En­trenched vot­ers get an­other test

Clin­ton braces in elec­tion sea­son in which can­di­dates’ mis­steps have failed to al­ter race

Baltimore Sun - - NATION - By Cath­leen Decker

ME­D­INA, Ohio — The late resur­fac­ing of a con­tro­versy in­volv­ing Hil­lary Clin­ton’s emails will test the one stub­born truth in this de­mo­li­tion derby of a pres­i­den­tial cam­paign: Al­most noth­ing has dra­mat­i­cally al­tered for any length of time the nar­row lead in polls held by the for­mer sec­re­tary of state.

Clin­ton has re­bounded from other mis­steps, just as Don­ald Trump bounced back from what would be, in any or­di­nary cam­paign, can­di­dacy-end­ing scan­dals.

The rea­son: Vot­ers hold hard­ened, and mostly neg­a­tive, views of both nom­i­nees and have stuck with their choice re­gard­less of any new rev­e­la­tions. Bad news has paled against the level of dis­taste for the op­po­nent.

The firm­ness of those sen­ti­ments seems likely to di­min­ish the im­pact that might oth­er­wise have re­sulted from a fresh look at Clin­ton’s emails by the FBI, just as it ear­lier lim­ited the ef­fect of about a dozen women ac­cus­ing Trump of sex­ual mis­con­duct.

The lat­est burst still could, of course, come back neg­a­tively on Clin­ton. The tim­ing so close to Elec­tion Day may not fully al­low for what has been the rhythm of this cam­paign: the can­di­date in the cross-hairs dip­ping slightly, only to re­cover days later.

In her fa­vor, how­ever, Clin­ton’s cam­paign has worked since early vot­ing be­gan in many key states to bank votes as in­sur­ance against any calamity that could af­fect the race.

That means that fewer than the full com­ple­ment of Amer­i­can vot­ers is even in play. And as a way of A Don­ald Trump sup­porter shows up at a Mon­day rally in Grand Rapids, Mich., in a par­ti­san Hal­loween cos­tume. Vot­ers hold hard­ened, and mostly neg­a­tive, views of both nom­i­nees. keep­ing in her camp those who haven’t yet voted, the cam­paign spent the week­end try­ing to cast doubt on the FBI’s de­ci­sion to go pub­lic.

Polling this week may pro­vide an early look at the im­pact. Yet, the cam­paign sug­gests that many vot­ers may ul­ti­mately shrug it off.

FBI Di­rec­tor James Comey un­leashed the mat­ter last week with his let­ter to con­gres­sional lead­ers say­ing a new batch of emails re­lated in some fash­ion to Clin­ton had been un­cov­ered and were go­ing to be ex­am­ined.

Of­fi­cials ac­knowl­edged that the dis­cov­ery came dur­ing an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into sex­ting by An­thony Weiner, the for­mer con­gress­man and es­tranged hus­band of long­time Clin­ton aide Huma Abe­din. The emails were on a lap­top the two used.

The FBI has not said whether any emails are from Clin­ton or whether they are new or rather du­pli­cates of the tens of thou­sands al­ready scanned by in­ves­ti­ga­tors. Nor is it clear whether any from Clin­ton con­tain ma­te­rial not meant to be pub­lic.

The FBI is not ex­pected to clar­ify the de­tails be­fore Elec­tion Day, al­though on Sun­day it re­ceived a war­rant al­low­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tors to look at the emails.

In the last few days, the polls have nar­rowed — as they do to­ward the end of nearly ev­ery pres­i­den­tial race. Still, the Trump cam­paign has proven un­able to leapfrog Clin­ton. What tight­en­ing there has been has not dra­mat­i­cally nar­rowed Clin­ton’s path to vic­tory nor ex­panded Trump’s.

Ac­cord­ing to an av­er­age of polls main­tained by RealClearPol­i­tics, Clin­ton’s lead now is al­most pre­cisely what it was at the start of the Repub­li­can con­ven­tion in mid-July.

Since then, the cam­paign has been buf­feted by mul­ti­ple at­tacks by Trump on a Gold Star fam­ily, on fel­low Repub­li­cans and on women; by con­tro­ver­sies over the Clin­ton fam­ily foun­da­tion and the Demo­cratic can­di­date’s health; by Trump’s video­taped re­marks about as­sault­ing women and the emer­gence of real-life ac­cusers; and by three con­tentious de­bates.

None of those things fun­da­men­tally changed the polls.

In fact, since June 16, Clin­ton has led ev­ery day but two.

Demo­cratic poll­ster Pe­ter Hart noted re­cently that vot­ers’ sense of each can­di­date had barely moved from one year ear­lier. That sug­gested that the vast ma­jor­ity of vot­ers had fixed views, he said at the time.

“Peo­ple are pretty well set where they are go­ing to be,” said Hart, whose firm co-di­rects the NBC News/ Wall Street Jour­nal polls with Repub­li­can poll­ster Bill McIn­turff.

This week will show whether Trump can ap­ply a dis­ci­pline unseen in his can­di­dacy and whether Clin­ton can per­suade vot­ers to look be­yond the con­fu­sion of re­cent days. And it will show whether any­thing ei­ther of them does will mat­ter.

CHIP SOMODEVILLA/GETTY

JOE RAEDLE/GETTY

Ac­cord­ing to Wik­iLeaks, Donna Brazile dis­closed ques­tions Hil­lary Clin­ton might be asked at events.

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