Don't get complacent!
At the moment Hillary looks well positioned to beat Trump in a landslide. As I write this, the RCP average shows her leading 41.6% to 37.3% The latest poll in Virginia has her ahead 48% to 32%, a huge margin for what is still considered a swing state. A new poll from South Carolina once again puts her a mere two points behind him. Today's map on Electoral-Vote.com has her leading 343-195. Rank-and-file Republicans are back to peering suspiciously into details of polls looking for things to "unskew" like in 2012. This election may be a bigger blowout than 1964. I believe it will be. But Obama is right, for three reasons.
First, most of these polls that show Hillary well ahead also show high levels of support for Gary Johnson, the Libertarian candidate. He's at 8.9% in that RCP average, for example. It's clear to anyone who follows Republican sites that most of Johnson's support consists of disaffected Republicans who just can't bring themselves to vote for their party's nominee. But, the common pattern is that support for third candidates tends to fade as the actual election approaches and the reality sinks in that only the Big Two have a real chance, and the only thing that matters is which one of them wins. If that pattern plays out again this year and most of Johnson's support comes home to Trump in the end, the race will become a lot scarier. Hillary's RCP average lead over Trump in those four-candidate polls is only 4.6%, for example. If most of Johnson's support migrates to Trump, he leads. The same average in Ohio has Hillary's lead at a comfortable 4% -- but Johnson is at 9%. In several other states, if Johnson's numbers are mostly added to Trump's, he takes the lead or gets within striking distance.
Yes, some of Jill Stein's voters are likely to move to Hillary in the same way, but they are far less numerous and thus less of a factor. And yes, many argue that Trump is so uniquely repulsive that the NeverTrump Republicans will break the historic pattern and not return to him as the election nears. I agree with that. I think it's true. But we can't count on it.
In many cases, polls of just the two main candidates show Hillary with a bigger lead than four-way polls. I'm not sure what to make of this, but even those polls tend to show an unusually large number of undecideds. It's plausible that many of those are NeverTrumps who dislike both candidates but in the end will decide they dislike their own party's candidate a little less.
The second reason is the possibility of some extraneous factor reshaping the race. Putin clearly prefers Trump, for obvious reasons, and Russian intelligence has already made one crude effort to influence the race with its hacked-e-mail dump on the first day of our convention. Another such attempt is quite possible.
But the scarier possibility along these lines is Dâ'ish (ISIL). They have every reason to prefer a Trump Presidency. His anti-Muslim rhetoric and likely actions would radicalize millions of Muslims against the West, to the benefit of groups like Dâ'ish. His confused and incompetent foreign policy would make a hash of the network of explicit and tacit alliances which is now grinding Dâ'ish down on the ground and from the air. And the way the war is now going, Dâ'ish is doomed. Once their phony "state" is swept away, they face nothing but the prospect of being hunted down and killed by angry relatives of their victims and by Iraqi and Syrian internal-security forces. They've got nothing to lose by rolling the dice. If they think a major terrorist attack on US soil -- something big enough to one-up even September 11 -- could stampede frightened Americans into voting for Trump, they'll try it.
The third reason is, of course, the sheer magnitude of what's at stake. If this utterly ignorant, erratic, belligerent man becomes Commander in Chief of the vast US military, the mortal danger to millions upon millions of innocent lives around the world is obvious. Within the US, his vindictive nature and obsession with personal feuds would be armed with the powers of the Presidency, enabling him to torment and destroy anyone he bears a grudge against. His promised policies would lead to trade wars, an economic crash, persecution of ethnic and religious minorities, and global isolation of our country. Romney or McCain or even Bush did not present a threat remotely comparable to this. Trump would be the most unfit leader of a superpower since Caligula.
Are you "running scared" yet? I hope so. We need to do everything possible to make sure this scenario doesn't materialize. No matter how secure they seem, fight for every state and every seat as if we could lose. We can't afford to do less.