Yes, I'm sure that like me you've heard about the "shy, silent Trump voters" who will come out in droves and waves on November 3rd and catapult the most unpopular president in United States history to a second contentious term in office. In fact, you may have heard even President Trump himself and his allies and supporters on one radio or TV talk show or another touting this meme in the face of the president's abysmal poll numbers. Many in Camp Trump are trying to re-tool the 2016 political playbook as if nothing has changed, and that just tweaking and a little adjusting here and there may be enough to win the White House for four more years.
To put it bluntly, that's delusional thinking. Its delusional for a number of reasons. First, in 2016 Donald Trump did not have a political record of any consequence that rival Democrats could attack, draw comparisons with and expose. Secondly, he skillfully manipulated the mainstream media that gave him billions in so-called "earned media" - free TV, radio and newspaper coverage - that made him a household name as he lied and attacked Hillary Clinton - over and over again. Third, Trump was handed a game changing and devastating "October Surprise" for Ms. Clinton when former FBI Director James Comey shoved the controversial "email non-scandal" into a close presidential campaign.
Fourth, Trump had already succeeded in turning off key Democratic voting blocks from Democrat Hillary Clinton by labeling her "Crooked Hillary," and controlling the national political narrative. The fact that Ms. Clinton's campaign was an unmitigated disaster despite flush with campaign cash also contributed to her underperforming in states that Barack Obama won in 2012 - something that went in Trump's favor. And sixth, there is no "Third Party" candidate as in 2016 that syphoned off votes from Ms. Clinton that benefitted Donald Trump.Today, President Trump is pitching the existence of an army of 'Shy Trump' voters who he expects to turn out emerge en masse, especially in battleground states. This theory goes that because they [shy, silent Trumpers] want to avoid public disapproval, they hide their preferences from pollsters, surveys and others. The narrative goes that these dedicated and loyal Trump voters are reluctant to acknowledge support for such a divisive and controversial president.
Further, because they are so guarded about their intentions, these "undercover Trump supporters" skew polling data because they supposedly are so hard to find, or fail to answer key questions candidly when they are interviewed. By turning out in great numbers, the theory goes, "Shy, Silent Trump" voters could influence and tip the Electoral College numbers in President Trump's favor in 2020.
But here's why this won't happen: For starters, such voters, even if they do exist, are not in the numbers that the Trump Camp (and some Republicans in Congress) are pinning their political hopes on. Moreover, in 2020, with massive early voting this vote pool is dwindling more and more as election day draws closer. In fact, recent polling data suggests that even the undecided and independent voter pool is shrinking - dramatically. What this means is that the vast majority of Americans have already decided who they will vote for. The most recent numbers in this respect puts the independent and undecided voter pool at about 6 percent. If this number is correct (and I think it is) then even with a majority turnout it cannot influence the outcome of the election in any way.
However, that does not stop Donald Trump from insisting that he has a much larger base of supporters than the polls presently show, a group he calls "the silent majority" a term he borrowed from President Richard Nixon to describe voters who don't tell pollsters and reporters that they'll vote for his reelection. And the myth of the "shy Trump voter" is exposed daily by the president's many outdoor rallies and the fact that his supporters are proud to vent that support in public.
Admittedly, in 2016 some state polls had samples that underestimated Trump supporters and that's a fact. This was especially true when it came to working-class white men and women who did not got to college, in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan - all "Must Win" states for President Trump in 2020. Trump won these states by less than a combined 80,000 votes in 2016. That was not a "silent majority" then and polling suggests that this number is far less today.
However, to alter the political trajectory in 2020, the October surprise (time is rapidly running out) probably would have to be something earth-shattering that the Democratic frontrunner Joe Biden has to do that is so graphic and stupid that it turns off a very large block of voters. Such an "October Surprise" would have to be demonstrative and suggest that Biden is not up the job of running America as the POTUS. Still, Biden's many gaffes, hyperbolic statements and sometimes garbled comments have not been either controversial or concentrated enough to puncture his consistent lead in the polls since August 2020.
And too, October surprises in U.S. Presidential elections may now be becoming not too consequential in the scheme of things. This old political bogey is today competing with the COVID-19 pandemic that has put President Donald Trump's performance and competence on the hook. In fact, this is what's defining the POTUS and the Republican Party in the context of early voting and huge growth in mail-in balloting. All this makes the traditional "October Surprise" in 2020 largely moot and ineffective since millions of Americans have already cast their votes - well before Election Day. My view? Any October Surprise will be largely irrelevant to this election cycle.