“There’s going to be a lot of Brexit happening in about two weeks” is a sentence you wouldn’t normally expect to hear from a candidate campaigning in Orlando, Florida. But with the polls looking grimmer by the day for Donald Trump, he’s been looking to last June’s anti-EU vote by the British public as a glimmer of hope.* Nigel Farage, former leader of the Brexit-backing U.K. Independence Party and a Trump supporter, has been traveling around the U.S. pushing this line as well, arguing that in both cases, polls undercounted fed-up voters who don’t normally participate in the political process, lulling elites into a false sense of politics.
The analogy, as Nate Silver, Byron York and others have pointed out, is a bad one. The average of polls heading into the Brexit vote showed “Remain” and “Leave” within one point of each other. Remain supporters may have had a false sense of confidence based on the status quo, but any informed observer should have concluded that there was at least a strong possibility of “Leave” winning. A Trump victory is also not impossible, but it would be a vastly bigger upset.
Brexit was actually a theme of the Trump campaign before he acknowledged that the polls weren’t going his way. After the vote, Trump said it was a “great thing” that the U.K. has “taken its country back,” and he has made some hay of the similarities between his campaign and Brexit, such as a focus on unfair competition from foreign workers and the anti-immigration stance. Trump sometimes seemed a little fuzzy on the details, such as when he arrived in Scotland tweeting that the “Place is going wild over the vote,” apparently unaware that Scotland had voted overwhelmingly for “Remain.” But clearly he sees Brexit’s passage as a beacon and sliver of hope for his campaign.
Like many of Trump’s shiny toys, though, the invocations of Brexit work best as applause lines when you don’t look too closely as the details. Brexit’s backers promised voters a lot, but to put it in terms Trump would understand, so far it looks like it’s going to be a complete disaster and one of the worst deals ever.
Correction, Oct. 26, 2016: Due to an editing error, this post originally referred to the Brexit referendum as an anti-U.N. vote. It was an anti-EU vote.