Susan was out of town this weekend, so I did what everyone does when his wife's away—scheduled dinners with friends Friday and Saturday nights, and got lunch Saturday at our local Chinese restaurant. And I was glad I did, because here's the fortune that came in my (complimentary!) fortune cookie after the tasty hot and sour soup and kung pao chicken: "You are heading in the right direction."
Phew. Though you won't believe this, even I occasionally have moments of self-doubt. But this fortune was certainly enough to put any such worries to rest. And so we'll chug along in the right direction for the next two months, making the case against Trump and Clinton, and pivoting (as they say) to absorbing the lessons of this unusual, dispiriting year, and trying to figure out where we go from here.
Of course, that depends in good part on what happens on Election Day. On this--speaking analytically, in terms of what might happen, not what I want to happen—I'm becoming a bit contrarian. I think Trump has a chance to win. While the odds certainly favor Clinton, I don't think the race is over, and I do think the conventional wisdom is much too confident of a Clinton victory. The fact is she's ahead by about six points nationally after Trump's awful post-convention month—a nice lead, but not what it might be. The fact is she's an awful candidate, and it's also true that in a "change" election, an awfully flawed challenger can/may still prevail.
Having said that, I suspect Trump is just too flawed to prevail. It does seem as if 60 percent of the country is pretty convinced he shouldn't be president. But could he get himself one more hearing from some of those voters? I don't think it's out of the question. Could he actually make the sale? Unlikely, but not impossible.
What galvanized my sense that it's premature to say the election is over was Sunday's Washington Post. This was the lead story on page 1: "With comfortable lead, Clinton starts refining an agenda." The article was all about how—with the election virtually in the bag—Clinton was already planning her governing and legislative priorities. I regard such a piece as a reliable contrarian indicator; demonstrations of that kind of confidence, not to say complacency, tend to correlate with a trend in the opposite direction. So I rather expect to see Trump gain some in the polls in the next week or two.
I also happened to speak to two old friends this weekend, one from Philadelphia, one from Pittsburgh. Both are moderate Democrats, and they're the type of people who actually know real swing voters outside the DC/NY bubble. One of them won a month's worth of lunches by betting all his acquaintances last winter and spring that Trump would win the GOP nomination. Both friends thought Trump had done himself damage over the last few weeks, so that people they knew who'd been open to, or even leaning toward Trump, were no longer doing so. On the other hand, neither was certain that these voters couldn't (with reservations, and reluctantly) decide to come back to Trump before it's all over. So, as another friend put it when I asked him what he thought: It's probably over, but it's not certainly over. There's a chance Trump could be disciplined and make it competitive. But the odds are he won't be disciplined and that the race won't therefore be competitive. And of course, there's also a non-trivial chance of a Trump meltdown. Or a Hillary meltdown.