidential elections has been decided by about a dozen such swing states. The national tickets of one party or the other have consistently carried at least three dozen states — including South Carolina, which has now backed the GOP nominee in nine straight presidential contests.
The last presidential-race landslide came in 1984, when Ronald Reagan was re-elected while winning 49 states and 58.8 percent of the popular vote against Walter Mondale.
George H.W. Bush then carried 40 states and took 53.4 percent of the vote against Michael Dukakis in 1988.
However, since then, no candidate has topped the 32 states carried by Bill Clinton in 1992 or the 52.9 percent of the popular vote garnered by Barack Obama in 2008.
Yes, the latest betting odds peg Mrs. Clinton as a 11-to-4 favorite (you must bet $11 on her to collect $4 if she wins) and Mr. Trump as a 9-to-4 underdog (bet $4 on him to collect $9 if he wins).
Yet one year ago, the odds against Mr. Trump winning the Oval Office were much longer at 33-to-1.
Perhaps continued criticism by fellow Republicans, and Friday’s resignation of another high-ranking campaign official (“director of surrogates” Kevin Kellems) signal serious trouble for Mr. Trump.
Perhaps Mrs. Clinton will over time emerge as a lock to win the presidency.
Maybe she will even do so by a landslide, winning numerous red states in a politically transforming process.
But regardless of which nominee you consider the better — or less bad? — presidential pick, don’t bank on who will win, or by how much, before the poll that really counts.
And that’s the one tabulated on Nov. 8.