Iraq Must Face The Antichrist (Revelation 13)

Editor’s Note: This piece originally appeared on Markaz.
Author’s Note: I spent last week in Irbil, Iraq along with Michael Knights of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. We met with a wide range of senior Iraqi and Kurdish officials, as well as journalists, analysts, and academics. The trip included a visit to Kirkuk after the terrorist attack there on October 21, as well as time spent near the frontlines, observing Peshmerga military operations against the Islamic State (also known by its Arabic acronym, Da’esh) and discussing the campaign with U.S. and Kurdish military officers. This post describes my impression of events in Iraq, including political developments in Baghdad. A second post will describe my sense of developments in Iraqi Kurdistan.
Hard Fighting, but on Track
Militarily, the battle for Mosul appears to be going largely according to plan, so far. Coalition forces continue to push forward, tightening the noose around the city from multiple axes of advance. One of the big surprises was that Peshmerga and Iraqi army units have been cooperating remarkably well. Iraqi formations have conducted passages of lines through Peshmerga formations, and armor from the Iraqi Army 9th Mechanized Division has been supporting Kurdish attacks south of Irbil.
Da’esh forces are fighting back very hard and giving ground only reluctantly. In many cases, the Iraqis and Kurds have preferred to surround and besiege Da’esh-held towns rather than take the heavy casualties they would likely incur clearing them. It is worth noting that the evidence and analysis seems mixed as to whether Da’esh is withdrawing forces from Mosul to conserve them for the defense of Raqqa, or pushing reinforcements into Mosul to bleed the coalition and postpone (or even prevent) a coalition offensive against Raqqa.
Nevertheless, Da’esh has not been able to defeat or derail the offensive. Although it is impossible to know Da’esh intentions for certain, it seems most likely that the attack on Kirkuk on October 21 was a long-planned counterattack. Da’esh is famous for attempting horizontal retaliation—attacking somewhere else to compensate for a loss, like its assault on Ramadi after the coalition took Tikrit in 2015. The Kirkuk attack falls into that pattern. In addition, the attack was a complex one, involving agents that had been infiltrated into the city at least days, and probably weeks or months, beforehand coupled with a larger infiltration of fighters after the Mosul operation had started. While the attack was frightening, it was swiftly defeated and had no impact on the operation.
That said, there have been problems. For instance, on October 23, the Iraqi Army and Kurdish Peshmerga were meant to launch simultaneous attacks on Da’esh from supporting axes of advance, but the Iraqi army simply did not attack at all. It is unclear why, but they returned to the fight with brio the next day, possibly to make up to the Kurds for their prior day’s failure.
Of potentially greater significance, there are indications that the United States has too little air power in the region to meet all of its support requirements. On October 20, the United States did not provide any air support to Kurdish forces. Senior Kurdish officials were absolutely livid about this lapse. It is unclear why, but American personnel in the field complain that there simply are not enough airframes available. That may be particularly acute at present with Kurdish and Iraqi army forces advancing along at least five axes of attack. Because Kurdish and Iraqi forces have become dangerously dependent on American air strikes to advance, coalition air power appears to be pulled in too many directions to support too many operations, leaving too little for many sectors and none at all for some.
Nevertheless, there is every indication that the coalition forces will continue to advance and should be in jump-off positions for the assault on Tikrit itself in the next few weeks, with the attack on the city proper likely to commence soon thereafter.
Post-Liberation Plans Remain Mysterious
One of the more surprising, and depressing, aspects of the operation has been how little is known about any post-liberation plans for securing, governing, and rebuilding Mosul. None of the Kurdish parties, none of the other Iraqi groups slated to participate in the operation, not the Turks, nor the Shiite Hashd ash-Shaabi (Popular Mobilization Forces) are aware of any specific plans for this. They all insist that they have only been briefed in the most general terms and have not been asked to sign onto any detailed plans. The Kurds have agreed to keep their Peshmerga several kilometers back from the city and to leave the assault itself to the Iraqi security forces (ISF). The leaders of other groups who will participate in the operation have been given sectors to assault and guidance about what others will do to take the city, but nothing about what happens when the city is taken.
