Clinton’s narrowing lead over Trump
Hillary Clinton’s poll lead over Donald Trump continued to shrink this week, as both presidential campaigns kicked into high gear for the nine-week, post–Labor Day sprint to Election Day. The RealClearPolitics national poll average put Clinton’s head-to-head lead over Trump at just over 3 points, 46 to 43, down from 6 points two weeks earlier. But several polls produced even better news for Trump, with a four-way CNN/ORC poll of likely voters showing him ahead by 2 points, 45 to 43, and a Reuters/IPSOS poll finding him with a 1-point lead—a 9-point swing in just two weeks. Clinton still holds an advantage in the swing states, however: In RealClearPolitics’s four-way averages, she’s ahead in nine of the 11 key battleground races, including Pennsylvania (by 6 points), Florida (2 points), and Ohio (3 points). Trump’s campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, said the tightening of national polls showed that voters were disturbed by revelations regarding the former secretary of state’s private email server and the overlap of her official duties at State and her role at the Clinton Foundation. “Hillary Clinton is having a hard time being accepted as a truthful and honest candidate,” she said.
Both campaigns had eventful weeks. Trump received mixed reviews for refusing to significantly soften his hard-line stance on immigration (see Controversy), while Clinton came under further scrutiny after the FBI released a trove of documents from its probe into her home email server (see opposite page). Labor Day also marked the official start of the battle to control Congress. Although the GOP is widely expected to retain control of the House, Democrats need to gain only five Senate seats to reclaim the upper chamber. The closest races will likely be in Indiana, Wisconsin, Illinois, Pennsylvania, and New Hampshire.
What the editorials said
Labor Day is when most Americans start to “get down to the serious business of choosing a president,” said The Washington Times. Clinton’s poll slump suggests Trump’s “bluntly stated message”— secure our borders, put America first, and rebuild the economy—is “resonating with a growing number of voters.” Previously skeptical Republicans are becoming “more comfortable” with Trump as their nominee, despite his many blunders, while questions over Clinton’s greed and trustworthiness are gathering “relevance and momentum.”
Conservatives, Trump “does not deserve your vote,” said The Dallas Morning News. This newspaper has not endorsed a Democrat for 75 years, but “Trump is no Republican and certainly no conservative,” and “is not qualified to serve as president.” He doesn’t believe in free markets and individual liberty, and has an “authoritarian streak” that should “horrify limited-government advocates.” His foreign policy is incoherent, and includes proposals to cozy up to Russian dictator Vladimir Putin and abandon our NATO allies. Clinton “has made mistakes and displayed bad judgment,” but she is the only “serious candidate on the presidential ballot.”
Trump is betting “we are all chumps,” said The Washington Post. How else to explain his assumption he can win “without sharing basic information?” He has refused to release his health records, his tax returns, or virtually any detailed policy proposals—even though he would be the oldest president ever elected, has based his entire campaign on his business success, and has no record in public office. He’s taking the American people for “fools.”
What the columnists said
I’m getting a “sick, sinking feeling” about this election, said Paul Krugman in The New York Times. In their desperation to appear neutral, major media organizations are paying “remarkably little attention” to Trump’s many scandals, yet insist anything Clinton does—especially concerning the Clinton Foundation—“must be corrupt.” Note to journalists: Criticism of Trump doesn’t have to be balanced out by unfairly suggesting that his opponent is equally awful. Actually, reporters are just doing their jobs, said Glenn Greenwald in TheIntercept.com. Only “Democrat partisans” see nothing fishy about the Clintons’ “pioneering merger of massive private wealth and political power.” Just because Trump is a “bigotry-exploiting demagogue” doesn’t entitle Clinton to “waltz into the Oval Office free of aggressive journalistic scrutiny.”
“To listen to conventional wisdom, Clinton practically cannot lose the presidential election,” said Douglas Schoen in The Wall Street Journal. Yet Trump is “ahead, tied, or trailing but within the margin of error” in almost all the most recent polls. The race is tightening not because he’s become a stronger candidate, but because Clinton is becoming less and less popular—her favorability levels have dropped to record lows. “Hillary could be blowing it,” said Glenn Thrush in Politico.com. She has made her campaign almost exclusively about Trump’s unfitness for the White House, but hasn’t connected to voters in a personal way or made a positive, uplifting case for why voters should support her. Attacking Trump “is not enough.”
Clinton remains the big favorite to win this election, said Nate Silver in FiveThirtyEight.com. But Democrats are “seriously mistaken” if they think her leads in the swing states will “protect her in the Electoral College.” State polls have basically “ebbed and flowed with her national numbers.” If the race continues to tighten nationally, her leads in the swing states will evaporate—and Clinton could be in serious trouble.
Illustration by Howard McWilliam. Cover photos from Newscom, Getty, Newscom
Both candidates have serious work to do, said Adam Nagourney in The New York Times. Trump needs to focus all his attention and attacks on Clinton and resist the urge to “double down” when criticized for saying something offensive. As for Clinton, she has to avoid complacency, and work hard to regain the public’s trust. The presidential debates will also be crucial (see Talking Points). With both candidates so widely disliked, this contest has “a volatility rarely seen at this stage of a campaign.” As many as 10 percent of voters remain undecided in some polls, said Steven Shepard in Politico.com, and others are leaning toward third-party candidates. That means this race “is likely to be a roller-coaster ride” right up to Nov. 8.