The gap between Hillary and Donald Trump continues to narrow. Both Pat Caddell and Ed Rollins, respective consultants/pollsters to then-incumbent President Jimmy Carter and two-term California Governor Ronald Reagan in the 1980 presidential campaign, are finding in the last ten days, the mirror image of that campaign.
In many ways Clinton reflects Jimmy Carter and the old establishment of weakness and failure. She comes with a record of achievement far less than Carter had and, like Carter, publicly defends that position while attacking Trump and little else.
Trump, on the other hand, is much like the Reagan image, yet far less subtle. He represents the hope and change that his opponent, Hillary, and Obama’s eight years in the White House can’t convincingly deliver. Although both candidates have record high unfavorability, in the last days of the race, the undecided voter is staring at a very different choice more than the lesser of two evils.
What is happening in real time? Clinton is relying on star power provided by LeBron James, Jay-Z, Beyoncé, Katy Perry and others, while Trump forges ahead with his incursion into blue states. Clinton is providing no policy speeches while Trump is offering an alternative to the “go with the flow” government the American people have now. Like Reagan, he is inserting the former president’s best line in his debates with Carter; “There you go again,” and it is resonating in the latest polls.
Step back to less than a month ago. It was a foregone conclusion among many pollsters and forecasters that Clinton was on pace to a landslide victory, just as was predicted for Carter in late October. Now many of those same people feel there is a good likelihood that Trump could pull off a Nov. 8th shocker.
Highly respected data genius Nate Silver at FiveThirtyEight gives Clinton a 65 percent chance of winning and Trump a 35 percent chance. That’s way down from Clinton’s high on October 17th when she had an 88 percent chance of victory, compared to only 12 percent for Trump. Furthermore, CNN’s model once had Clinton surpassing the 270 Electoral College votes necessary for victory. Their new data has dropped Hillary below that threshold on Friday.
Election modelers are fine-tuning their assumptions as the race tightens dramatically in the final hours before Election Day. Why? Clinton’s FBI and email troubles have sent Republicans rallying behind Trump, and the GOP nominee has capitalized by staying on script and avoiding unnecessary controversies. Result? Real-life bettors are also directing more cash toward Trump.
Trump spent Saturday and Sunday in Pennsylvania, which suddenly looks like his best shot at picking off a blue state. That together with Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania represent Trump’s Rust Belt strategy and a test of how far his brand of national populism and anti-trade rhetoric will carry him.
Trump’s supporters, Ben Carson (who will most certainly head any new healthcare law) and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani (major credibility in homeland security and his days as a district attorney) will look to shore up Trump’s support in Arizona. They’ll also make stops in Nevada, which some experts believe is already in the bag for Clinton based on early voting.
And then there is Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), most certainly in line for secretary of defense or state, visiting Maine on Sunday as Trump seeks to wring an electoral vote out of the state’s 2nd Congressional District.
This in contrast to Hillary Clinton who in the final days has the luxury of supplementing her thinner campaign schedule with Democratic heavyweights like President Obama, first lady Michelle Obama, Vice President Biden, and Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), as well as a host of pop icons.
Clinton’s campaign strategy hinges on star power and the risk that this is what undecided voters want to hear and see. Whatever the outcome, Trump’s critics won’t be able to accuse him of coasting; quite the contrary.
The GOP nominee has attempted to address the African-American base of the Democratic Party. Will his inroads into the urban cities be a game-changer? Can Hillary capture a huge majority of Hispanics? In Florida, more Hispanics have already voted than did in all of 2012.
But liberals are hopeful that Trump’s rhetoric toward Hispanics will doom him even before Election Day arrives. It is all speculation in the end, and the ghosts of the 1980 election loom larger by the hour.