Of course, the U.S. government is not manned by complete idiots. American officials are well aware of the potential for problems in Mosul and therefore of the need for some kind of plan for how to handle the situation. Indeed, numerous reports indicate that while the United States may have started late, it has spent time and energy discussing this issue, including in conversations with its Iraqi and coalition partners. So I think it a mistake to assume that the Obama administration is simply ignoring this problem.
Instead, all of this strongly suggests that the United States has decided to allow the Iraqi government to take the lead on post-liberation Mosul and handle the situation however it sees fit. The United States would then simply keep all of the other Iraqi and regional actors either out of the attack or out of the business of running Mosul once Da’esh has been defeated there.
If this is the course of action that the United States has chosen to adopt, it has certain advantages. It is, obviously, the simplest solution for the United States to yet another thorny Iraq problem. It obviates the need for complex planning and complicated deal-making among the different groups intent on staking their claim to part or all of Mosul. It has the advantage of being legally sound, since the government of Iraq has sovereignty over the city. It is unquestionably what Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi wants, and since he and the Iraqi government are America’s primary allies, conforming to his preferences makes it unlikely that the will take actions to deliberately complicate the operation. Finally, it obviates the need for painful and time-consuming negotiations among a welter of competing groups that could have pushed off the start of the offensive for weeks or months. That would make it nearly impossible to liberate Mosul before President Obama leaves office, which may also have been an important political consideration for a president who campaigned on a platform of ending the Iraq war at all costs.
However, leaving post-Da’esh Mosul entirely in the hands of Baghdad and simply following its lead also entails considerable risks. The government of Iraq has shown only a very modest capacity to conduct such operations. At Tikrit, Ramadi, and Fallujah, the Iraqi government can claim a number of important achievements, but these were much smaller towns and there were as many problems as there were successes in these operations. The Iraqis have (hopefully) learned and will do better this time, but the scale of this operation—and the need to pursue ongoing operations elsewhere simultaneously—could swamp the capabilities of the central government.
Moreover, pursuing such an approach would also mean rolling the dice regarding various actors beyond the full control of the Iraqi government: the Hashd ash-Shaabi, Atheel al-Nujayfi’s Nineveh Guard, various Sunni tribes, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), the Turks. In the absence of an agreed-upon plan that gives all of these actors a well-defined mission and boundaries on their activities (both geographic and operational), they may choose to just grab whatever they can. Indeed, many expect that these groups will try to carve out sectors for themselves regardless of what the Iraqi government or the Americans say, and the danger is that this will turn into a violent free-for-all as different groups try to establish facts on the ground.
The apparent decision to simply follow Abadi’s lead and leave post-liberation Mosul to the Iraqi government raises the question of whether the Obama administration is repeating the same mistake it has in the past. From 2009 to 2014, the administration backed the government of Prime Minister Maliki to a far greater extent than the facts warranted. Throughout that period, U.S. officials endlessly defended his actions in public, and did little in private other than to urge restraint. These warnings typically had the same force as reminders to “please think of the environment before printing” at the bottom of emails.
The result was disastrous. Without any American pressure to change his behavior, Maliki subverted Iraq’s democracy, alienated the Sunni community, destroyed the Iraqi military, enabled the Da’esh conquest of northern Iraq, and drove the country back into civil war. Throughout, the Obama administration insisted that it was right and ignored warnings from a vast range of Iraqis, regional allies, coalition partners, and experts on Iraq. There is a disturbing sense that history may be repeating itself. While Abadi is a far cry from Maliki, with the best of intentions and some willingness to act on them, he has made mistakes and has a limited capacity to govern. At the most basic level, getting the stabilization and reconstruction of Mosul right is likely to be an enormously complex undertaking and any Iraqi government could doubtless benefit from external advice, assistance, and guidance—especially from the United States, the former occupying power who has done this many times in the past, both correctly and incorrectly. The mistakes made with Maliki should make clear the dangers of the United States uncritically backing an Iraqi prime minister who follows his own beliefs rather than what the historical record demonstrates is best warranted, no matter how much we may like him.
