The Shrinking Gap: A Countdown to November 8th

By Harry Wilde

With November 8th just around the corner, the US is fast approaching the climax of arguably the most divisive election in modern American history. The future fortunes of both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton seem to alternate with unsettling regularity as new political polemics and damning controversies emerge daily.

Just a week ago it seemed that Clinton had gained an insurmountable advantage over her Republican counterpart. Damaged by his controversial ‘locker-room talk’ comments and more recently his poor performance in the final presidential election debate on October 19th Trump fell twelve points (according to ABC News and the Washington Post) behind Clinton in the national polls by the end of October.

However, the recent developments concerning the FBI’s renewed investigation into Ms Clinton’s emails in conjunction with the lingering legacy of the Podesta controversy have coincided with a tightening of the polls on the eve of the election. Disconcertingly for Democrat voters, the salient revival of the FBI probe could not have occurred at a worse time for the Clinton campaign with just days until the election, and will remain particularly fresh in the minds of the ‘early voters’ placing their ballot before November 8th. Correspondingly, Clinton’s primacy in the national polls has shrunk to just three points across the US and it would therefore be injudicious to assume a Democrat victory as was the prescribed sentiment by many at the end of October.

Fulcrum to the potential victory of either candidate is voter turnout, particularly in the highly contested swing-states. For Clinton’s campaign, the predicted reduction of African American voters may prove critical in lessening the certainty of Democratic victory.

Whilst maintaining the unprecedented turnout of African Americans which helped elect Obama, as the first black President in US history in 2008 and 2012, would always be problematic for Clinton, the polls of ‘early voters’ (of which black voters are traditionally dominant) suggest that this support base may have shrunk since 2012. Indeed, Politico report that African Americans made up 25% of early-voting in 2012 but so far have only constituted 16% of the early voting electorate, indicating a potential, although initial, diminishing of pro-Democrat turnout.

Similarly, Donald Trump’s chance of success resides in the mobilisation of primarily white voters and especially those who have been disengaged with the political system over recent elections. The turnout of these voters has become increasingly important to Trump in recent weeks with  fresh allegations of sexual assault as well as calling for mass deportation of “millions and millions” of “bad hombres” in the final presidential debate. Consequently Trump may have distanced himself further from both Hispanic and female voters, two of the most significant battleground demographics during this election.

The constriction of Clinton’s lead in the polls in recent days has also shifted the focus of each respective campaign onto significant swing-states. Indeed, Hillary Clinton’s unexpected trip to Detroit on November 4th, in order to drum up support within the typically Democrat state of Michigan, is perhaps indicative of the fact that this election will be much more closely contested than has been conceived of late.

With Trump still trailing marginally in the polls in his proportion of electoral college votes, Trump’s campaign has re-focused on several key swing-seats including Florida, North Carolina and Ohio. Without clawing back a victory in the aforementioned states, it is highly improbably that Trump will achieve the 270 Electoral College votes needed to become President.

With only days until the election it seems increasingly impossible to predict the outcome with the certainty possessed by some political commentators a fortnight ago. Clearly, salient controversies surround both candidates are swinging the proverbial electoral pendulum in the final stretch of the campaign – and both candidates will be wary of any other such events in the remaining days dictating the outcome. What is clear is that whilst Clinton maintains a small lead over her Republican adversary, the gap is shifting with increasing regularity and whether Trump can close it before November 8th remains to be seen.

Photograph: Darron Birgenheier via Flickr

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