Entrenched voters get another test
Clinton braces in election season in which candidates’ missteps have failed to alter race
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.
According to WikiLeaks, Donna Brazile disclosed questions Hillary Clinton might be asked at events.