Crisis Averted in Baghdad, but another Brewing
Abadi himself appears to have been shaken by the most recent effort to bring down his government, but he also appears to have survived it and seems determined to win big at Mosul to ensure his re-election.
Over the summer, former Prime Minister Maliki engineered the forced resignations of Defense Minister Khaled al-Obeidi and Finance Minister Hoshyar Zebari. He had set his sights on Foreign Minister Ibrahim Jaafari next, and begun to create problems for Speaker of the Parliament Salim al-Jabouri. All expectations were that Maliki hoped to cause the fall of the government and so bring down Abadi, his former aide. Although Maliki may still be able get Jaafari dismissed and has effectively hobbled Jabouri to the point where he dare not oppose Maliki’s political moves, the word from Baghdad is that Abadi’s job is safe. The Obama administration made clear to all who would listen that they would pull their military support if Abadi were removed as prime minister, and that forced Abadi and his allies to back down. (It also demonstrated the revived influence of the United States.)
At this point, most Baghdad political elites believe that Maliki will continue to pursue these various leaders, but largely out of a desire for revenge: Many of them were key players in his removal from the premiership in 2014. Several Iraqi leaders told us that Maliki is telling people that he regrets having agreed to step down as prime minister in 2014. In contrast, he is also claiming that he does not want to be prime minister again, although he wants to be able to choose the next one. This may be true, but I would note that in 2014, Maliki endlessly told people (including myself) that he did not want to be prime minister again after the 2014 elections, only to fight ferociously to be re-elected.
The current consensus appears to be that Abadi will remain prime minister until the 2018 elections. There is considerable discussion of delaying the 2017 provincial elections until April 2018 to hold them simultaneous with the national/parliamentary elections. This may be to save money, or to prevent Abadi from suffering the same fate as Maliki, who won the 2009 provincial elections only to then lose the 2010 national elections.
Combining the two elections also means that it will be harder to predict ahead of time how various candidates will do in the national elections. In particular, there is tremendous uncertainty about political developments in southern Iraq over the past two years while Iraq’s security forces and the attention of its political leadership have shifted from south to north to deal with Da’esh. It is entirely possible that various parties tied to the worst of the Shiite Hashd ash-Shaabi will win big in southern Iraq.
Consequently, while it is still a very long way to the 2018 elections, especially in Iraqi political terms, the three front runners in the election at present are Prime Minister Abadi, former Prime Minister Maliki, and Hashd ash-Shaabi chief Hadi al-Ameri. What’s more, although Abadi is still the favorite at this time, al-Ameri appears to have a considerably better chance of winning that previously believed likely. Because his militias have gained power and economic influence in southern and eastern Iraq in the absence of the ISF, he could win very big there. Although al-Ameri has close ties to Iran and has presided over many of the Hashd ash-Shaabi’s worst activities, he is pragmatic and has shown a willingness to work with the United States, such that Washington may not try to block him if he won the election.
Meanwhile, although Abadi has survived Maliki’s bid to unseat him, he remains hamstrung in Baghdad. He has little ability to push legislation through the Maliki-controlled parliament, his inner circle is too small to effectively run the sclerotic Iraqi bureaucracy, and most of his former political allies have deserted him. In short, he needs help.
