Weinergate Fitting End To This Election Season

Keith Naughton Public Affairs Consultant
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Is it just me, or does this election seem more like some kind of sick practical joke?  After a year of non-stop stumbling and bumbling by both candidates, it is fitting that Trump and Clinton would each be brought low by bottom-feeders like Billy Bush and Anthony Weiner.

Trump and Clinton have always managed to attract their own certain type of creepy followers.  Trump goes out of his way to collect weak-willed bootlickers, giving him a kind of low-IQ Potemkin praetorian guard (see every Apprentice show ever).  Meanwhile the Clintons trudge through public life with vague scandal constantly swirling around them like Pig-Pen.  The Clintons’ entourage is suffused with manipulative, greedy corner-cutters, ready to cash in at the first opportunity.

And now, as the election season descends to a finish, both the Trump and Clinton candidacies will be most remembered for controversies brought upon them by their own respective quintessential camp followers:  Trump by the vapid, celebrity-worshipping toady known as Billy Bush and Clinton by the lying, opportunistic, sleazy creep known as Anthony Weiner.

It is difficult to tell what the ultimate effect of the latest e-mail blowup for Clinton will be.  Coming so late, its effect will be mitigated a bit by early voting, where perhaps 10% of the public has already decided.  For most, it won’t change opinion one bit, but elections are won on the margins and a relatively tiny shift of 2-3% could change the entire outcome.

Trump was probably finished before this latest revelation due to the Entertainment Tonight tape.  But not because he took some stupendous tumble in the polls.  Rather, it appeared that the long-standing ceiling on his vote of approximately 45% had solidified across all polls.

If you generously give Gary Johnson, Jill Stein and the scramble of other candidates about 6% of the vote, then the winner will need at least 47% to take the White House.  The only poll where Trump got to 47% ever was the USC/LA Times poll – and he only got there prior to the ET tape leak.  Until the Clinton e-mail scandal reappeared, Trump had been stuck in the low-to mid-40s.

Contrary to the barely-concealed joy of most media outlets, Trump did not suffer a long-term collapse from the ET tape.  Five organizations released polls the week leading up to the tape release, and have done recent polls on the race (Fox News, NBC, Reuters, The Economist, and CNN).  On average, Trump and Clinton gained one point each.  The Fox News poll showed a 44-42 Clinton lead the first week in October, and a 44-41 lead this past week.  The Economist went from 43-40 to 46-41 and CNN from 47-42 to 49-44.  Trump made up ground (slightly) in the NBC poll (from 46-40 to 46-41) and Reuters (from 42-36 to 42-38).

Where Trump actually lost ground was with his most favorable poll, USC/LA Times.  His average lead fell from 4% in the first week in October to an average of 1% in the last week.  Rasmussen did not release a poll at the start of October, but Trump had averaged a 1% lead for most of the fall.  This past week, Trump has averaged a tie with Clinton.

It is impossible to say whether the ET tape has faded in the public consciousness or if the steady drip of Wikileaks has hurt Clinton, or, more substantively, if every letter informing people of massive Obamacare insurance premium hikes has chipped away at Clinton.  What can be said is that Trump was in trouble as he needed to make up ground and only managed to claw back to where he was, generally behind.

Now with the public’s general perception of Clinton as dishonest at best and corrupt at worst reinforced, it may be that Clinton will be knocked down that critical 2-3% necessary for Trump to win.  While early voting may mitigate the damage, 90% of votes have yet to be cast and Clinton does not have three weeks for the story to get stale.

In a race where neither candidate has had a net positive approval rating the entire year, Clinton may just edge out Trump for being more disliked.  It’s just a shame for Hillary Clinton.  The men around her just can’t keep it in their pants.