We’ve been watching a shift in the polls taking place for a couple of weeks now, but at least from where I’m sitting the coverage on cable news and in the larger national newspapers wouldn’t have let you know. Any good numbers showing up for Trump are generally countered with some states where Hillary Clinton was still doing well, projected electoral college totals showing a better Democratic path or the reliable, this may be an outlier disclaimers. Unfortunately for Democratic optimists, the recent tide has turned into more than a blip on the radar and you can almost feel the pain being experienced at the Washington Post this weekend as they were forced to admit that Trump is now in the lead.
To many Democrats, the biggest surprise is that Donald Trump has mounted a comeback. Despite being battered all summer by his own missteps as well as a barrage of attack ads from Clinton, the Republican nominee has been surging in the battleground states.
Public polls over the past week show Trump leading Clinton in Ohio, Florida and Iowa; moving into a virtual tie with her in Nevada and North Carolina; and cutting into what had been comfortable Clinton leads in New Hampshire as well as in Colorado, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Virginia.
Clinton’s return to the campaign trail after her highly publicized bout with pneumonia came at what has turned out to be the low point for her of the general election. She is laboring to regain solid footing before the first of three debates, on Sept. 26.
Even in this moment of admission they had to preface the news with comments about Trump being battered by his own missteps, but the trends seem to have become too much to ignore. In some of the most critical swing states, Clinton’s lead has evaporated and been replaced by a Trump lead outside the margins. In other states where she was way ahead, the race has closed to tossup status.
The hated conclusion that Trump may actually be winning is showing up in a variety of unusual places, such as the LA Times daily tracking poll. This one has bounced around quite a bit, but Trump hasn’t had a solid lead in it since the GOP convention. Now he’s up by seven, well beyond the margin of error.
Trump has been leading there since 9/11. Is this a coincidence or does it have something to do with public perceptions of Clinton’s health after that ill fated “stumble” (read: collapse) outside the memorial service? She’s taken a nose dive since then and the latest report from Morning Consult finds that voters have been paying attention. They increasingly believe that Clinton is sick and are worried about it.
Opinions on the former secretary of State’s health have already begun to shift since last month. Today, a little more than two in 10 (22 percent) say Clinton’s health is above average or excellent, down from 29 percent from a late August national survey. Additionally, 41 percent now say it is below average or very poor, compared to only 26 percent who said that in August. A plurality, 28 percent, rank her health as average (compared with 30 percent last month).
It would certainly be odd if the real reason (which we’ll never know) is that people think Clinton isn’t physically well enough to serve. We’ve had more than our share of not terribly healthy presidents over the years. But if they die in office we have a Vice President waiting in the wings. If they are too impaired to continue there’s always the 25th amendment option. But that’s what puts voters off regarding Clinton? Months of headlines have convinced a significant majority of Americans that the woman is an unrepentant liar. Her secretive nature and efforts to hide her activities from the American people didn’t seem to knock her down all that far in previous surveys. The pay for play questions surrounding the Clinton Foundation’s dubious hold on the State Department wasn’t a disqualifier. But if a nearly 70 year old woman is having some health issues, that’s what sends you running for the door?
No… I’m really not buying it. Far more likely is that the cumulative effect of all those other news items is finally weighing her down and Trump has stopped giving reporters quite as many things to set their hair on fire over on a daily basis. But the real test is yet to come. The first debate is next week and given how quickly we saw numbers shift in the GOP primary after the debates earlier this year, I’m bracing for a big change one way or the other depending how the two candidates perform. We’re down to the wire now and everyone who’s going to vote is watching.