He got two boosts earlier this month. The first came in in the revival of the pan-Shiite Iraqi National Alliance and their decision to name Ammar al-Hakim of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq as its head. Ammar was infuriated by Abadi’s failure to consult with him before making several precipitous moves that would have affected ISCI’s standing and patronage—particularly Abadi’s attempt to dismiss his cabinet and name a new technocracy instead. However, Ammar remains a moderate, wary of both Maliki and the more extreme Hashd ash-Shaabi leaders, particularly Muqtada al-Sadr and Hadi al-Ameri, who abandoned ISCI to turn its Badr militia into an independent party of his own. This makes Ammar a natural ally of Abadi’s. Second, Mas’ud Barzani and the Kurdistan Democratic Party decided to back Abadi in Baghdad in return for Abadi starting negotiations over eventual Kurdish independence. I will discuss the latter development at greater length in my next blog post.
Strangely Calm and Optimistic in the Midst of Battle
Despite the fact that the climactic battle with Da’esh for control of Mosul has begun and is far from completion, and despite the fact that few actually know American and Iraqi intentions for stabilizing and rebuilding the city after its liberation, Iraq seems strangely calm and optimistic. Observers from the capital report the same. Abadi has survived Maliki’s (and Muqtada al-Sadr’s) various efforts to unseat him. There is confidence that the war against Da’esh will be won and the fighting itself—and the expectation of victory—appears to be distracting many Iraqis from their political and economic problems. But all of it smacks of a false dawn. A great many fear that the liberation of Mosul will devolve into nightmarish infighting among the victors, like the Afghans after the fall of Kabul in 1992.
Moreover, the hope that Abadi will be able to translate victory at Mosul into progress on governance and reform seems overly hopeful, even though we should all hope for it as best we can. Abadi’s political rivals seem determined to contest him for the glory (Hadi al-Ameri) or simply deny him any greater influence in Baghdad (Maliki). Moreover, if the Iraqi government proves unable to handle the situation in post-liberation Mosul and there is large-scale violence, let alone ethnic cleansing, far from benefitting from victory at Mosul, Abadi will be tarnished by post-liberation failures. All of this sets up a very uneasy 2017 for Iraq, a situation that can only be exacerbated by the uncertainty around a new American administration whose Iraq policy can barely be discerned, whichever candidate you believe may prevail next Tuesday.

Russia’s High Stakes Nuclear Games

Analysts at the Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency closely monitored a recent Russian nuclear forces exercise that was one of the largest strategic drills of its kind since the Soviet era.
The unannounced war games were called strategic operation of nuclear forces and took place between Oct. 10 and Oct. 12 throughout Russia. The exercises appear to be the latest round of nuclear saber-rattling against the United States by President Vladimir Putin.
One official said the exercises, involving numerous launches of nuclear missiles, were gauged to be at levels that reached or exceeded the kind of Soviet strategic force exercises held during the Cold War.
This resembled the days of the Soviet Union in both numbers and breadth of exercises,” said one official familiar with reports of the maneuvers.
The first test launch during the exercises was the firing of an SS-N-18 submarine-launched ballistic missile from a Delta III-class submarine in the Sea of Okhotsk in the Russian Far East. That launch was followed by the firing of a SSN-23 missile from the Barents Sea. Both carried multiple dummy warheads.
“This launch aimed to confirm the extended service life of operating intercontinental ballistic missiles of this type,” the Russian Defense Ministry said of the SS-25 launch in a statement reported by the official TASS news agency.
“The missile’s warhead hit the notional target with the required accuracy at the practice range on Kamchatka Peninsula,” the statement said.
Although not part of the main exercises, on Oct. 25 a fourth ICBM test launch was carried out using an SS-19.
A Pentagon spokesman had no comment on the Russian exercises.
Former Pentagon nuclear policymaker Mark Schneider said it was unusual for the Russians to hold the large-scale nuclear exercises without publicizing them first.
“There was clearly an unannounced major strategic nuclear exercise centered on the announced Oct. 11 launch of three strategic nuclear missiles,” Mr. Schneider said. “They only do this during major strategic nuclear exercises.”
Mr. Schneider said the secrecy surrounding the exercise may have been an attempt by Moscow to avoid impacting the final days of the U.S. presidential election. Additionally, the Russians also held exercises involving the nuclear-capable Iskander missile before the long-range nuclear missile test firings, he noted.
