NEW YORK - The most talked about person in America in the past 24 hours is Jon Ralston. The columnist, blogger and TV personality from Nevada has become a shining beacon of hope for Democrats and a harbinger of bad news for the GOP. Ralston, widely considered one of the most astute observers of local politics, reported with increasing amazement the long lines of voters, mainly Hispanic, who waited for hours to cast their vote early in the elections before the deadline in Nevada on Friday. On Saturday, Ralston tweeted out his emphatic conclusions: “Trump is dead”, he wrote, “and only a miracle can save him.”
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Ralston based his verdict on Clark County, which includes Las Vegas and hosts the overwhelming majority of Nevada’s voters. According to official accounts, the Democratic participation among early voters far outstripped the advantage they already held in 2012, when Nevada voted for Barack Obama. If Ralston’s logic holds true, in Nevada in particular and in America as a whole, schadenfreude fans will be able to revel in the fact that the news of Donald Trump’s defeat came from the hometown of one of his biggest supporters, Sheldon Adelson.
Ralston’s eyewitness accounts of early voting stations in Mexican supermarkets that stayed open long past the deadline in order to accommodate everyone who came to vote is being borne out, in varying degrees, in other states with high percentages of Hispanics, most importantly Florida. It’s already clear that Florida Hispanics are on the way to almost doubling their participation in early voting, which ends Sunday, in comparison to the 9.4 percent that voted in 2012. In those elections, Hispanics gave Obama 60 percent of their vote, but they are expected to give Clinton even more. One reason is the dilution of usually conservative Cuban-Americans by newly arrived immigrants from economically stricken Puerto Rico, as well other Latin American countries. The other much more potent factor is the rage felt by Hispanics over what they view as Trump’s ongoing insults throughout the presidential campaign as well as their concern for the fate of the 11 million illegal Latino immigrants if the GOP candidate will win the elections.
It would be poetic justice, of course, if the opening salvo of Trump’s campaign, in which he described Mexicans as murderers, rapists and drug dealers, will prove the instrument of his own undoing; if the revolver that he himself put on the table in his first act during his June 2015 press conference in Trump Tower in New York will, in true Chekhovian manner, fire the bullet that kills his own political aspirations in the third.
The Democrats are praying that the participation rates of Hispanics will offset the disappointing participation, so far, of African Americans. They are nonetheless devoting massive time and effort now to making sure that African Americans vote in those states in which early ballots are still possible and, of course, on election day itself. The Democrats are pulling out all their big guns, with leading players Barack and Michelle Obama now reinforced by a host of pop music icons, including Beyoncé and Jay-Z who performed a rare joint concert with Hillary Clinton in Ohio on Friday, as well as Stevie Wonder and Katy Perry who held back-to-back concerts in Philadelphia.
To counteract the Hispanic anger, Trump is banking on similar rage to motivate his base in white America; in Israel we could call it, jokingly of course, the battle of Sephardim vs. Ashkenazim. The polls show that Trump received a critical boost in this endeavor from FBI Director James Comey, whose letter on new Clinton emails allegedly found on the computer of disgraced former Congressman Anthony Weiner has galvanized Republicans behind Trump. The letter, as well as grossly inaccurate subsequent reports alleging that Clinton would be indicted because of the Clinton Foundation, have brought many wavering Republicans back to the fold and consequently pushed Republican leaders who have kept their distance to overcome their reservations and come out in support of their party’s candidate.
Concurrently, the trove of emails published by WikiLeaks from the reportedly Russian hack of the computer belonging to Clinton campaign manager, John Podesta, continues to furnish material for wild, borderline lunatic stories about Clinton and her advisers. An email by Serbian performance artist Marina Abramovich to Podesta’s brother, in which she inquires whether Podesta will come to “Spirit Cooking”, has furnished waves of assertions that Podesta participates in satanic cult rituals. The term “Spirit Cooking” is linked to an act in which Abramovich apparently imbibes pigs’ blood in order to communicate with her thoughts, but she describes the allegations of any satanic connections as ridiculous and says the term was used in her email in jest. Another crazy theory casts Podesta as a pedophile, based on emails that mention various foods which so-called “experts” have defined as code words used by child molesters. And lest one think these insane claims are limited to a lunatic fringe, it’s worth mentioning they are being disseminated all across conservative radio networks, which cater to tens of millions of believers.
The big question now for Trump is whether his supporters’ renewed enthusiasm will suffice to overcome the apparent advantage that Clinton has in organizing election day and motivating voters to go to polling places to cast their votes. The Clinton apparatus has invested heavily in recruiting thousands of volunteers who will get out the vote on Tuesday, while Trump’s campaign started to address the matter only a few short weeks ago. And while the GOP has invested over $175 million since the previous elections to try to match the Democratic organization that helped secure Obama’s victory, it has only swung into full gear recently, as the party finally began to line itself behind its declared candidate.
But even if these factors are encouraging for Democrats, the polls continue to be a source of concern. Clinton’s precipitous fall in the polls, probably accelerated by Comey’s letter, appears to have ended, and she maintains a 2-3 point advantage nationally. In battleground states, however, many races are still in a dead heat, including some that were thought to be in Clinton’s pocket. These include New Hampshire, whose four electoral votes could theoretically break a 268-268 tie between the candidates. Clinton has also lost ground in Pennsylvania and Colorado, though she maintains a razor edge lead in both.
On the other hand, some states in which Trump had seemed to be gaining ground may not be as safe as previously thought. These include Arizona, where Hispanics have also turned out in record numbers, as well as Georgia, where early voting seems to likewise be favorable for Democrats. Unlike Clinton, Trump’s potential path to victory is so narrow that any defeat in these so-called red states could end his chances for the Presidency.
Many experts contend that the sheer volume of early voting - over 40 million will probably vote before Election Day - may be rendering the polls obsolete. Many voters may have cast their votes before the recent developments that may have changed their minds; others might be telling pollsters of their current preferences, not what they voted in reality. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why pollster and prognosticator Nate Silver is only giving Clinton a cautious 65% chance of winning the elections, while the New York Times' Upshot gives her an 85% chance of winning and other forecasts go even higher.
According to Ralston’s calculations, Clinton is already leading Trump by six per cent in early voting in Nevada. Only a catastrophe for Clinton, or an unimaginably high participation rate by Trump supporters on Tuesday, can change that, he claims. Of course, in this crazy campaign anything can and usually does happen but for now, if Florida, Arizona and North Carolina break like Nevada has, then the elections are already over and all that’s left is to wait for the official announcement on Tuesday night.