Yet in spite of this, today’s Post tracking poll finds that Trump holds an edge of eight points over Clinton on the question of which candidate is viewed as the more honest and trustworthy one, with likely voters picking Trump by 46-38. Tellingly, this does not reflect an increase in perceptions of Trump’s honesty, but rather, a drop in the percentage of those who see Clinton as the more honest one: In September, the two were tied on this question.
And the poll (which finds the race dead even) also finds that this drop in perceptions of her honesty is driven primarily by a slide among independents and Democrats:
Independents and Democrats are where Clinton has lost the most ground to Trump on the question of honesty since early fall. At that point Trump held a narrow five-point edge among independents on which candidate is more honest and trustworthy (45 to 40 percent), but in the latest poll Trump leads by 23 points with independents on this question (49 to 26 percent), a shift due mostly to a fall-off among Clinton and a rise in the percentage saying “neither” is honest.Among Democrats, the share saying Clinton is more honest than Trump has dipped from 86 percent in early September to 76 percent today; Republicans have changed little in their view that Trump is more honest (86 percent then, 87 percent now.)
It’s hard to know whether this is directly related to the relentless media attention to FBI director James Comey’s absurdly vague letter to Congress informing them of newly found emails that might or might not be significant to the previous investigation into Clinton’s email use. But it’s plausible that it might be.
Donald Trump and Republicans have been dissembling madly about the significance of the newly found emails, claiming that they show a criminal probe of Clinton has been reopened. Just look at this new ad that the Trump campaign rolled out this morning (where it is running is unclear, though it appears to be part of a major TV buy in multiple states):
“Now the FBI has launched a new investigation,” Trump’s ad says. In a way, it perfectly captures the absurdity of this whole situation that the ad does not say for what she is supposedly being investigated. Instead, it repeats a barrage of charges about the Clinton Foundation and supposed pay-to-play, and then tacks on the claim about the FBI, as if she’s being just investigated for general corruption, with the details not mattering in the least.
None of this is to absolve Clinton of her own role in creating this email mess. Rather, the point is that the vagueness of Comey’s letter is precisely what made it possible for Trump and Republicans to hype the precise significance of the new discovery into something much greater than the sum of the known facts, as Trump’s new ad does. Meanwhile, the media played a role here, too. While news organizations did bear down hard and squeeze out of anonymous sources the key additional information and context we needed to understand just how little FBI agents actually know about these emails, there were screaming headlines for days that probably created the impression for many voters that a criminal probe has been reopened.
To top all of this off, it looks like there is no obvious solution to this problem even if Comey wanted to solve it. As the New York Times reports today, the FBI is unlikely to conclude that there is anything in the new emails discovered on the laptop shared by Anthony Weiner and top Clinton aide Huma Abedin that would cause them to revisit the decision not to recommend charges. But agents may not be able to establish this by Election Day, and it is this lack of clarity that is allowing GOP lies and media-stoked mis-impressions to continue flourishing:
The mood at the F.B.I. is dark, and nobody is willing to predict what the coming days will bring, particularly if agents and analysts do not complete their review of Ms. Abedin’s emails by Election Day. Officials said it would take something extraordinary to change the conclusion that nobody should be charged. But the absence of information has allowed festering speculation that the emails must be significant.
And even if Comey were to announce that there’s nothing significant here before Election Day, the slide in Clinton’s trust numbers in today’s Post poll suggests his handling of this may already be influencing the election in some way, though it’s unclear how much. As I have argued, what’s truly perverse is that much of the media analysis has told us that the new discovery may not be substantively significant, but it will nonetheless be politically significant, which basically creates the impression that voters probably should conclude something is wrong, even if no one knows any of the details yet. That may be on its way to becoming a self-fulfilling prophesy.
* GET READY FOR A LOT OF GOP INVESTIGATIONS: Politico reports:
If the GOP wins either or both chambers of Congress next week, and Clinton takes the White House, she’s likely to come under investigation by Capitol Hill from Day One, or possibly before she’s even sworn in….Comey’s recent decision to revisit the probe of her email setup, and an assortment of Justice sources who’ve leaked to the press since Friday, have armed GOP lawmakers with more than enough ammunition to rev up their own investigations, say Republican sources on Capitol Hill.
Now the fact that Justice Department officials warned Comey against sending the letter in order to avoid interfering in the election is itself additional fodder for GOP investigations. Perfect!
* CLINTON LEADS AMONG INDEPENDENTS, POLL FINDS: A new Bloomberg Politics poll finds Clinton leading Trump nationwide among independents by 39-35 in the head-to-head, and by 30-27 in the four-way. This poll was taken after the FBI news broke:
The survey shows 47 percent of likely independent voters say the latest developments around Clinton’s e-mail won’t have an impact on their vote. A quarter of those polled, meanwhile, say it will make them more likely to support Trump, although those respondents are already heavily concentrated among people voting for him.
If this poll is right, the impact of the FBI story might prove negligible, but the race plainly has tightened, anyway.
* DEMS HOLD EDGE IN NEVADA EARLY VOTING: CNN reports that the key is Clark County, which has over two-thirds of Nevada’s registered voters. Republicans think Trump can only afford to lose that county by six points. But:
As of Tuesday morning, Democrats in Clark County are besting Republicans in early voting by 13.6 points — or 48,000 votes….That Democratic lead is in large part due to an increasingly diverse electorate…party officials and liberal groups are bullish — almost risking overconfidence — that Latino, Asian-American and Pacific Islander turnout will soar past 2012 levels.
If Clinton holds Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Colorado, adding Nevada would be enough to win, barring a surprise Trump pickup in the Midwest.
* BUT DEMS ARE FALTERING IN FLORIDA EARLY VOTING: The latest numbers from Florida-based Marc Caputo:
As of 5:20 a.m., Floridians had cast a record 4.4 million pre-Election Day ballots, 1.79 million (40.3 percent) by Republicans and 1.77 million (39.9 percent) by Democrats. That’s a GOP lead of 21,000 raw votes and 0.5 percentage points six days before Election Day. Compare that to Democrats’ lead of 1.8 percentage points (48,604 raw votes of the nearly 2.7 million ballots cast) six days out in 2012. Back then, Obama needed that cushion to beat Mitt Romney in Florida by less than a point.
There may be flagging enthusiasm among Dems in Florida, possibly caused by weak early voting turnout among African Americans.
* CLINTON HOLDS LEAD IN VIRGINIA: A new Winthrop University poll finds Clinton leading Trump among likely voters in Virginia by 49-43 in the head-to-head, and by 44-39 in the four-way. While that represents a tightening, it appears this piece of Clinton’s firewall is holding: the polling averages still put her up eight points in the state.
* AND CLINTON VISITS ARIZONA TODAY: She’s set to campaign in reliably red Arizona, and the Associated Press explains why:
Clinton’s campaign says it’s buoyed by early voting turnout among Arizona Democrats, as well as Clinton’s support among Hispanics turned off by Trump’s hardline immigration policies. Democrats have been eyeing Arizona as a possible swing state in recent years, but believe Trump’s unpopularity with Hispanics has expedited that evolution.
And remember, even keeping it close in Arizona would have long term implications, because of its demographics and its role in the immigration debate.