Too Little, Too Late?

By Jim Ellis

Nov. 1, 2016 — Hillary Clinton appeared to be a lock to win the presidency less than a week ago, but yet another email scandal has potentially altered the outcome. This time, the situation involves disgraced former Rep. Anthony Weiner’s (D-NY-9) computer from which his wife, Clinton Campaign co-chair Huma Abedin, sent and received messages that are prompting further FBI scrutiny.

Does the discovery of more damaging material against the Clinton operation give Donald Trump a serious chance to win on Nov. 8?

Probably not, but a new ABC News/Washington Post three-day tracking survey (Oct. 25-28; 1,160 likely US voters) finds a severe tightening of the presidential contest, and even before the latest email flap became public knowledge. The poll result finds Clinton leading Trump now by only one percentage point, 46-45 percent, with Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson receiving four percent and Green Party candidate Jill Stein attracting two percent support.

While the ABC/Post analysis memorandum cautions the reader that this track represents only a snippet in time and even raises questions about the viability of its own sampling universe, the consistent movement toward Trump is still significant. It was only eight days ago that the ABC/Post track found the former Secretary of State opening up a commanding 50-38 percent advantage over the Republican businessman. Since that time, her daily tracking lead has dwindled to 49-40 percent (Oct. 24 release), 48-42 percent (October 25), 48-44 percent (October 26), 47-45 percent (October 27), and finally 46-45 percent in the data made public during the weekend.

But, the ABC/Post survey is not the only one that sees movement away from Clinton and toward Trump. The Investors Business Daily TIPP survey, which has reported closer numbers than most other pollsters during the past two weeks, arrives at basically the same conclusion as the highlighted survey. According to IBD/TIPP (Oct. 24-29; 1,039 likely US voters, some of whom were questioned after the Abedin story broke), the race is breaking into a similar 44-42-6-2 percent division.

Additionally, Rasmussen Reports, another polling firm that has consistently reported more favorable Trump data than most others (Oct. 25-27; 1,500 likely US voters, none of whom were questioned before the latest Abedin story) found the two candidates tied at 45 percent, with Johnson receiving only three percent preference and Stein at her customary two percent.

Though Trump may be gaining, a modern election feature is very likely cutting against him. According to the CNN calculations published this weekend, more than 18 million ballots from around the country have already been received via the early voting process. This means the participating voters cast their ballots before seeing the final campaign ads and will certainly not be affected by the latest Clinton email story.

If voter participation projections are correct, in that the 2016 turnout may drop below 2012’s 129.2 million national voter figure, then it is likely that at least 14 percent of the overall vote has already been received. Since the electoral trends were favoring Clinton at the time these ballots were mailed, chances are high that she is, so far, the early voting beneficiary. Additionally, these early voting numbers do not count the substantial number of ballots that are already in the process, meaning those mailed but not yet received or recorded by the respective election administrators. Therefore, it is quite possible that a number closer to 20 percent of the entire electorate may have already voted.

Entering the final week of campaigning, it is still likely that Clinton wins the presidential election, as the last Trump surge will probably fall into the “too little, too late” category. Still, a closing of the race and giving base Republicans a sense that the election is not yet over could well help the GOP’s down ballot prospects. For the US Senate elections, of which the new majority remains hanging in the balance, this latest trend could be of determining significance.

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