Advertising Week

What Nate Silver & Co. Think About the Presidential Race Right Now

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Clare Malone, Nate Silver, and Farai Chideya onstage at Advertising Week's 'What Happened in the First Debate and Where the Race Goes From Here' panel on Bing Stage in New York on Sept. 27.
Clare Malone, Nate Silver, and Farai Chideya onstage at Advertising Week's 'What Happened in the First Debate and Where the Race Goes From Here' panel on Bing Stage in New York on Sept. 27. Credit: Paul Zimmerman/Getty Images
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"The evidence shows Hillary Clinton with only a slight edge," Nate Silver told a Manhattan audience Tuesday afternoon. Mr. Silver, the founder and editor-in-chief of data-obsessed site FiveThirtyEight, was joined by his colleagues Clare Malone, a FiveThirtyEight senior political writer, and Farai Chideya, a FiveThirtyEight senior writer, for a panel at Advertising Week's Bing stage.

Some key takeaways from their conversation, which was moderated by Ms. Chideya:

Clinton's once wide lead has evaporated

Nate Silver, regarding FiveThirtyEight's current polling model: "The evidence shows Hillary Clinton with only a slight edge. She's up 1 or 2 points nationally. By comparison President Obama won by 3.8 points, I think, in 2012. But the electoral college is a little bit tenuous for her, where some states that are probably must-win states for her -- Colorado, Pennsylvania -- the polling is very tight now. Some other states that are usually competitive, like Ohio and Iowa, lean toward Trump."

Monday night's Clinton-Trump debate

Mr. Silver: "It was a pretty clear win for Clinton. In fact, the CNN poll of debate watchers, which has been conducted in some form going back to '84, had it as the third clearest butt-whipping ever in a debate -- the top two being Clinton vs. Bush in '92 at the Town Hall, which you should all watch, by the way, and then Romney, [his] butt-whipping of Obama four years ago in the first debate in Denver."

Evangelical Christians are flocking to Trump

Farai Chideya: Evangelical Christians have gone from "kind of lukewarm, moderate support for Trump to overwhelming support for Trump: 34% of regular churchgoing Evangelical, white Christians supported Trump in the primaries -- Republicans -- and now it's 90%."

Clare Malone: "Which is amazing, and it speaks to the normalizing of Trump."

The GOP base

Ms. Malone: "The GOP has this sort of nostalgic bent of Reagan, Reagan, Reagan -- so much so that '30 Rock' turned it into a great running joke with Jack Donaghy, right? But that's actually a real problem in the party, is that they have been putting forth this nostalgic message. And talking about small government, some parts of the party -- the Paul Ryans, the intellectual nexus of the party -- really think people are motivated by this. But our data showed that they weren't.

"The party's actually motivated by cultural, racial animus. So that's the reason [for] Donald Trump -- I mean, Donald Trump is not an unthinking presidential candidate. That's the reason why he launched his presidential campaign on building a wall and on racial, you know -- protecting a certain kind of white identity."

Who will actually vote?

Mr. Silver: "If everyone in the country turned out to vote, then Clinton would win -- probably by a lot. If only the Trump voters -- meaning older, whiter, more conservative voters -- vote, then it could be very close and Trump could win. So just charging her base up, after a rough few weeks, could at least temporarily move some numbers in her direction."

Simon Dumenco, aka Media Guy, is an Ad Age editor-at-large. You can follow him on Twitter @simondumenco.