Opinion writer


The Trump-can-really-win-this-thing chorus is once again at full blast, due to a confluence of new factors: Hillary Clinton’s health scare and botched mishandling of it; the supposed “deplorables” gaffe; a new poll showing Trump ahead in Ohio; and evidence of seemingly lackluster enthusiasm among core groups in the Obama coalition.

Yes, Trump can really win. This is not a courageous or difficult thing to say. No matter how many times people pretend otherwise, Democrats have long predicted and prepared for a very close finish in the battleground states.

I’ve already tried to offer my guide on how not to lose your mind in the race’s final stretch. But here’s something better than my offering. Former Obama adviser David Plouffe — who is one of the architects of that vaunted “Obama coalition” — gave an important interview to Chuck Todd last night that I think deserves more attention.

In essence, Plouffe stated flatly that he thinks Clinton is already very close to winning, because (in his view) Virginia, Colorado, and Pennsylvania are already out of reach for Trump. As Plouffe puts it, this would require Trump to pull off a miraculous string of victories in many battlegrounds — including Ohio and Florida, but also in many others — to win. As Plouffe notes, given all of this, Trump would need historically high Republican turnout and historically low Democratic turnout — and to do better than he currently is among moderates — to win. “I don’t see any evidence of that happening,” Plouffe said. “This comes down to, where is Trump going to pick up ground?”

Then Plouffe said:

“The biggest challenge she’s gonna have is turnout. I think they’ll get there. I really do. But if you look at swing voters — there’s a few more than there are normally — Trump’s not offering them much. He’s got to pull a bunch of people who voted for Obama twice. I think there’s going to be very few of those people around the country.”

Asked what Clinton should be doing to energize African Americans and Latinos, Plouffe expanded on the above point this way:

“Polling is very flawed. Obviously the campaign doesn’t have polling. It’s got massive data samples that then you model. When you allocate out 100 percent of the people who are going to vote, what matters is, how’s the whole electorate going to be allocated. Traditionally Democrats break a little bit later. We certainly saw that in our race. So if you allocate the entire African American and Latino  and younger vote, as it’s likely to perform, she’s in better shape. She’s got to make a passionate case, and I think she will.”

“Every day is an opportunity, and I think the debates are going to be huge.”

In other words, what will ultimately decide the race is the composition of the electorate, and if Clinton takes the necessary steps to make sure turnout performs as it should, given what we’ve seen in the last two elections, she will win. It’s true that one of the big questions has been whether the Obama coalition will turn out for Clinton in 2016 at 2012 levels. It’s also true that there are signs of lagging enthusiasm among millennial voters and among Latinos. But if Clinton and her campaign do what they need to do — and all indications are that they have been preparing for this assiduously for many months — the electorate’s composition is still more likely than not to be where she needs it to be.

Indeed, while the Clinton campaign probably regrets Clinton’s claim that “half” of Trump’s supporters are “deplorables,” my bet is that Clinton advisers are deliberately trying to convert this into an extended national debate over Trump’s bigotry and racist campaign in order to help generate the electorate they need. As best as I can determine, most people in Obamaworld feel pretty good about where things are.

Of course, the debates really are going to be huge, and that means that we’re at a consequential point right now. The big unknowns at this moment are how long Clinton is going to take to recover; when she will get back out on the trail; and perhaps most important, whether after her return she will remain healthy enough to turn in the debate performance that she needs to. It’s already been widely documented that Clinton might have gotten sicker than expected because she pushed herself far harder than she should have at a very critical moment. Hopefully that won’t happen again, and she’ll take the recovery time necessary to avoid a backslide going into that all-important debate. A lot is riding on getting this right.


* REPUBLICANS DON’T WANT FIGHT OVER ‘DEPLORABLES’: The New York Times reports that multiple Republicans are rebuffing Mike Pence’s request that they join Trump’s attack on Clinton over her “deplorables” remark:

That distance was on display when Congressional Republicans refrained from echoing Mr. Trump’s indictment of Mrs. Clinton over her saying that half his supporters were bigots, sexists and homophobes. Few Republicans want to confront thorny follow-up questions about Mr. Trump’s supporters, and fewer still want to make matters of race, gender and sexual orientation central to their campaigns.

