Monday, October 17, 2016

The Donald Chronicles: Numbers, Narratives and Drug Tests

Some of the campaign decisions I described yesterday as coming this week were apparently made Monday by Clinton and the Dems.

Will Clinton play it safe and retreat to protecting the battleground states or will the campaign expand, and at the least, stretch the alleged and increasingly fictional Trump campaign even further?  Answer (according to the NYTimes): expand.

"Signaling extraordinary confidence in Mrs. Clinton’s electoral position and a new determination to deliver a punishing message to Mr. Trump and Republicans about his racially tinged campaign, her aides said Monday that she would aggressively compete in Arizona, a state with a growing Hispanic population that has been ground zero for the country’s heated debate over immigration."

In addition the Clinton campaign is spending extra bucks to turn out Dems in Indiana and Missouri.  Clinton herself will schedule campaign stops in Arizona, which the Times story said was aimed at winning the state rather than defeating John McCain in his Senate reelection.  That may have changed later on Monday when McCain vowed that if the Senate stays GOPer, they will defeat any Clinton appointee to the Supreme Court.  I suspect that this may have hurt him more than helped in his own race.

While Clinton and Dems go on offense, the Rs are on their heels playing defense.
They are reportedly scrambling just to keep control of the House.  The Koch Bros network is working overtime to save R Senate seats.  The Kochs don't mention Trump, and he's put some of the House races in play.

For Trump, it's not always about the big trends. The Trump campaign missed the voter guide deadline in suddenly competitive Alaska, and Ohio's R Sec of State went on NPR to maintain that the election absolutely cannot be rigged, contra his Trumpness.  These are small indications that in close races, Trump won't have the backup he may need.

The polls continue to look good for Clinton.  New national polls (Up by 8 pts. in a George Washington U. Battleground poll, up by 12 points in Monmouth poll, up by 9 in the CBS News poll) and state polls (ahead in PA, Colo, Nevada, NC, FLA, tied or slightly behind in Ohio (though other polls had her ahead); ahead in Arizona, tied or virtually tied in Utah and Alaska) add more impetus to the L word talk.

Incidentally, in a couple of these recent national polls, Trump is stuck at 38%--which has been my estimate.

But there's one more debate (Wednesday) and a new Trump talking point, besides that the world is against him.  In an FBI info dump, there's an assertion by an unnamed (and now retired) FBI agent that a State Department official offered a quid pro quo in order to have an email Clinton received not be classified as secret.  Trump is railing about this already, aided by the wording of early reports, including in the WPost, which made it sound as if the charge were proved.

But the Obama administration insists there is much less here than meets the eye. As the Atlantic reports: The State Department maintains that it was the now-retired FBI official who brought up the “quid pro quo,” an assertion later backed up by the Bureau itself. Republicans and the Trump campaign have seized on the notes to allege a State Department coverup."

Factually, neither the quid or the quo actually happened, but a note by an ex-agent with a faulty memory or an agenda is enough for the rabid alt.right.  Clinton is going to have to deal with this at the debate, with more skill than she has some previous charges.

Because of this, Clinton needs a debate win to keep the "Trump Death March" narrative going, since the media would love it if they could inject some uncertainty into the weeks before Nov. 8.

Meanwhile, gazing at Donaldworld, Jonathan Chiat debated with himself the proposition: (as T. Goddard put it) is Trump crazy, or just acting crazy because he wants to start a TV network?  (Josh Marshall wrote that either way, the TV thing probably would fail. Ryan Lizza agreed.)

One of Trump's more bizarre proposals this week was that he and Hillary be tested for drugs before the next debate, because he suspected Hillary was on something. "You’re telling me that the candidate who snorted his way through the first two debates is accusing the other candidate of taking drugs?That’s a curious development in the campaign,said White House press sec Josh Earnest, who then earnestly said he was just kidding.  Though of course that's just what everybody was thinking.

And as usual, Borowitz had a different take on it, with his mock headline: Nation Fears Drug Test Would Reveal Trump Not on Drugs.

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