If you’ve followed the polls this week, you know exactly what this is about. Gary Johnson and, to a lesser extent, Jill Stein are peeling off huge numbers of voters aged 18-29, which is turning a tight two-way race into a Trump lead in the four-way. She could afford to give away young voters back when she was leading by six points. She can’t afford it anymore. So it’s all hands on deck for Democrats, with Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and Michelle Obama set to campaign for Clinton soon to put the fear of God into millennials. And now Hillary herself is set for a speech on Monday aimed squarely at that audience.
The goal here may have less to do with tearing down Trump than with simply making sure young voters understand that Trump has a real chance of winning now. Voters spent most of the summer believing that isn’t true, especially after Clinton’s big convention bounce pushed her out to landslide-type margins in battleground states. Some young adults may have decided at the time that her big lead meant they didn’t need to vote for her in the name of stopping Trump and could go with a more idealistic third-party choice. Clinton’s message on Monday will be some variation of “no, really, look at the polls, I’m a terrible candidate who’s going to lose without you.”
“With 55 days until the election, one thing is certain: the stakes are too high for any voter to stay home. As Secretary Clinton has said, the campaign is committed to earning every vote,” Christopher Huntley, Clinton’s director of millennial media, said in an e-mail. “During the final phase of the election, our campaign will deploy high profile surrogates to uplift Secretary Clinton’s message to the generation and mobilize millennial voters to get to the polls.”
Appearing Thursday on the Tom Joyner Morning Show, Clinton sympathized with the struggles of young people.
“I really have a lot of sympathy, in a way, because think of what this millennial generation has faced,” she said on the radio broadcast. “They entered the workforce during one of the worst recessions in our nation’s history. So what I’m focusing on are more good-paying jobs.”
Baumann said it won’t be enough to simply make the case against Trump, because “millennials already despise Trump,” viewing him as racist and disrespectful of women. Instead, he said, she needs a positive contrast message on economic and tax fairness, college affordabililty and climate change, which he ranked as millennials’ top issues.
Two words: Free sh*t, starting with student loan forgiveness. Even if she gradually makes the sale to millennials, though, she has another new problem with the wider electorate. Check out these numbers from YouGov:
That’s a 13-point drop in just eight days. Among Democrats specifically, the number who say Hillary’s health is good enough for her to serve effectively as president is down 20 points in the same period, from 84 percent to 64. Trump, meanwhile, scores 63 percent compared to Hillary’s 39 when voters are asked if he’s physically fit to serve. Among independents, his rating is literally double what hers is — he’s at 64 percent while she’s at 32 — and when asked which of the two is in better health, indies split 53/9 for him. It’s strange but probably true that after all of the analysis of the past 15 months, the election may be decided by Hillary Clinton having one more health episode in public. If she swoons again, these numbers might bottom out completely as voters conclude she’s literally unfit for office and that’s ballgame. Imagine being a member of her staff knowing that it could all go up in smoke at any moment.
The silver lining for Team Hillary, I guess, is that her expectations for the debates have been reduced. Even if she’s mediocre, voters will draw some sort of positive inference about her health if she’s able to stay lively for the duration in each of them. “High energy,” as Trump likes to say, should be what she’s aiming for. Even if she’s on her game, though, it’s hard to see what the new, somewhat more disciplined Trump could do to blow his chances given how low expectations will be for him. He’s wisely refrained this week from taking any shots at her health; if he can hold off on that, he can hold off on taunting her about Monica or talking about blood “coming out of her wherever” or some other stupid, alienating thing that Trump 1.0 might be inclined to say. The media oohed and ahhed over his press conference with the president of Mexico simply because Trump managed to avoid embarrassing himself. The same rule will probably be in effect at the debates. If he announces that he has to fart but will hold it out of respect for the dignity of the forum, he probably wins for having behaved “presidentially.”