Let’s call it like we see it: this has been an awful, no-good, terrible week for Hillary Clinton and her campaign. Everything that could have gone wrong has done so.
First of all, Mr. Trump found a little bit of discipline; actually, Kellyanne Conway found it for him. Second, the issue of Hillary’s health has flared up in a big way. Third, a tightening of national polls has begun to reflect in state polls as well.
So what does this mean? It could mean we’ve entered a new phase of the campaign where Mr. Trump is competitive, or it could mean that (like a few times before) Mr. Trump is peaking for a short period of time.
Donald J. Trump and “discipline” are not things that frequently intertwine. He’s had a rough go of it. It’s no secret that I’m no Trump voter, but when Kellyanne Conway was brought on board I said that it was the best move his campaign had ever made…ever…in the entirety of the election cycle. She provides a steady and experienced hand when it comes to dealing with the media, unlike Katrina Pierson/Scottie Hughes/Boris Epshteyn/Michael Cohen. She’s also done her damnedest to chain him to a teleprompter, and for good reason. When Donald Trump is reading the words of other people, he comes across as a better candidate. It’s when he speaks for himself that things go to hell.
Hillary’s health is a phenomenon now. It has taken on a life of its own. Reporters were camped outside in New York, waiting on the next word about her campaign schedule. Do you know whose fault it is? Hillary Clinton’s. Not a single person other than the candidate is to blame. She is so guarded, and so accustomed to parsing, hiding, and lying, that she can’t tell a single, harmless truth.
If the campaign would’ve simply told the nation about her pneumonia, there would’ve been rumblings about her health, but it wouldn’t have added to the plethora of conspiracy theories about “hiding something” or “secret problems” or a “body double” (which, by the way, is utter nonsense from people who are too blinded for their own good). This is the fundamental problem with Ms. Clinton, and what makes her such an awful candidate: she chooses complicated fabrications over simple truths. If she were a more upfront and honest candidate, she’d be winning going away.
Now take a breath and let’s talk about polling. Trump supporters do not believe any polls, ever, at all– until he’s in the lead. Then, somehow, they’re magically believable. Keep this in mind: national polls have not been wrong since 1948, and no candidate who was leading after conventions has ultimately lost. Poll truthers won’t like that, but disliking something doesn’t make it untrue. I genuinely believe that Donald Trump has made meaningful gains on Ms. Clinton.
Instead of being down 7-10 points, I believe he’s within 1-3 points. Let’s be clear though: Mr. Trump is NOT getting more popular; Ms. Clinton is getting less popular. That’s a dangerous spot to be in for the Trump campaign. Ms. Clinton can regain those voters back with a good week or two. Mr. Trump, however, can’t seem to break through his constant ceiling. I’ve been preaching for months about four states to keep an eye on: Colorado, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and New Hampshire.
If Ms. Clinton holds those four, it’s a done deal. Game over. She can lose Iowa, Nevada, Florida, North Carolina, Maine-2, Arizona, and Ohio (!!!) and still win. In that scenario, she wins 272-266 in the Electoral College. That’s quite a firewall. CO, VA, NH, PA… remember those. They equal a Clinton win. September is the first month that has felt like a Trump was actually possible; but when you start looking at the bottom-line numbers, it still seems like a steep hill to climb. The map is in her favor; the question is, is she a bad enough candidate to let it slip through her hands?
Notice the one thing I did not mention: Ms. Clinton’s comment about “deplorables.” I don’t include that in her bad week, because I don’t think it hurts her in the long-run. She overstated the number of Trump supporters who fall into that “basket”, but just yesterday the New York Times released a poll of what Trump supporters believe. Included in those numbers, was the belief held by 20% (one-in-five!!!) that Abraham Lincoln’s order to free the slaves was not something they agreed with. One out of every five. Let that sink it. Those were just the ones comfortable saying it!
When you refuse to call one of the most prominent 20th century Klan leaders “deplorable”, you don’t make a good case for yourself (*cough* Mike Pence *cough*). I do not believe that the Trump campaign wants to get into a back-and-forth about which candidate has made more offensive statements than the other. Hispanics, women, Muslims, POWs, John McCain, Ted Cruz’s wife, Carly Fiorina’s face, Ben Carson’s Mother, American military generals, foreign diplomats, any news network that criticizes him, any senator who hasn’t endorsed him, George W. Bush and the Bush family, national security leaders, etc. I could go on and on. Donald Trump is the king of offensive statements. His supporters seem more than willing to look past that, until it’s directed at them.
Are we in a different place in this race than we were a month ago? Absolutely. Does Mr. Trump have a much greater chance of winning than he did before? I willingly admit that he does. Have we arrived at a place where he’s risen enough to overcome everything working against him? Not yet. Just think: after this awful, no-good, terrible week, and adjusting the map for her worst-case scenario, Ms. Clinton likely still has enough electoral votes to win. Once again, we’re reminded that Ms. Clinton is an awful candidate and does not deserve the presidency; but she’s running against the only person who could still hand it to her.