Republican nominee Donald Trump had a disastrous post-convention cycle. But ever since the Associated Press released their analysis of Hillary’s State Department calendar thus far, showing that more than half of her nongovernmental meetings were with donors to the Clinton Foundation—the narrative of intrigue and unethical dealings that seem to follow the power couple was rehashed. Clinton dropped seven points in three days over Trump. Hillary remains in the lead by five, but still within striking distance of the Republican nominee, who has pivoted towards more disciplined messaging, hammering Clinton over allegations of paid access emanating from the nonprofit.
He also headed down to Louisiana to assess the flood damage, while Democrats remained lethargic in responding to the worst disaster since Hurricane Sandy. Now, a new Morning Consult poll shows that Clinton’s lead over Trump has been halved in a week (via The Hill):
Clinton leads Trump by 3 points, 43 percent to 40 percent, in a head-to-head match-up in the Morning Consult poll released Sunday morning.
One week ago, Clinton led Trump by 6 points, 44 percent to 38 percent.
Voters view both candidates unfavorably, pollsters found, with 58 percent holding a negative view of Trump and 57 percent saying the same about Clinton.
The Real Clear Politics average has Trump trailing by six, which isn’t terrible. At the same time, he’s weak in some traditional Republican states—and he’s fairing poorly with Clinton in the swing states. Right now, if the election were held today, Clinton would easily clinch the 270 electoral votes needed to win. Yet, Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight added that we’re in the "third quarter" of this election cycle. And Clinton shouldn’t be counting on living in government housing again just yet. Then again, both candidates are especially weak and flawed this cycle, making cobbling together new voters a difficult obstacle:
After mixed evidence before, it’s become clearer, at least according to our forecast models, that Donald Trump has regained some ground on her. Clinton’s national lead in our polls-only forecast has gone from a peak of about 8.5 percentage points two weeks ago to 6.5 percentage points as of Sunday evening — that is, a 2-point gain for Trump over two weeks. Correspondingly, Trump’s chances of winning the election have improved from a low of 11 percent to 19 percent.
It’s nice to have a model at times like these, instead of just throwing up your hands (or worse, cherry-picking polls to suit your case). And that model, as I said, shows Trump as having gained about 2 points over two weeks. If Trump keeps gaining 1 percentage point a week, he’ll beat Clinton by a couple of percentage points on Nov. 8. Hence, Clinton should probably not be picking out the White House drapes just yet.
Continued gains may not be so easy for Trump, however. He’s still at only 37 or 38 percent in national polls that include third-party candidates. That might seem like an easy number to improve upon, but his favorability rating is only about 35 percent, meaning that he’s already relying on support from a few voters who don’t like him but may vote for him to prevent a Clinton presidency.
Clinton also has some work to do. She’s at about 43 percent in national polls and in polls of key swing states — not enough to clinch victory, even if 6 to 10 percent of the vote eventually goes to third-party candidates, as appears increasingly likely. She’ll need to persuade a few undecided voters toward her side or get some of those third-party voters — more of whom have Clinton than Trump as their second choice — to turn out for her.
This election, at least for the time being, presents something of the opposite case. It isn’t all that close — Clinton is up by around 6 percentage points as best as we can figure, a larger lead than Obama had at almost any point in 2012 or until the very end of the 2008 campaign. But it’s August, and the number of undecided voters is high, and so the outcome remains fairly uncertain. Furthermore, while the state polls are fairly good for Clinton right now, we don’t know how they’ll react if the race tightens further. We’re going on three weeks without a live-caller poll in Pennsylvania, for example.
Coincidentally or not, the Clinton campaign was more proactive last week. It pushed back quite aggressively at an Associated Press story about donations to the Clinton Foundation. And it instigated a fight with Trump over his connections with what Clinton called “the emerging racist ideology known as the alt-right.” Clinton remains in a strong overall position, but she shouldn’t be playing prevent defense yet; we’re still in the equivalent of the third quarter.
For Trump, that means there can be zero room to engage in disastrous public relations antics. As I’ve said before, the fact that Clinton is only ahead by less than ten points only shows what an awful candidate she is. For all intents and purposes, Clinton should be trouncing Clinton by over ten points. She’s can’t deliver those critical blows; she hamstrung by her baggage.