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‘Death and taxes’ shake presidential prediction

'Roske on Politics' host walks back prediction after Ginsburg death, Trump tax report

After his first sign was stolen, Mike Johnson of Creston made a giant ballot showing his support for Republican candidates Donald Trump, Joni Ernst and David Young.
After his first sign was stolen, Mike Johnson of Creston made a giant ballot showing his support for Republican candidates Donald Trump, Joni Ernst and David Young.

During an “Iowa Live” appearance, political strategist Brent Roske appeared confident in predicting a winner of the 2020 election – Donald Trump. That has since changed.

Four years ago, Roske was in the 1% of political analysts to call the 2016 election for Trump despite national polls and major media outlets anticipating Hillary Clinton as the winner.

Roske said at the time, 99% of political analysts “got it wrong.” He said, in 2016, The Princeton Election Consortium gave Clinton a 99% chance of winning, Huffington Post gave 98%, PredictWise, 89%, and the New York Times, 85%.

“Even FiveThirtyEight. FiveThirtyEight uses what they call sabermetrics, which is the stats used in money ball. Even they gave her a 71% chance of winning (the 2016 election),” he said. “I heard it from a lot of folks, like, ‘What are you doing? I think you’re wrong about this.’”

In an interview with the Creston News Advertiser Tuesday morning, Roske said he based his 2016 prediction on specific polling out of the west coast that followed the same group of people.

“I thought that was interesting because you could really see how the election was changing and how different events were swaying people,” he said.

Roske, who hosts the show “Roske on Politics,” said his 2016 prediction was also based on his face-to-face interaction with voters.

“With the TV show I certainly get treated like the Iowa political bartender, if you will. If they do happen to recognize me from the program, they’ll come up and whisper, ‘You know what I really think ... .’ It happens all the time,” he said.

Roske said there was a wave of “Secret Trumpers” in 2016 that he thought were a really strong base of support. As he followed the polling, he also noticed a steady developing interest for Trump.

“I thought that was really powerful,” he said.


Many of the same factors of the 2016 elections are presenting themselves in the 2020 race for the presidency, he said.

“What I have found puzzling is that the Democrats don’t seem to be pivoting toward the 4 to 6% that is movable,” said Roske.

For Roske, the Democrats’ platform of running on “decency’ is weak.

“I don’t know how that affects the middle class person’s life that has bills and tax bills and mortgages,” he said. “I don’t know how running on decency has anything to do with working 60 hours a week instead of 40 because you need the overtime to make your electricity bill this month. That’s what I think is missing.”

Roske said many Democrats were also offended when Biden announced he was going to pick a woman of color to be his vice president.

“How about, ‘I’m going to pick the most qualified person,’” said Roske. “I don’t want to vote for color or gender. I want to vote for the most qualified person.’


On the Iowa Live segment, which aired Sept. 19, Roske predicted Trump would win with 291 electoral votes and Biden with 247. However, as of Tuesday, he is back tracking.

“The headline for this, ‘I’m walking my prediction back a little bit,’” Roske said. “Since then, Justice Ginsburg did pass away and now the New York Times tax news. I think that will shake things up a little bit. I really do.”

Roske said the death of Ginsburg has inspired an influx of donations for the Democratic party, which gives them more face-time and air time with potential voters.

“That’s definitely helping Democrats right now as we know Trump has now pulled himself off Iowa TV now, which is surprising to me. He had a huge cash advantage months ago and is now in a deficit ... ,” Roske said.

Roske said he finds the New York Times report claiming Trump only paid $750 in taxes in 2016 and 2017 interesting.

During Trump’s 2016 campaign, he promised to release his tax return information then did not, breaking a 40-year precedent of candidates for the presidency doing so. Once the records were obtained, they showed that Trump “paid no income taxes at all in 10 of the previous 15 years –álargely because he reported losing much more money than he made” and he was in a” decade-long audit battle” with the Internal Revenue Services over whether or not a $72.9 million tax refund that Trump “claimed and received after declaring huge losses” was legitimate.

“You’re definitely going to have people who are adverse to big government, which he obviously is and that is his base of support,” Roske said of Trump. “So you’re going to have people saying, ‘Yeah. He really stuck it to ‘em and they shouldn’t be taking that much.’ But you are also going to have folks who don’t have any choice but to work a job to earn money and to pay taxes because they can’t afford high powered lawyers or accountants to get them out of stuff with questionable practices. And, you know, I don’t know if people can say if what he did is illegal or not, but we can all say it’s questionable. And those folks represent the 4 to 6% that are still swayable in this election.”

Roske said for some, the revelations of Trump’s tax returns may appear to reduce his presidency to “a giant shell game” with the most value placed on “his gold embossed name on whatever he is selling.”

“That doesn’t sit well with people who are literally just trying to create an honest job, create an honest career, honest income in the parameters that have been set,” Roske said.

As of Tuesday morning, Roske said he believed the race between Biden and Trump was becoming closer.

“I think both of them have a harder path to 270 right now,” he said. “I was more confident before the tax thing and before Ginsburg and now again, it’s in that dangerous spot where it’s too close to call.”

However, after Tuesday night’s presidential debate, Roske said Trump’s refusal to condemn white supremacy is a disgrace to the office of the Presidency.

“He also put other Republicans in a tough spot as they will now have to answer if they themselves feel the same way. I think this, along with the recent news of Trump’s large debt and shell game finances, pushes the election toward Biden,” Roske said.

Last night, news broke that Trump and his wife Melania tested positive for COVID-19 after spending the bulk of 2020 facing criticism over his response to the global pandemic. Despite the news, Roske said it could actually help Trump in the election, pointing out Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s popularity bump after contracting the virus.

“Catching COVID may just help Trump in the election if people can look past the fact that he’s done everything he can to catch it, including asking journalists to take off their masks when around him,” said Roske. “If he, in fact, has COVID and stays asymptomatic, it will embolden people to ignore safety precautions. Take away is that we’ll all be watching even more closely his daily health as it has a direct impact on the election, national security and the path this country takes on its ongoing pandemic response.”

Roske said, as the “pearl clutching” continues, it’s important for voters to remember that 95% of what they are angry about has been designed by someone whose job it is to make them upset.

“It’s so manufactured on both sides,” he said. “I think it’s really going to test the threads of this country and I look toward the veterans and new comers of both parties to look to country before party first.”

Roske on Politics

This Sunday, Roske will interview candidates for Iowa’s 3rd District – David Young and his opponent, incumbent Cindy Axne. In the following weeks, Roske will interview leaders of the Iowa Black Lives Matter movement, Sen. Joni Ernst, Mike Franken, J.D. Scholten, Sec. of State Paul Pate and is working on bringing back former guest President Trump and Joe Biden.

Roske’s Emmy nominated program ‘Roske on Politics’, returns to ABC5 9 a.m. Sunday directly after ‘This Week with George Stephanopoulos.’ For more, visit

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