“Iskanders, reportedly with longer ranges, were deployed to Kaliningrad,” Mr. Schneider said. “If this was part of the larger strategic nuclear exercise, it would be unprecedented.”
“This is unprecedented since the end of the Soviet Union,” Mr. Schneider said. “After the election, I expect to see strong nuclear threats from Moscow aimed at getting its way on missile defense, sanctions and Russian domination of Eastern Europe.”
Meanwhile, the Omaha-based Strategic Command, the military command in charge of nuclear forces, announced this week that it conducted an international nuclear drill involving U.S., Canadian and British strategic forces.
Details of the exercise, known as Global Thunder 17, remain secret. The command said in a statement that the nine-day nuclear exercise ended Tuesday and was aimed at assessing operational readiness and validating “the command’s ability to identify and mitigate attacks across all of U.S. Stratcom’s mission areas,” the statement said.
The strategic threats addressed were not identified.
“The exercise, and those previously conducted, ensure the resilience, redundancy and survivability of U.S. strategic deterrent forces, stressing U.S. Stratcom’s capabilities provided to geographic combatant commanders during a crisis or contingency,” the statement said.
Turkey Terror Attacks Warning
“U.S. citizens should avoid travel to southeast Turkey and carefully consider the risks of travel to and throughout the country,” the department stated in an Oct. 29 notice.
The warning coincided with the decision to order the departure of family members of U.S. consulate employees in Istanbul.
“The Department of State made this decision based on security information indicating extremist groups are continuing aggressive efforts to attack U.S. citizens in areas of Istanbul where they reside or frequent,” the notice stated, adding that the departure order is limited to families of officials in Istanbul.
Under the current state of emergency imposed following an attempted military coup in July, along with new terrorist threats against cities in Turkey, the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has banned all demonstrations in the capital of Ankara until the end of the month.
“Foreign and U.S. tourists have been explicitly targeted by international and indigenous terrorist organizations in Turkey,” the notice says. “In the past year, extremists have carried out attacks in France, Belgium, Germany, Mali, Bangladesh, Tunisia and Turkey.”
New attacks in Turkey could be conducted at major events, tourist sites, restaurants, commercial centers, places of worship and transportation hubs, including aviation services, metros, buses, bridges, bus terminals and sea transport.
U.S. government personnel in Turkey are restricted from traveling to 16 southeastern provinces.
Among the recent acts of violence was the Aug. 20 suicide bombing in Gaziantep, the Sept. 12 bombing in Van and the potential for reprisal attacks due to continued Turkish military activity in Syria. As a result, Americans are being urged to avoid travel to large urban centers near the Syrian border.
Turkey recently closed its border with Syria, a heavily used transit way for foreign fighters looking to join Islamic State.
China Shows Off Stealth Fighter
The J-20s were a surprise at the air show and were not announced as part of the schedule, according to press reports from Zhuhai.
The Zhuhai air show featured an array of new military weapons and technology, part of China’s large-scale military buildup. Also shown were new assault vehicles, anti-aircraft missiles, drone aircraft and other fighter jets, including the J-10.
The Zhuhai show is a major propaganda operation by the Chinese government to show off its growing military might.
U.S. intelligence agencies since 2014 identified the J-20 as the major beneficiary of China’s cyberespionage operations against U.S. and Western defense firms.
U.S. defense officials said the cyberattacks against the F-35 jet took place since 2007 as part of what intelligence agencies code-named Byzantine Hades, a multiyear cybertheft program.
The Chinese military unit behind the intelligence coup was identified as People’s Liberation Army Technical Reconnaissance Bureau in the Chengdu province. The unit then supplied the F-35 secrets to the state-run Aviation Industry Corp. of China (AVIC), a subsidiary of the Chengdu Aircraft Industry Group.
Intelligence analysis of the J-20 revealed that several features of the F-35 were incorporated into China’s new radar-evading stealth jet, including its targeting system.
