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Your 2016 election survival guide

It has been 589 days since this presidential campaign began. We have seven full days, we hope, until it’s over.

Here’s a guide to help us all survive this one last week with a maximum of sanity and a minimum of pain.

Who and what will decide this election?

Some point to white women. Others look to Hispanics. We look at the decisive factors next Tuesday a little differently. We see three things that might be decisive.

One is a question of where, not who. The suburbs may control this election. That’s where population is growing, as rural America is contracting. And suburban voters represent a mixed political group: often educated, religious and tuned in to the economy and education both.

Men. Women have represented a majority of the vote since 1984 and also seem to represent a disproportionate amount of undecided voters this year. So this next point may seem counterintuitive. But we have noticed that in the past week, polls in some key states, like Nevada, have shown men changing their minds in large numbers. It’s a gender shift that could matter.

Donald Trump and Voter Mobility. Trump himself could remain one of the largest factors in this election, especially if he diverts from the very focused message he had in Pennsylvania today. But an equal factor, of course, is voter turnout. Will the Clinton campaign wow in the way the Obama team did? If so you could add 4-6 points to the polls. If not, it could be close. Other question: Will Trump suppress her voters and get his out?

For the undecided and those who love them

Still wondering how to vote and if to vote? We investigated advice from a variety of sources: Confucius, business success Richard Branson and even self-help guru Tony Robbins. Here are a few rules and questions that might help:

  • Which candidate would you want as your boss? Or coworker? Forget the “get a beer” question. We are not voting for a best friend. And neither Trump nor Clinton are big drinkers.
  • What do you want for the country in the long run? Presidents affect not just short-term policy. They all shift the long-term direction of the country.
  • Try to weigh emotion and reason. Yes, you may *hate,* *really hate,* a certain candidate, but take a step back and try to think past that. This also may help lower your blood pressure.
  • Be virtuous, wise and fair. Confucius cherished all three strengths. In this election, voter virtue may mean a simple idea: Go with your gut and try not to be influenced too heavily by ads and mail.
  • Take a day (or four or five) off from thinking about this. You know these candidates. You have the information you need. Give your brain a break and then walk in and do what you think is best.

Let’s step away from the election a minute

These are things we hope add to your general happiness.

What might affect people the most quickly

The races for president and Congress get the most attention. But the most direct decisions voters make, and the decisions which may affect them most directly, are on ballot measures. Our Ellis Kim put together this cheat sheet for you.

There are 163 ballot measures being considered this election cycle. But five issues stand out across the country.

  • Marijuana legalization: Five states — Arizona, California, Maine, Nevada, and Massachusetts– could legalize recreational marijuana this year, with four other states mulling over legalizing medical pot.
  • Gun control: Four states have gun-related measures on the ballot this year. Maine and Nevada will vote on background checks; Washington will vote on a provision allowing courts to issue “extreme risk protection” orders that would block certain individuals from possessing firearms; and California, the country’s most gun-restrictive state, is considering a ballot measure that would limit ammunition and ban high-capacity magazines.
  • Minimum wage: Maine, Arizona, Colorado and Washington are all considering gradual increases to their state minimum wages. One state, South Dakota, will vote on lowering the wage floor for some teenage workers.
  • Death penalty: In California, liberal activists and Silicon Valley executives are squaring off against pro-death penalty law enforcement groups, as the state considers two competing measures over capital punishment. One would repeal the death penalty, and the other would accelerate the process for executions. Meanwhile, Nebraskans are voting on whether to reinstate the practice, while Oklahomans will consider a measure that would double down on it.
  • Health care (in Colorado): OK, so this one really only applies to Colorado, where mail-in balloting is already underway. But next week, Coloradans will weigh in on whether to adopt ColoradoCare, what could be the country’s first single-payer healthcare plan. Worth watching.

We need a laugh

We want your best 2016 jokes. Anything political, and anything elections-related especially. Email us at NewsHourPolitics@newshour.org with the subject line “2016 jokes.” And no, “this election” or “candidate name here” will not be accepted as jokes in of themselves. We expect our readers to be at least more clever than that.

Emergency kit for presidential candidates

To all candidates out there. We know you can win. We know you are sure you will win. But just in case you do not win, we have something for you. Here’s a guide to the history of the concession speech, reflecting in particular on this year’s dynamics.

Ellis Kim and Daniel Bush contributed reporting.

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