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Why Donald Trump Will Win In November

Donald Trump speaks during a rally in Carmel, Ind., on May 2. (Michael Conroy/AP)
Donald Trump speaks during a rally in Carmel, Ind., on May 2. (Michael Conroy/AP)

Start packing your bags, Miley Cyrus, Lena Dunham and Samuel Jackson. You and many of your fellow bold-facers have vowed to leave the country should Donald Trump win the presidency. A Trump victory is contrary to conventional wisdom, of course, as well as the betting odds. But Trump has surprised before and I think he’ll surprise again.

Here’s why.

Polls don’t predict. Anti-Trumpers take solace in polls showing Hillary Clinton besting the real estate mogul. But her lead is fragile. The Real Clear Politics current average of polls shows Clinton with a lead of just 6.5 points over Trump. How thin is that? In the run-up to the Indiana primary, the RCP average the day before the election showed Clinton with a 6.8-point lead over Bernie Sanders. But the final result was reversed: Sanders actually beat Clinton by 6.8 points. That’s almost a 14-point swing in a matter of hours. At their best, polls only tell you what’s happening at the time they are taken. But we’ve got a half-year of tough and dirty campaigning to go. Come November, it’s anyone’s guess what voters will be thinking.

Start packing your bags Miley Cyrus, Lena Dunham and Samuel Jackson ... Trump has surprised before and I think he’ll surprise again.

Hilary is almost as hated. Another point of solace for anti-Trumpers is that the real estate mogul appears to be one of the most hated politicians in America. In a national election, the argument goes, he needs to win more than 50 percent -- and polls showing him with an favorability rating of just 28 percent suggest that’s impossible.

Except, of course, that Clinton may well be the second-most hated politician in America. Her favorability rating is just 38 percent, also well below a majority. And while it’s likely Trump rests at his nadir, Clinton — particularly when she and husband Bill inevitably face vicious attacks — could still decline further.

The GOP will fall in line. Gov. Charlie Baker vows he won’t vote for Trump but I think we’ll discover he’s an outlier. The Stop Trump movement is evaporating. The national party, once aghast at the idea of Trump, is moving to solidify its ranks. By the time the convention rolls around, don’t be surprised if most everyone has fallen in line. The reason: Republicans may despise Donald, but they despise Hillary even more.

Mass. Gov. Charlie Baker speaks to members of the media, Wednesday, May 4, 2016, in Boston. Baker reiterated that he will not vote for Donald Trump in November. (Elise Amendola/AP Photo)
Mass. Gov. Charlie Baker speaks to members of the media, Wednesday, May 4, 2016, in Boston. Baker reiterated that he will not vote for Donald Trump in November. (Elise Amendola/AP Photo)

Trump will moderate. Trump’s campaign to date was mostly a slogan (“Make America Great Again”) and an attitude (brash, demagogic and over-the-top). Over the summer and fall we’ll start to see some flesh on those bare bones. Trump will tone down the harshness of his rhetoric. He’ll change positions to appeal to centrists. Talk of huge walls and bans on Muslims notwithstanding, Trump will start to focus even more on the economic grievances that motivate his supporters and that (judging by Sanders’ success) seem to resonate with large swaths of the left, too. Voters may conclude (as happened with Ronald Reagan in 1980) that perhaps Trump -- as crazy as he seems — is someone on whom they should take a chance.

Six months ago, few believed Trump had a chance...With the passage of another six months, everything we think we know may be upended once again.

The establishment is so yesterday. The story of this election season has been establishment versus anti-establishment. Trump painted his opponents as part of the gridlock, insiderism and favoritism that voters loathe. Sanders painted Clinton with the same brush (and was so effective at it that, but for super delegates — another establishment tool — he might have won).

We should expect the same dynamic in the general election. Vowing to run on substance, policy and experience, Clinton almost seems to revel in her establishment credentials. Trump will keep hammering away on rigged politics, corrupt deals and an entrenched political class. Voters will have a choice: same-old, same-old versus shake-it-up. I think they'll go for the latter.

The bottom line: Yes, it can really happen. No one truly knows how things will unfold between now and Election Day. Six months ago, few believed Trump had a chance. Sanders seemed a punching bag. With the passage of another six months, everything we think we know may be upended once again. But if I had to bet (and admittedly, it wouldn’t be a large bet), I’d pick Trump to pull it off. Canada’s Department of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship might want to consider hiring extra staff.

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Tom Keane Twitter Cognoscenti contributor
Tom Keane is a Boston-based writer.

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