• Contact Bill Gertz on Twitter at @BillGertz

Authorities Expecting The Sixth Seal? (Rev 6:12)


US Raises Threat of Quake but Lowers Risk for Towers

New York Times
JULY 17, 2014
Here is another reason to buy a mega-million-dollar apartment in a Manhattan high-rise: Earthquake forecast maps for New York City that a federal agency issued on Thursday indicate “a slightly lower hazard for tall buildings than previously thought.”
The agency, the United States Geodetic Survey, tempered its latest quake prediction with a big caveat.
Federal seismologists based their projections of a lower hazard for tall buildings — “but still a hazard nonetheless,” they cautioned — on a lower likelihood of slow shaking from an earthquake occurring near the city, the type of shaking that typically causes more damage to taller structures.
“The tall buildings in Manhattan are not where you should be focusing,” said John Armbruster, a seismologist with the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University. “They resonate with long period waves. They are designed and engineered to ride out an earthquake. Where you should really be worried in New York City is the common brownstone and apartment building and buildings that are poorly maintained.”
Mr. Armbruster was not involved in the federal forecast, but was an author of an earlier study that suggested that “a pattern of subtle but active faults makes the risk of earthquakes to the New York City area substantially greater than formerly believed.”
He noted that barely a day goes by without a New York City building’s being declared unsafe, without an earthquake. “If you had 30, 40, 50 at one time, responders would be overloaded,” he said.
A well-maintained building would probably survive a magnitude 5 earthquake fairly well, he said. The last magnitude 5 earthquake in the city struck in 1884. Another is not necessarily inevitable; faults are more random and move more slowly than they do in, say, California. But he said the latest federal estimate was probably raised because of the magnitude of the Virginia quake.
“Could there be a magnitude 6 in New York?” Mr. Armbruster said. “In Virginia, in a 300 year history, 4.8 was the biggest, and then you have a 5.8. So in New York, I wouldn’t say a 6 is impossible.
Mr. Armbruster said the Geodetic Survey forecast would not affect his daily lifestyle. “I live in a wood-frame building with a brick chimney and I’m not alarmed sitting up at night worried about it,” he said. “But society’s leaders need to take some responsibility.

All The Nuclear Horns Are Catching Up (Daniel 8)

By JAMIE MCINTYRE • 11/3/16 12:41 PM
Defense Secretary Ash Carter delivered an impassioned defense of the Pentagon’s extensive and expensive program to rebuild all three legs of the U.S. nuclear triad, arguing America’s adversaries have been strengthening their nuclear capabilities, while the U.S. has allowed its arsenal to fall into disrepair.
Speaking at a change of command ceremony at U.S. Strategic Command at Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska, Carter called nuclear deterrence the bedrock of U.S. security, and said it would be a mistake to think spending less on nuclear weapons would prompt America’s foes to spend less as well.
“The evidence is to the contrary,” Carter said. “They have consistently invested in nuclear weapons during a quarter-century pause in U.S. investment.”
Carter said while the U.S. made only modest investments in maintaining its aging Cold War nuclear arsenal of land-based missiles, submarines and bombers, other countries were busy amassing formidable nuclear forces.
“While we didn’t build anything new for 25 years, and neither did our allies, others did — including Russia, North Korea, China, Pakistan, India, and for a period of time, Iran,” Carter said. “We can’t wait any longer.”
The Pentagon’s plan to rebuild its strategic forces is estimated to cost $1 trillion over 30 years, and includes replacing nuclear air-launched cruise missiles with long-range standoff weapon that can be delivered by a new stealthy B-21 bomber, a new ballistic submarine fleet to replace the Ohio-class subs, the Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent to replacing aging Minuteman ballistic missiles, and state-of-the-art nuclear command, control and communications systems.
Carter also acknowledged that the U.S. has also failed to properly appreciate and incentivize the people who carry out the nuclear deterrence mission, and Carter promised that underinvestment would be corrected as well.
