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Opinion Kayleigh McEnany Watch: A ‘landslide’ is afoot!

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany at a rally in Hickory, N.C., on Sunday. (Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images)

Tenth in an occasional series on White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, to prove the impossibility of speaking for President Trump.

At one time, there would have been little peril for the spokesperson of a presidential candidate to hop on national television early on Election Day and predict a blowout victory. As did Kayleigh McEnany on Tuesday morning in an interview with Fox News’s Sandra Smith.

Asked about the Biden campaign’s statement that “under no scenario will Donald Trump be declared a victor on election night,” McEnany teed off: “I thought of Hillary Clinton, who appallingly said that under no circumstance should Joe Biden concede. Under every circumstance, our campaign believes that tonight will be a landslide,” said McEnany, who was introduced in her dual role as White House press secretary and senior adviser to the Trump 2020 campaign.

The roving spox was ready with some specifics, citing the work of the Trafalgar Group. “You have the Trafalgar poll — the only poll to show President Trump leading in Michigan in 2016 — saying that he will win by three points [in Michigan]. They have him up two points in Pennsylvania. We believe this will be a landslide.”

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As this profile in the New York Times points out: “In 2016, its first time publicly releasing polls, Trafalgar was the firm whose state surveys most effectively presaged Mr. Trump’s upset win. A veteran Republican strategist, [founder and chief pollster Robert] Cahaly even called the exact number of Electoral College votes that Mr. Trump and Hillary Clinton would receive — 306 to 227 — although his prediction of which states would get them there was just slightly off.” Trafalgar doesn’t release its methodology and has earned the stiff-arm of the mainstream media’s polling establishment, represented by the American Association of Polling and Opinion Research (AAPOR). (Fun fact: Fox News’s own polling outfit does reveal its methodology and has earned the full trust of AAPOR.)

Polling in 2016 erred in key Rust Belt battleground states, producing rosy predictions for Clinton. AAPOR examined the methodological problems that led to the faulty conclusions, with an oversampling of college graduates being a part of the skew. Pollsters have accordingly adjusted their models for the 2020 race.

Whether all this adjustment will produce more accurate data is an open question. The final analysis at FiveThirtyEight, for example, gives Trump a 1 in 10 shot at winning the presidency. It’s cautious about what will be known on election night: “Unless Trump or Biden has a really good night on Nov. 3, it’s pretty unlikely, though, that either of them will hit the 270 electoral votes needed to win by the end of the night.” The site gives Trump a less than 1 in 100 chance to win in a landslide.

Predicting a landslide against all evidence aligns, of course, with McEnany’s history as White House press secretary, as well as that of her predecessors. It pairs ominously with Trump’s warning to a Wisconsin audience back in August: “We have to win the election,” he said. “We can’t play games. Go out and vote. Do those beautiful absentee ballots, or just make sure your vote gets counted. Make sure because the only way we’re going to lose this election is if the election is rigged.” The president has been preparing his supporters for a “rigged” scenario, including evidence-free claims that mail-in ballots (necessitated by the coronavirus) would invite fraud. “Mail ballots are a very dangerous thing for this country, because they’re cheaters,” said Trump at an April press briefing, and he’s followed that falsehood with relentless Twitter blasts.

It’s against this baseless specter of mail-in voter fraud that McEnany drops her claim about an imminent landslide. Remember: Fox News viewers tend to believe what they hear on their favorite cable news network, a dynamic that the Erik Wemple Blog has gleaned firsthand and that surfaces in research on audience attitudes. McEnany knows that and surely understands the disconnect that’ll emerge in Trump land should her prediction misfire.

But why should she care? She chucked her credibility the moment she started representing Trump. And you know what? Even if Biden wins in a landslide, McEnany will find employment down the road. This permanent class of liars, after all, will always need unblinking spokespeople.

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