Well, to keep it simple, a whole lot of Americans showed up at the polls yesterday and voted, and it was very much "Dewey Defeats Truman" as all the pollsters got 2016 as wrong as Kentucky pollsters got 2015's rise of Matt Bevin wrong.
All the dazzling technology, the big data and the sophisticated modeling that American newsrooms bring to the fundamentally human endeavor of presidential politics could not save American journalism from yet again being behind the story, behind the rest of the country.
The news media by and large missed what was happening all around it, and it was the story of a lifetime. The numbers weren’t just a poor guide for election night — they were an off-ramp away from what was actually happening.
No one predicted a night like this — that Donald J. Trump would pull off a stunning upset over Hillary Clinton and win the presidency.
The misfire on Tuesday night was about a lot more than a failure in polling. It was a failure to capture the boiling anger of a large portion of the American electorate that feels left behind by a selective recovery, betrayed by trade deals that they see as threats to their jobs and disrespected by establishment Washington, Wall Street and the mainstream media.
Journalists didn’t question the polling data when it confirmed their gut feeling that Mr. Trump could never in a million years pull it off. They portrayed Trump supporters who still believed he had a shot as being out of touch with reality. In the end, it was the other way around.
It was just a few months ago that so much of the European media failed to foresee the vote in Britain to leave the European Union. Election 2016, thy name is Brexit.
Election Day had been preceded by more than a month of declarations that the race was close but essentially over. And that assessment held even after the late-October news that the Federal Bureau of Investigation was reviewing a new batch of emails related to Mrs. Clinton’s private server.
Mrs. Clinton’s victory would be “substantial but not overwhelming,” The Huffington Post had reported, after assuring its readers that “she’s got this.” That more or less comported with The New York Times’s Upshot projection early Tuesday evening that Mrs. Clinton was an 84 percent favorite to win the presidency.
And they were wrong. The exit polls tell the tale. Despite the percentage of white voters dropping to 70% of the electorate, below 2012's 72%, white voters pulled the lever for Trump by big margins.
Clinton's purported lead among college-educated whites evaporated 45-49% in favor of Trump, and among white voters without a degree, Clinton was destroyed 28-67%. She actually did have a slight lead among white women with degrees, 51-45%, but white men with degrees voted for Trump by a whopping 15 points, 39-54% in favor of The Donald.
But here's the other knife that Clinton didn't see coming:
Clinton *lost* white Millennials by five points, and Gen Xers by 18. Overall, Clinton did win Millennials 55-37%, but in 2012, Obama won them 67-30%.
Here's the thing: Clinton will end up winning the popular vote by millions, Trump might not actually get even to McCain's 60 million. But the electoral college means that Clinton ran up the score in states like California, Texas, Georgia and New York when she needed to run it up in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Florida.
Most of all where Dems got "Nadered" in Florida in 2000, the third party vote for Johnson and Stein in Arizona, Florida, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Michigan and Wisconsin was higher than Trump's margin of victory in any of those states.
That was the ball game.
Now comes the consequences.