BEWARE: Early Voting

The media are hungry for predictions ahead of midterms, and they have their sights set on early voting. But as we’ve warned (here and here), making a prediction leads nowhere good. The safe play is to answer the prediction question by pivoting to what’s more important.

Here’s what we mean:

Q: Voter turnout for early voting is high at 8.1 million and counting, with more Republicans casting ballots than Democrats. Does this mean the “blue wave” is receding?

A: “The high voter turnout is interesting, but it’s too early to make a prediction about results and the “blue wave.” No matter which party controls Congress post-midterms, the issue we need to focus on is <insert talking point>.”

Acknowledge the high voter turnout but refuse to make a prediction. The more substantive answer will pivot to a pressing policy issue. And if they push you to make a prediction, push back by explaining that early voting numbers don’t give us the data we need to make an accurate prediction. Sure, it’s interesting that a lot of people have turned out, and that a larger number of Republicans have cast votes, but there is no guarantee that a registered Republican voted for Republicans.

EXCEPTION: If you’re working on a campaign, you have to predict that your candidate will win. No matter how unlikely it seems, a victory is always the right (and expected) prediction.

B²: And the winner is…!

14 days and this whole crazy season comes to (or should come to) a close.

We wrote in January about how to B² (block and bridge) prediction questions in reference to the primaries and protecting your tax status. That advice still applies, just replace “primary” with “general” and go forth.

But the next two weeks promise news reports, headlines, and tweets that will complicate the narrative. It’s not just about “who do you think will win on November 8th,” but also rigged elections, phony polls to suppress voter turnout, and Trump’s claim that he will accept the election results if he wins.

Not only do you need to be careful of predicting the winner, but you have to take into account all the crazy too. Get ready.

Good thing it’s Tuesday, B² day.

Here is this week’s likely media question and the B² (block and bridge) that sets the narrative straight:

Q: “With polls pointing to a victory for Hillary, is there a way forward for Donald Trump?”

B²: “Voters will decide the outcome in a couple weeks. But regardless of who wins the presidency, or what political party wins the majority in Congress, an issue that will be of immediate concern is <insert talking point>.”

Wherever you take the conversation next, don’t give additional air time to predictions or unsubstantiated claims. That isn’t your business, and you risk burying your message. Let pundits hash out the polls and conspiracy theories. You stick to your message and talk policy.

NOTE: This advice also applies to down-ballot races.

B²: Predicting 2016

Welcome to 2016! Not only is it a brand new year, but we’ve officially entered election season. Whether the days and months leading up to November 8th seem exciting or torturous (or a little of both), the flurry of campaigning, debating, and primary voting can easily change the focus of media questions, specifically in reference to predicting an election or two.

Here’s a potential New Year’s resolution – Don’t predict the future unless you’re a pollster!

Many have tried and failed (i.e. all the pundits who’ve said “Donald Trump’s campaign is over” in the past 6 months…and yet he remains in the race). Since there is very little room for you to succeed if you do make a prediction, it’s best to err on the side of caution and redirect to policy…especially if you work for a non profit.

Do you know how to respond to prediction-making questions AND keep your tax status in check?

Good thing it’s Tuesday, B² day.

Here’s this week’s likely media question and the B² (block and bridge) that sets the narrative straight:

Q: “Do you think Donald Trump will win the primary?”

B²: “That’s for the voters to decide, but whoever wins the ultimate prize on Nov. 8th will have to deal with <insert policy talking point>.”

If you don’t make a prediction, you can’t be added to the now-long list of people proven wrong. And if you work for a non profit, you’re actually prohibited from supporting a candidate – a worthy excuse to use to your advantage with reporters. Instead, focus on policy. You’ll be able to give a more substantive answer and highlight the issue you most want the media to cover. Whoever occupies the White House will need good solutions, so give him/her a few. In the end, it’s a win-win.