At the moment, if you read the Washington Post or the NYT or watch CNN you might be forgiven for concluding that the American Presidential election is over and it is now just a matter of determining how many electoral college votes Hilly wins by. Tomorrow’s debate, Wikileaks, reclassification quid pro quos are all but dust under the Scooby van as it takes a victory lap or two.
This story is driven by fond hopes and polling numbers which have Hilly 8 to 12 points ahead nationally and holding comfortable leads in battleground states. And, of course, a deep sense that “no one I know” is voting Trump.
Over on the other side, driven by Drudge, Breitbart and Limbaugh there seems to be plenty of evidence that the race is much tighter. This story is all about the debate, the Wikileaks, the FBI taking a dive and, yes, polls showing Trump with a slight lead or within a point.
This is a story where the wicked Washington insiders, from both parties, are given their walking papers by an army of quiet, shy, Trump supporters who do no more than turn up at the polling stations. It is driven by the belief that Hilly’s supporters are unenthusiastic whereas Trump’s are excited by the prospect of throwing the rascals out.
Because I loath Hilly and the people who surround the Clinton machine, I am inclined to believe in the possibility that the Trump supporters will show up and the Hillary supporters will stay home. And I am inclined to look at the weightings in the MSM polls and discount their results. But neither of those are the reason why I think Trump has an actual chance.
I watched a few minutes of Trump’s speech in Green Bay last night. It was pretty much his standard speech (although his sensible suggestions re government ethics were new) but it was his demeanour which really struck me. Gone was the guy simulating anger at the crooked Establishment and all its works. Sure, he took lots of pokes at Hilly; but they were without the rancour which many of his earlier speeches seemed to be fueled by. He seemed relaxed, taking his time, enjoying the moment.
And then he – no doubt with careful stage management – spotted an adorable little black girl in the crowd and brought her up on stage. He is a huge man and she was a tiny mite though wonderfully ladylike in a skirt carrying a cross body bag. He picked her up, tried to give her a kiss, had her say her name into the mic. Throughout he looked like what he is, a father, a grandfather.
The Clinton campaign, rather sensibly, is keeping Hilly under wraps. She has one event, tomorrow night’s debate, between now and the 30th of October. One. Her campaign recognizes that she herself is not much of a draw. And they recognize that hiding her avoids her having to answer many questions about Wikileaks or lying to the FBI. If Hilly actually has the lead MSM is claiming there really is no reason for her to campaign at all. 100 million dollars worth of advertising, a cheerleading mainstream media and a bit of minor voting fraud should see her safely home.
For Trump the last weeks of the election will be a lot busier. He seems to have shaken off the locker room tape and the legion of gropies let lose by the darker side of the Clinton/MSM campaign. The drop in his polling numbers has seemed to stop and the LA Times poll even has him a couple of points ahead of Hilly. If he can turn in a friendly, but pointed, performance in tomorrow night’s debate, the momentum will shift a little more. If he can manage the happy warrior, entertainer, persona he brought to Green Bay he’ll undercut the “literally Hitler” rhetoric of the Democrats.
At this point Trump’s “drain the swamp” line is a handy catch all for the Wikileaks/FBI/Benghazi/Clinton Foundation/pay to play/Wall Street set of Hillary negatives. But a lot of it will come down to delivery. Outrage, while perfectly justifed, is going to scare off a lot of potential Trump voters. They may not then go and vote for Hilly, but they may stay home.
Trump has the advantage that he can adjust his delivery without taking away from his message. He knows that the media will put the worst possible construction on anything he says. But Trump also knows that if the media are as important in this election as they seem to think they are he has lost anyway.
For the next three weeks Trump is really going to be running against himself. If he brings his father/grandfather persona to his rallies he will likely reach over the heads of the media and connect with the American electorate. Hilly, in her bunker, will be spending those weeks hoping that the American electorate does not connect the dots.