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Wednesday 21 February 2018

Opinion: It just has to be Hillary but after Brexit who can trust the polls

Downing on politics

US Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton speaks during a campaign rally in Detroit, Michigan. Photo: Reuters
US Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton speaks during a campaign rally in Detroit, Michigan. Photo: Reuters
John Downing

John Downing

The older I get the more I am compelled by politics. But the older I get the worse I am at doing all-nighters on front of the television, with the radio on in the background, and various news websites open on my laptop.

So, I am going to bed early tonight in hopes of waking to the 'good news' early tomorrow. By then we should know who the new 'Leader of the Free World' really is.

All the smart pundits insist it just has to be Hillary Clinton. But I remember waking early on Friday, June 24, to find those Brexit opinion polls were just miles wide of the mark. So, we cannot rule out a win for the great boor, 'the Donald.' It is hard to refrain from profane language when referring to Mr Trump.

I mean strip out all the politics, take away right and left, conservative and liberal, and you're still left with one simple reality: the guy is an utter swine.

Sometimes, when I'm asked how a particular political issue is going to go in Ireland, I assess my own political views first. Then I invert them. In other words, I'm admitting that I am not often a good indicator of mainstream Irish opinion.

But I'm happy to know I am with "middle Ireland" on this one.

In an all-island poll for Irish language online magazine,, just 6pc of respondents in the Republic said they wanted Trump to win the White House. Two-thirds of people in the south back Clinton. The Trump figure in the North was higher - but still only on 11pc. And 47pc of Northern voters want a Clinton win.

We can perhaps note a certain Trump tendency north of the Border. We may guess that there may be a certain hardline Unionist factor here.

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Readers of a certain age may remember the late Ian Paisley in his booming, hectoring, bombastic stride, and see a certain Trump resemblance. We must, however, hasten to add that Paisley was far more complex and quite a political sophisticate by comparison.

But that is a digression too far and for another day. Let's get back to why it has to Hillary Clinton's day tomorrow.

In Ireland the marathon counts caused by PR mean we do not start counting until 9am the day after the vote. But in the USA the counting starts immediately and we are told that exit polls - as distinct from the opinion polls - can be relied upon. So, we should know by Wednesday breakfast time.

Do not set much store by the popular vote. Keep in mind that 270 electoral college votes is the magic number.

The New York Times reckons Ms Clinton has a clear advantage in states worth at least 270 electoral votes. But it is undoubtedly true that the race has tightened over the last few weeks, even though Mr Trump's campaigners have been left fighting an uphill battle.

Pundits found it hard to divine where his best chance of breaking through really were. Even if he could win big states like Arizona, Iowa, Ohio, Utah, North Carolina, Florida and New Hampshire, he would still be short of a victory.

And he is not assured of winning any of these states - though he has a good chance in Iowa and Utah. The polls in North Carolina and Florida did not encourage "Trumpers."

And he still needs to win one of the following: Pennsylvania, Nevada, Michigan, Wisconsin, Colorado, Virginia, New Mexico or Minnesota.

Our pundit pals only rate his chances in Nevada out of the above baker's list. Even in Nevada there is a high proportion of early voting, seen to favour Clinton.

None of this is to say Mr Trump cannot win. Just like Brexit, those polls could still be plain wrong right across the board.

John Downing is an Irish Independent political correspondent

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