Suddenly his path to the White House is looking a lot clearer
The Terminator had nothing on Donald Trump. Relentless, seemingly unstoppable, impervious, unflappable, possessed of a few choice popular catch-phrases, assimilated but still not of this (political) world: the public’s watched in horrified awe as he swept all opposition so far aside. Can Hillary Clinton make an even less plausible Sarah Connor and find the equivalent of a crushing steel press in the form of the electorate?
Her health troubles this last week are one reason to wonder. Trump has not unnaturally questioned her fitness to serve and her lack of straightforwardness on the issue plays into an already established narrative about her truthfulness. That’s a little unfair – all politicians want to appear to be in fighting health all the time because the alternative suggests weakness to both public and opponents – but with the evidence on TV screens across the country, the questions are not wholly without merit.
More seriously, her polling has taken a turn for the worse. FiveThirtyEight has a very good article highlighting how Trump is doing disproportionately well in the swing states, compounding his gains in the overall national shares.
Whereas Obama enjoyed an advantage in the Electoral College, where his vote distribution would have seen him home reasonably comfortably if a UNS is applied to tie the race on national vote, this time it’s Trump who would prevail in the Electoral College if he and Hillary win equal shares.
Not that he is level: Hillary still retains a small national lead (2.6% according to the Huff Post average; just 1.5% if you prefer RCP), but it’s a measly one with over seven weeks still remaining and even smaller once his Electoral College advantage is factored in.
Then there’s the Terminator factor. Trump has been written off many times as unelectable but despite all the incoming fire (including from his own side), he’s still advancing and must be viewed as standing a very real chance of winning. Yes, he has some dire ratings with some demographics but the only question is whether he can win enough pluralities in enough states to make the magic 270 votes – and he evidently can.
In the last month, Hillary’s lead has dropped by about 5½%. We should never confuse projection with prediction and Trump will inevitably have a low ceiling to his vote: the two poll averages quoted put it at about 44% so far, which is a level Hillary has hardly ever fallen below but even so, a further drop of just half that in nearly twice as long would hand Trump the election. Given the new material he has to work with and her poor campaigning style, which consists mainly of seeking applause for banalities, I’d have the odds as only marginally favouring Hillary.
So once again and as it has almost continually since day one, the value lies with Trump and, I’d suggest, makes the 6/4 widely available on him quite attractive.
p.s. On a similar note, Hillary’s health scare caused the odds on Biden, Sanders and Kaine to tumble. I would suggest avoiding them all. The logistics of changing nominee at this late stage are a nightmare. Most state filing deadlines have passed so Hillary ought to be on the ballot pretty much everywhere come what may now. Were she to withdraw due to ill health (or worse), some electors would have the option to go officially rogue and support an alternative nominee but others are bound by state law to support the nominated candidate.
It almost certainly wouldn’t matter. Were she to withdraw then with Trump polling as competitively as he is at the moment, it’s hard to believe that he wouldn’t prevail comfortably given the chaos that there’d be in the Democrats in that scenario. Furthermore, if somehow the Democrats did prevent Trump from winning an outright majority, there’d still be a good chance that the race would end up in the House due to what would be the inability of the Blues to lawfully unite around a single alternative candidate. With the Republicans almost certain to hold a majority of state delegations in the House come January, Trump would still be very much in pole position.