The Race Tightens

With the first big debate in sight, the race is now tightening.  Hillary is just ahead by an average of 2 points in the real clear politics average.  For Trump, the bad news is that he has failed to cross the 40% mark since July 30th. But for Hillary, she has not been able to exploit her advantage. Over the past couple of weeks, she has retreated closer to Trump. Hillary has lingered between 41 through 44 percent since July 30 in a four candidate race.

The more interesting note is that many states have tightened. And remember, it is who wins the electoral college who becomes President. It is entirely possible we may see a President who wins the electoral college and loses the popular vote.

Battleground states such as Nevada, Iowa, Ohio, North Carolina, and Florida are extremely tight. Even states like Michigan, Colorado and Wisconsin are within 4 points.  With the exception of North Carolina, all of these states were states captured by Hillary Clinton. What is more interesting;  two of those states Colorado and Nevada have significant Hispanic populations!

One of the key issues is how Gary Johnson and Jill Stein will affect the race? Johnson is averaging 9% and Stein 3%. But, who are they drawing from? Let us suppose that two-thirds of Johnson votes come from Republicans while the rest comes from Democrats. And, let us assume that 90% of Stein support comes from Democrats or Democratic leaning voters, then that means votes going to third parties could be an evenly split from both candidates.  Johnson has significant support in red states including Utah and Idaho, and at least one blue state, New Mexico.  If Johnson wins New Mexico, then the election could be decided by the House of Representatives.

Right now, based on state polls, Trump would take the battleground states of Florida, Ohio, Iowa, North Carolina and maybe, even Nevada. But that would leave him at only 267. Hillary would win with 272. But, this is a razor thin margin.

Another aspect of Trump closing the gap in the Presidential race helps Republican senate prospects in states such as Nevada, Florida, Ohio and North Carolina. But, in those states where Hillary has a larger lead, Republican Senate prospects are dimmer.

This means the big first debate between Trump and Clinton could be the debate which determines the course of the election. In reviewing the Trump/Clinton clash at the recent commander in chief forum; Clinton’s apparent advantages of being a policy wonk ready to destroy Trump did not show up.  Matt Lauer’s questions about her email and past vote on Iraq put her on the defensive. She failed to measure up whereas Trump simply avoided any major gaffes. He did commit a few minor gaffes and continued his bromance with Putin; who he noted was very popular in Russia.  Hillary’s statement that no one died in Libya was a major gaffe that got plenty of play the next day.  If one reads the transcript, there were enough of “did they really say that” moments.  But for Trump, it is expected. It is not expected of Hillary.

As one pundit noted, the clear winner was Trump since the left crucified Matt Lauer for daring to ask tough questions of Hillary.  No doubt the pressure will be on Lester Holt to hold the line and go after Trump while leaving the queen of Chappaqua unmolested.  The media critics, most of whom are noting the Trump’s advantage is that he has so low of a bar to step over that anything short of him crapping on stage is a victory.  A reporter friend of mine noted about a recent Trump performance in Iowa, “He didn’t commit any major gaffes.”

So, if he even looks plausible as a President and Hillary is put on the defensive, then he could actually win.  Most polls view Trump as the victor in this past forum.  That should send a warning to Clinton’s camp that she could easily lose that first big debate and the election.

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