“You deter large-scale nuclear attack against the United States and our allies,” Carter told the enlisted personnel gathered in a large hangar. “You help convince potential adversaries that they can’t escalate their way out of a failed conventional aggression. You assure our allies that our extended deterrence guarantees are credible.”

Scarlet Woman Continues To Hold Lead (Revelation 17)

New Polls Show Hillary Clinton Leading In Most Key States

Plenty of people seem ready to freak out, but the race remains as it was.
11/02/2016 09:31 pm ET

Political Twitter was a mess Wednesday afternoon, waiting for a single set of poll numbers. The highly respected Marquette University Law School Wisconsin pollcould have framed the day’s narrative about the state of the presidential race.
Had the Marquette poll shown Republican nominee Donald Trump leading, tied, or even just close to Hillary Clinton, the Democratic panic narrative might have taken over the day, despite a plethora of polls in other states. In part, that’s because Marquette is the gold standard Wisconsin poll. In part it’s because Wisconsin is one of several states Trump probably needs to win, and gains there might indicate a watershed of support breaking loose for the GOP nominee.
But the high anticipation was largely because the election is six days away, and everyone is ready to freak out about something. After all, that makes for good ratings, right?
Okay, it’s not just about ratings. The polls do show that some states are close. But the level of panic that threatened to ensue if one poll showed Trump up in one state was baffling ― especially considering the other high-quality polls out on Wednesday. It shows just how uncertain politicos think this election is.
Yet Clinton is in a better place than Barack Obama was at this point in 2012. In theHuffPost Pollster chart, Obama widened his lead to just 1.5 percentage points over Mitt Romney nationally ― but that was good enough for Simon Jackman’s HuffPost model and Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight model to give Obama a 91 percent chance of winning. Obama’s odds in the states were good enough that he was predicted to get 332 electoral votes (which is what he got).
Clinton is currently about 6 points ahead of Trump in the HuffPost Pollster national chart, and our predictions give her 341 electoral votes. Assuming the polls haven’t become fundamentally more error-prone than in 2012, a 98 percent certainty of her election makes sense ― especially when compared with Obama’s 91 percent certainty with only a fraction of that lead. Maybe there are reasons to think 2016 is more uncertain than 2012 was; it certainly has been an unconventional year. But we’re trusting that pollsters have captured opinions reasonably well on average.
And even if you don’t listen to reason and want to freak out about polling numbers, Wisconsin is not the state to freak out about. No poll on the HuffPost Pollster chart has ever shown Trump leading in Packerland. Marquette didn’t change that trend on Wednesday ― the poll showed Clinton leading by 6 points. The pollsters did note some effects from Friday’s FBI announcement about more emails pertinent to Clinton’s private server, but she had a strong enough lead that those effects didn’t change the outcome.
That’s looking like the case in most states, although a couple could flip to Trump. But not enough to change the outline of the race.
New polls from CNN/ORC in four states started the day on a mixed note for Clinton. Two of those showed Trump leading by 6 points in Nevada, and by 5 points in Arizona. Both are more pro-Trump than most other recent polls have been in those states, but Arizona is a traditionally red state, and Trump’s lead in Nevada has wavered back and forth a few times this year. CNN/ORC showed Clinton up 2 points in Florida, and by 4 points in Pennsylvania ― both well in line with recent trends.
Quinnipiac University released a set of four polls Wednesday afternoon, giving Clinton the edge by 1 point in Florida, 3 points in North Carolina, and 4 points in Pennsylvania. The only bad news for Clinton in that set: She trails by 5 points in Ohio.
So, even without Marquette, it would have been a decent day for Clinton ― nothing to imply that the race had dramatically turned toward Trump, which would have to happen soon if Trump is to win. The race remains as it was: Clinton is leading, with a very strong chance of winning. Could there be an upset? Sure. But the polls indicate a solid Clinton lead, and I see no reason to think they’re all wrong.