Nate Silver Projects An Election Result That Should Leave You Frightened — But Not Surprised

Are you getting anxious as the 2015 presidential campaign season rolls along? Feeling that anxiety tip upwards, as you either mull whether Donald Trump has the comeback potential, or whether Hillary Clinton has enough of a lead to ride on to victory? Or are you feeling pretty comfortable that the race is already over and done with, with little to no threat of a Trump win? Well, polling guru Nate Silver's latest projection shows a "highly competitive" race, or that's how he's characterizing it, at least. How'd you feel now?

Make no mistake, if you're a Clinton supporter (or even merely a Trump opponent), it's not as though the picture is looking dire right now. Clinton still leads in the polls, and had an edge in terms of her numbers in pivotal battleground states. That's reflected by FiveThirtyEight's current projection — their polls-only forecast gives her a 66.8 percent change of winning in November, while their polls-plus projection (which factors in economic conditions) gives her a 65.3 percent chance.

But comfort is a matter of perspective. At the same time as Clinton is solidly favored to win, even with the recent tightening in the polls, it doesn't sounds quite so reassuring when you put it this way: as of now, according to FiveThirtyEight's model, Trump has about a one-in-three chance to become our next president.

It's worth noting, however, that this isn't the tightest the 2016 race has been according to the FiveThirtyEight model, and not by a long shot. That came back in July — at the end of July, to be specific — when Trump actually inched above Clinton to become the probable winner by the narrowest of margins. On July 30, their polls-only model gave Trump a 50.2 percent chance of taking the White House, a moment with hung in the air and stuck in the throats of countless political progressives.

There's no doubt that Trump's polls are in the midst of an upswing, however, and that's going to strike a little concern into the hearts of Clinton supporters. It's worth noting, however, that given the sky-high levels of political polarization in America today, Clinton's high-water mark (she briefly maintained a double-digit lead in the polls) was always very unlikely to hold all the way to November. As such, it was basically assured that at some point, the numbers would tighten, and people would start to panic — assuming you're not a Trump supporter, that is. In that case, you're definitely cheering this positive momentum.

The Clinton campaign itself has plainly understood this dynamic for weeks, too — even when they were riding high, they were warning their supporters not to get complacent, fearful of an easing-off on the gas pedal that could give Trump an opening. Of course, the next big chance for one candidate or the other to reshape the polls is the first presidential debate — that's scheduled for Monday, Sept. 26.

Image: FiveThirtyEight