It is the political math driving Campaign 2016: Anger + Anxiety = Unpredictability.
Focus on the horse race numbers and you will see, in that snapshot of the moment, that Donald Trump is losing ground, and that a Joe Biden campaign could make Bernie Sanders more competitive.
Look deeper, though, and you get a better sense of the remarkable voter mood that is driving the surprising twists and turns the presidential race is taking in its early months.
The new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, released Monday, is worth a deep read in this regard.
Why are voters looking for something – and someone – different?
Sixty-two percent of Americans believe the country is on the wrong track. Just 30% expressed the belief the country is headed in the right direction.
If that isn’t bleak enough, consider this: it has been 11 years since “right track” had a higher number than “wrong track” in the NBC/WSJ data.
Eleven years. As in the mid-point of the George W. Bush presidency. That’s a recipe for restlessness.
In another series of questions aimed at getting a better sense of voter sentiment, the NBC/Wall Street Journal survey asked respondents which of these statements better described their mood:
“I feel angry because our political system seems to only be working for the insiders with money and power, like those on Wall Street or in Washington, rather than it working to help everyday people get ahead.”
“I feel anxious and uncertain because the economy still feels rocky and unpredictable so I worry about paying my bills, day to day living costs, and whether I can count on my own situation being stable.”
- Anger at the political system: 44%
- Anxious and uncertain: 28%
- Both: 8%
- Neither: 20%
The math there is eye-opening: 80% of Americans describe themselves as angry at a political system they see as rigged against them, anxious about the economy and their financial future, or both.
Liberals and conservatives may not seem to agree on much, but you cant get to 80% without adding in a lot of Democrats, Republicans and independents.
The anger, anxiety and clamoring for change – someone and something different – runs deep, and across the political spectrum.