As I’ve noted, the battle over “deplorables” is forcing a national debate about the GOP nominee’s racist campaign. Apparently it’s one Republicans don’t want.

* TRUMP LEADS IN OHIO BY FIVE POINTS, POLL SAYS: A new Bloomberg Politics poll finds Trump leading Clinton by 48-43 among likely voters in Ohio. The poll was taken Friday through Monday, right when the news of “deplorables” and her illness hit. So either this is a momentary fluctuation, an outlier, or possibly, a harbinger of more polls to come showing Trump up.

Keep an eye on the polling averages, which show Clinton up either by 1.9 points or by 2.5 points, depending on who is doing the averaging.

* HOW TO READ THE OHIO POLLING: Make sure to read this whole tweetstorm from analyst Kyle Kondik, who points out that the Bloomberg Ohio poll’s likely voter screen produced an electorate that looks like the one in 2004, per the pollster’s own admission. As  Kondik notes, it’s likely that the 2016 electorate will not actually look like that.

But nonetheless, that poll could still be showing responses to pollster that illustrate that Dem enthusiasm is down, which could matter. Of course, that might also reflect the timing — it was taken during public displays of her illness.

* TEAM CLINTON TO DRAMATICALLY OUTSPEND TEAM TRUMP: CNN crunches some new numbers tallying up the ad-spending for this week:

Barring a sudden unannounced buy of television advertising time, Trump’s campaign and his allies will be outgunned by a nearly 7.5-to-1 ratio by Hillary Clinton and her allies, according to a CNN analysis of data from the ad tracking firm Kantar Media/CMAG. That’s the largest disparity since Trump began running general election advertisements in mid-August.

It’ll be interesting to see if this shows up in the polling next week. Also note that Trump will likely focus mostly on Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania, while Clinton will be spending in those plus states like North Carolina and Nevada.

* DEMS PUSH FOR PROBE OF TRUMP ORGANIZATION: The Post reports that top Democrats are pushing the Justice Department to investigate the Trump Foundation’s big contribution to Florida attorney general Pam Bondi at the time when she was deciding whether to pursue accusations against Trump University:

The letter, signed by all the committee’s Democrats, alleges that the donation in 2013 “may have influenced Mrs. Bondi’s official decision not to participate in litigation against Mr. Trump,” and asks Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch to explore whether federal bribery or other laws might have been violated….Justice Department spokesman Peter Carr said officials had received the letter from House Democrats and were reviewing it.

Whether or not this results in anything, you’d think this Trump pay-to-play story merits more media scrutiny.

* NEWSWEEK DIVES DEEP INTO TRUMP’S FINANCES: Kurt Eichenwald has a deep dive into the Trump Organiation’s extensive global business dealings, explaining why they should raise far more alarms about potential conflicts-of-interest than the Clinton Foundation does:

The Trump family rakes in untold millions of dollars from the Trump Organization every year. Much of that comes from deals with international financiers and developers….Many foreign governments retain close ties to and even control of companies in their country, including several that already are partnered with the Trump Organization. Any government wanting to seek future influence with President Trump could do so by arranging for a partnership with the Trump Organization, feeding money directly to the family or simply stashing it away inside the company for their use once Trump is out of the White House.

Surely the media pressure on Trump to say whether his family will sever itself from the company will now match the scrutiny into the Clinton Foundation’s future.

* AND THE TRUMP CAMPAIGN IS VERY GOOD AT DECEIVING PEOPLE: Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway has this to say on CNN about whether Trump will release his health records:

“As far as I can see, there are two major party candidates running for president and only one of them has pneumonia and lied about it….He won’t be releasing the fact that he had pneumonia for two days and lied about it.”

It’s true that Clinton was too slow to release her pneumonia diagnosis, but that is not tantamount to “lying” about it, and once again, that letter that Trump’s doctor wrote in five minutes was nothing more than a bad joke.