There were a lot of good reasons for Monday Night Football to cancel its experiment with Dennis Miller in the booth. Nobody understood his obscure references, he used too many big words, and his shtick was a consistent distraction from the game. None of those factors were what got him in really serious trouble.
In the third-quarter of a pathetic 2001 matchup between winless Dallas and Washington, Miller committed one of the cardinal sins of sports announcing. He spoke honestly about the game. It was hilarious. It was refreshing. It kept me watching that bumbling spectacle of athletic failure for another hour. That kind of candor is what doomed his sports journalism career.
In the press box, the game is always exciting, it is always competitive, and it will probably go ‘down to the wire.’ Cincinnati is trailing 24-3 with 3:28 to go in the 4th, but we’re going to hear how they could pull it out with a Hail Mary and two onside kicks returned for touchdowns. As an announcer, that’s what you’re paid for and by-God, that’s what you’re going to pretend to believe.
As politics descends into entertainment and journalists trip over each other to start earning Hollywood bucks, the same thing is happening in political coverage. Telling the truth about this election would be career suicide. The race is always close. You should always keep watching.
We aren’t going to hear about a historic blowout until a certain Tuesday night in November, and then only around midnight when the eagerly awaited results from hotly contested Oregon are finally, breathlessly tallied. We’ve been hearing about Hillary Clinton’s emails for years. They haven’t stood in the way of a primary victory or stopped her from leading every weekly polling average for the entire campaign. Every aspect of that woman’s life has been lived on stage and recorded for microscopic review for thirty years. Nonetheless, day by day we’re going to hear a new, obtuse ‘revelation’ that might decide the election.
This is entertainment. No one is going to tune in to watch a blowout.
There’s nothing entertaining about the GOPLifer blog and there’s no money at stake. So here’s the straight scoop from every remotely predictive data point available. This is not a close race. It has never been a close race. There is no basis on which this could become a close race. There is no credible path to victory for the Trump campaign.
And for good measure, let’s just add this observation. Though Trump is an unusually miserable candidate, he will only be dropping about 4-6 points from what any other GOP nominee might have earned. Depending on how many Republicans decide to hide behind Gary Johnson, Trump should finish somewhere in the 36-41% range nationally. No Republican capable of winning a GOP primary was going to top 46% under the best of circumstances.
In 2020, that ceiling, even for a conventional candidate like Marco Rubio or Jeb Bush, will probably drop to 44 or 45%. And we’re not going to see any more “conventional” candidates from what remains of the GOP.
From whence cometh this observation? All of the available data. Clinton has held a polling lead in this race since before she announced her candidacy and she never lost it. One daily average in July showed her trailing – by a fraction of a point. She holds solid leads in every critical state, including an astounding 15-point lead in the former Republican stronghold of New Hampshire.
For as long as we’ve had reliable metrics, only two candidates ever consistently polled in the 30’s (in a two party race – note ’92), Walter Mondale and Bob Dole. And note a vital detail – Dole and Mondale were running against incumbents. For the Republican nominee in 2016 to be scraping against these lows heading into Labor Day is almost unprecedented.
Some candidates have overcome summer polling deficits. Perhaps there are quiet factors Trump might leverage toward a comeback? No, there aren’t.
This candidate is so bad that Congressmen and Senators in his own party have refused to support him. You have to go back a very long way to find any precedent for this (’48 & ’64). He has no campaign organization. It appears very much as though his campaign donations are being funneled back to his family businesses. He trails in fundraising, advertising, internal party support and cross-party support. His campaign is supposed to be founded on “expanding the voter pool” but no one seems to be able to find this “silent majority” who supports him. No major Democratic figures have broken ranks to join his campaign.
Here’s one more helpful tidbit you won’t hear on CNN or MSNBC. Almost nothing interesting happens on Election Day. In a political environment this tribal, this polarized, a good pollster can pretty reliably tell you which party will win not just this election, but the next one. Politics is not a sport. There are no three-pointers or onside kicks. Amazing feats of political aptitude almost never turn an election. The opinions people will carry into the 2020 and 2024 elections are already formed. Unless a party can pivot after a loss to accommodate that landscape, it cannot survive.
One of two things might happen to make the 2020 Election interesting, and neither of them has anything to do with a candidate or personality. Either the GOP will break completely to be reconstituted under a new alignment, or the Democratic Party will follow the Republicans down the road to crazytown. Barring one of those two outcomes, the Democrats will win in 2020 by a margin similar to 2016.
Dennis Miller was right about that Monday Night game, one of the worst NFL performances since the ’87 strike. It is unlikely that we’ll hear any similar outbursts of honesty about this race. It’s ‘a horse race’ that will ‘go down to the wire.’ Entertainment has rules and the entertainers on your cable news station will stick to those rules and collect their checks.