After a month of close polling, Clinton’s debate offered the bump she was looking for

By Sam Tarr

Oct 2 2016: The Massasoit Tribune

Statistician and election forecaster Nate Silver called 50/50 states correctly in the 2012 Presidential election. He never gave President Obama less that a 59% chance of winning reelection. That was in June of that year.

So as the polls tightened after a shaky September, Hillary Clinton’s camp could not have welcomed the news that Nate Silver’s fivethirtyeight.com had reduced her chances down to 54.8% the day of the first presidential debate.

5 days later, however, the advantage was swinging back once again to the Democratic nominee.

Real Clear Politics reporting the latest numbers on Friday showed Clinton up in Florida, Michigan, Nevada, and New Hampshire. She also enjoys a three-point lead nationally, when factoring Gary Johnson and Jill Stein, according to the Fox poll.

So what changed for a Trump campaign which seemed to be gaining momentum? It all started at Monday night’s debate from Hofstra University in New York.

NBC’s Lester Holt began the debate on the topic of “American prosperity” with questions on jobs and the economy. Trump came after Clinton on her support of trade deals such as NAFTA.

“Our jobs are fleeing the country,” Trump said. “We have to renegotiate our trade deals,” referring to NAFTA as “the single worst trade-deal ever approved in this country.”

Trump name-checked former manufacturing hubs like New England, and swing states like Ohio and Pennsylvania. He seemed comfortable attacking Clinton on trade, trying to appeal to those “rust-belt” voters his campaign feels they need on the path to victory in November.

“Now you want to approve the Trans-Pacific Partnership,” Trump said.

“That is just not accurate,” Hillary Clinton said, explaining her evolved position on the deal.

“I was against it, once it was finally negotiated and the terms were laid out.” Clinton said then accusing the Republican nominee of living in his “own reality.”

After a brief discussion of the candidates’ tax plans, Trump then spent the majority of the debate on defense.

Clinton hammered the Republican nominee on his refusal to release his tax returns, past business dealings, his championing of “birtherism.” Trump was then confronted by both Clinton and Lester Holt on his disputed claim he was opposed to the Iraq war from the beginning. In response Trump demanded the press call Fox News opinion-show host Sean Hannity, a vocal Trump ally, to confirm his position.

Trump’s early debate composure waned as he continuously interrupted Clinton and moderator Lester Holt.

After arguing with varying levals of coherence, he attacked Clinton on her stamina. Later he went on to claim that Clinton had been fighting ISIS her “entire adult life.” The terrorist group not gaining traction as a prominent threat until after the 2003 US led invasion on Iraq.

The republican nominee’s fade and erratic manner, in contrast to Clinton’s disciplined performance, led many to declare victory to Clinton. 

He ran out of gas,” said Steve Schmidt, Republican strategist and former senior campaign advisor for John McCain’s 2008 presidential bid. Schmidt told MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” that the Republican nominee looked “exhausted.”

Schmidt said Trump descended into a “mountain of molten gibberish.”

Trump did not see it that way.

“Last night was very exciting,” said Trump the next day at a Florida rally. “Nearly every single poll had us winning, big league.” The Trump campaign siting several on-line polls which have been criticized as not credible.

The majority of post-debate polls had him losing the debate by double digits, including a CNN/ORC poll having Clinton winning by a margin of 62-27%.

If Trump’s performance at the debate isn’t responsible for this latest bump in the polls for the Clinton campaign, then perhaps is his week-long entanglement with 1996 Miss Universe, Alicia Machado had something to do with it.

Clinton referenced Machado during Monday’s debate. She sited her claims that Trump called Venezuela-born Machado both “Miss Piggy” and “Miss housekeeping.” Machado said in an interview with Cosmopolitan that those, among other comments, sent her into a depression following the pageant.

It seemed to be trap set by the Clinton campaign, aiming to highlight claims of sexism and racism by the Republican nominee.

A trap which Trump could not resist. First thing Tuesday morning, Trump responded on Fox and Friends.

“She gained a massive amount of weight,” Trump said in the interview. He then went on to describe Machado’s weight gain as “a real problem.”

The back and forth continued throughout the week into the pre-dawn hours of Friday morning. Nearly four days after the debate, Trump posted a series of tweets starting at 3:20am, rallying against Machado, Clinton, and the press.

Trump referred to Machado as a “con” and “disgusting” in the tweets. The Republican nominee for President then encouraged his followers to “check out” what he called a “sex tape.” Trump offering no evidence and fact checkers have been unable to confirm it exists.

Just over a month away from election day, Donald Trump still has no daily newspaper endorsements. Three newspapers with conservative editorial boards have backed Clinton: The Cincinnati Enquirer, Dallas Morning News and Houston Chronicle. With several other papers choosing to endorse Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson, before recent missteps.

Johnson, who was seeing a slow and steady rise in support, has had back to back embarrassing moments. In a “Morning Joe” interview, he had the now infamous “What is Aleppo?” moment. And this week with Chris Mathews, found himself unable to name a single foreign leader he admires, even though trying for some time to do so.

Mike Pence and Tim Kaine will likely be asked more challenging questions in their primetime debate on Tuesday night. Pence, a more traditional right-wing conservative, will look to steady the ship, after a tumultuous week.

A week that finds the Trump campaign once again doing damage control. All the while, Trump himself and his surrogates continue to float the potential strategy of using Bill Clinton’s sexual indiscretions as a line of attack on Secretary Clinton in the next debate.

The Clinton campaign, now invigorated by the bounce in the polls, looks towards the next presidential debate on October 9th. Nate Silver has Clinton up to a 67.7% chance of winning in November. And though it’s not nearly President Obama’s 85.7% at this time in 2012, the campaign has the wind at its back for the first time in a month.

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