Hillary’s Bradley Effect: Trump is Counting On It

Trump’s post-convention bounce is significant, more significant than any since 2000, according to CNN, putting Trump in the lead. Indeed, every post-convention poll has Trump ahead.

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Trump’s polling has been on a a sine-wave pattern, hitting his high points right when he needs it most. Now he’s on top. The question is: Will he stay there?

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Much has been made of something called the Bradley Effect, named after former Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley’s ill-fated run for governor in 1982. Bradley was ahead in the polls right to the end, but lost disastrously. The effect usually refers to race, where voters hide their true preference from pollsters for the sake of political correctness.

But it can also apply to Hillary. I wrote last week that Trump’s speech resonated with working class Americans, across the board. This is now supported with data:

Almost half (48 percent) rated Trump’s speech as good or excellent, which is essentially tied with the speech given by his daughter, Ivanka Trump, but higher than his running mate, Mike Pence, or RNC Chairman Reince Priebus.

More people surveyed liked Trump’s speech than admit to liking Trump. The speech is polling 7 points higher than the candidate. This could mean a couple of things.

One, that Trump simply gave one speech that resonated with a segment of the public, but many others found to be dark, ominous and the worst kind of rank scare-mongering. If that’s true, then the bump will quickly fade, and (unless the Democrats disintegrate into chaos this week) Clinton will resume the lead as Trump reverts into his Cheeto Jesus personality.

Or two, that this is a real phenomenon, with “subterranean” support for Trump beginning to emerge as people feel more comfortable telling pollsters they prefer him to “Crooked Hillary.” This would be Hillary’s Bradley effect, or Trump’s “reverse Bradley.” This theory has been kicked around for months–with Vanity Fair giving it a whirl in June.

While polls show Clinton cruising toward a landslide, Trump has insisted that pollsters have it wrong and that everyone loves him—they just don’t want to admit it. “When I poll, I do fine, but when I run I do much better,” he said during a rally on Thursday. “In other words, people say I’m not going to say who I’m voting for, don’t be embarrassed, I’m not going to say who I’m voting for and then they get it and I do much better, it’s like an amazing effect.”

Trump is counting on it, and really believes he’s loved and his message is on target. Former candidate Rick Santorum’s book “Blue Collar Conservatives” frames Trump’s message. In fact, Santorum claims Trump read the book and met with him about it. In Trump’s world, his business failures are a result of the same economic conditions working class America blames for their ills. Casinos closing in Atlantic City–in this world–aren’t Trump’s fault. They believe him when he says he got out with his skin.

In Trump’s working class message, his bankruptcies simply mean he feels their pain. Romney was a better businessman, but couldn’t connect with workers. Trump can. He sells dreams, not reality. Trump is the working man’s lottery ticket. And everyone, of all races, who dreams of riches without working for it, buys lottery tickets. But most won’t admit it publicly.

But is it true? Is there a real groundswell of support for Trump’s message, enough to suspend disbelief at the man himself? I believe there is. I believe people will opt for the orange-hued clown, their own Cheeto Jesus, and believe he loves them, cares for them, and will take care of them. I believe they’ll find comfort in Ben Carson’s support for Trump (after all, it’s only four years).

I believe many of those who have been reliably Democratic voters, union members, teachers, and even some academics, will eventually fall out of Hillary’s camp into Trump’s. Time will tell, and of course, there’s always the chance Trump will do or say something so scary that nobody would admit supporting him.

Even FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver agrees that Trump’s chances are better than even.

The breakdown shifts a bit between the Electoral College and the popular vote. Silver’s model currently predicts the popular vote going 45.4 percent to Trump vs. 45.1 percent to Clinton, but the Electoral College giving Trump a wider margin of victory, 285 votes and Clinton 252.6.

Silver’s projections take any post-convention bounces into account.

“It’s not Trump’s convention bounce per se that should worry Dems. That’s pretty normal. It’s how it became so close to begin with,” Silver tweeted. “Trump trailed by around 3 points in our forecasts a week ago. Typical convention bounce is 4 points. So you end up at Trump +1 or so.”

“Don’t think people are really grasping how plausible it is that Trump could become president. It’s a close election right now,” he warned last week.

It’s possible Trump could fade. There’s always his Russian connections (which I think the press will largely ignore), and his sordid business history and lawsuits. But those don’t compare well to Hillary, who was publicly damned by FBI Director Comey and at the same time absolved because “She’s Hillary.” That doesn’t play well with the public.

More than half—56 percent—said they disagreed with FBI Director James Comey’s recommendation to the Justice Department to not charge Clinton with any crime, even as he remarked that she and her colleagues were “extremely careless” while slightly more than one-third, or 35 percent, said they approved.

Asked whether Clinton’s conduct made them worried about what the former secretary of state would do as president, 57 percent responded that it did, while 39 percent said the issue is not related to how she would perform as commander in chief.

Trump’s strategy is to never let Hillary get more than three steps away from her email woes. And if Erick is right, his Moscow-controlled legion of hackers and Twitter trolls will see to it.

Time will tell, but I think, like in the primary race, Trump is on top, and will likely stay there, provoking ever-more-desperate attempts by the left to knock him down. The DNC emails did so much damage to that effort that Hillary and the Democrats might simply be out of dry powder for that effort. Then we’ll start to see Hillary’s Bradley effect manifested in the polls.

About the author

Steve Berman

The old Steve cared about money, prestige, and power. Then Christ found me. All at once things changed. But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!

I spent 30 years in business. Now I write and edit. But mostly I love. I have a wife and 2 kids and a dog and we live in a little house in central Georgia.

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