The presidential race will likely tighten as we approach Election Day. Trump is coming out of a terrible stretch of losing debates and the release of rapey videos, so a natural regression back to the pre-debates state of the race was inevitable. The FBI letter to Congress reopening an investigation into State Department emails handled through Hillary Clinton’s private server will definitely expedite that regression.
It’s really hard to know what is happening when polls predictably fluctuate depending on the daily news cycle, but most likely these differences represent long-time Republican and Democratic voters being more or less enthusiastic about voting depending on how embarrassing Donald Trump’s behavior is or how untrustworthy Clinton appears to be. Pollsters try to gauge likelihood of voting along with candidate support, and enthusiasm is known to fluctuate more easily than the voter’s party ID.
It’s been clear for some time that Trump cannot win as many votes as Romney or McCain (~60 million votes each). There are simply too many Republicans with college degrees to earn all of their support again, and too few Democrats without college degrees that he hasn’t racially or sexually offended. The Trump Gambit is to reduce turnout across the board, and hope his hardcore supporters carry him over the top with something closer to 55 million votes.
If that sounds like a Hail Mary, that’s because it is, and the FBI letter won’t fundamentally change the state of the race. Clinton’s emails have become a post-cognitive battle cry like the word Benghazi, which holds more emotion than reasoned criticism. Ask Trump supporters what Clinton actually did with her email account while head of the State Department, and why it was careless. Most have no idea, or at least have no ability to articulate their concerns. Unfortunately for Trump and for anyone else who is legitimately concerned about handling of classified information, his own over-the-top rhetoric about the emails has inoculated the electorate from any news regarding Clinton’s emails.
However, the coverage will affect the race. This week was going to be the Feel Good First Woman President Week for the Clinton Campaign. There has been surprisingly little emphasis, especially in comparison to Obama 8 years ago, to the historic nature of this campaign in the context of women’s rights. Most women couldn’t even vote 100 years ago. Clinton was prepared to ignore Trump for the next week and a half, and focus on the feel goods, try and build a mandate to govern, and turn the country blue.
Not anymore. Now she’s back in the trenches deflecting and counter attacking. Whatever ammo they have left on Trump will come Tuesday, just in time to fill the rest of the week’s coverage with a Trumped-up scandal, which Donald will make even worse as he always manages to do. Or there’s nothing left in Clinton’s arsenal, in which case it’s going to be a long 10 days for Democrats, watching the polls.