If Republicans needed any further proof that a merely average, “normal” Republican could be lapping Hillary Clinton at this point, the past few weeks should have provided it. National and state polls (albeit with a shift to a “likely” voter screen that some Dems have quibbled about) have tightened. Clinton has been on the receiving end, justly and unjustly, of terrible media coverage over everything from her emails to her pneumonia. Until today (more later), Donald Trump has been less prone to say outrageously offensive things. The media’s natural propensity for a competitive race and false balance has worked against Clinton.

It’s a reminder that candidates and campaigns matter — more than money, more than policy (to our dismay) and definitely more than facts. Also worth remembering: Clinton sagged in the primary, allowing a seemingly improbable candidate to remain competitive. In the end, she just ground it out.

Is Clinton going to lose?! She could, remarkably, but she remains the favorite if for no other reason than the built-in Democratic advantage in the electoral college.

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Could the polls be wrong? They could be, but we’ll never know the outcome “if the election were held today …,” because the election isn’t today. It’s hard to argue, however, that things have not gotten worse for Clinton over the past few weeks (unless you think the “likely” voter screens, which coincided with the tightening of the race, are terribly flawed).

Can Trump keep this up — not making news for Clinton? From experience, we say no. Sure enough, today he lashed out at the African American pastor who put him in his place in his appearance in Flint, Mich. Challenged sharply at the debates, he could have a spectacularly awful moment.

Aren’t Trump’s kids an asset? Actually they’ve been worse than Trump, of late. Donald Trump Jr. tweets an alt-right symbol. He also says his father’s tax returns would be too distracting (I bet!), and therefore the voters won’t get to see them. Oh, we thought it was because Trump was under audit. Today he makes a Holocaust jokeIvanka Trump gets snippy when asked semi-real questions about her father’s child-care plan, evidencing a sort of “How dare you question me?” tone one would expect of a billionaire’s daughter. (It also turns out she apparently lied about her father’s company providing paid maternity leave.)

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Isn’t Bill Clinton an asset for Hillary Clinton? Not so much, but the popular President Obama is. (“Democratic operatives cast Clinton’s husband as a second-tier stand-in for the candidate — of less value than President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama.”) Watch him do everything to carry her across the finish line.

How important are the debates? They matter as much as, or more than, the conventions — which gave Clinton a healthy lead over the summer. It’s easy to imagine Trump completely blowing it and blowing up; it is equally foreseeable he’ll be lauded if he doesn’t foam at the mouth. Clinton’s greatest risk is appearing defensive, dismissive or detached from reality.

Does ground game matter? In 2012, Romney campaign staffers thought low enthusiasm for the president would hurt Democratic turnout. The Democratic get-out-the-vote machine burst their bubble. Trump’s lack of a real ground game, and dependence on the Republican National Committee, could be the difference between winning and losing.

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Does Trump’s refusal to release his tax returns and new revelations about his foundation matter? We know voters want the candidates to disclose more information, but how many votes this changes is unknown. A lot depends on how well Clinton can use these two issues to help paint a picture of Crooked Donald, swindler of the little guy.

Is Gary Johnson taking votes away from Hillary Clinton? It looks that way. Clinton is betting that, particularly in a close race, those voters “come home” at the end.

So, come on, is Trump going to win? Most likely not, but anyone still in the prediction business in this election is a fool.

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