With 23M bal­lots cast, can emails play a role?

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - FRONT PAGE -

GRAND RAPIDS, MICH. >> Donald Trump plunged into his fi­nal-week sprint to Elec­tion Day Mon­day de­cid­edly on his terms: un­leash­ing a harsh new at­tack against Demo­crat Hil­lary Clin­ton in Michi­gan, a state that hasn’t fa­vored a Repub­li­can for pres­i­dent in nearly three decades.

His mes­sage was wel­comed by sup­port­ers, but his lo­ca­tion frus­trated anx­ious Repub­li­cans who fear their nom­i­nee is rid­ing his un­ortho­dox po­lit­i­cal play­book too long — even as Clin­ton’s de­vel­op­ing email prob­lems of­fer new po­lit­i­cal op­por­tu­nity.

“Her elec­tion would mire our gov­ern­ment and our coun­try in a con­sti­tu­tional cri­sis that we can­not af­ford,” Trump de­clared in Grand Rap-

ids, point­ing to the FBI’s re­newed ex­am­i­na­tion of Clin­ton’s email prac­tices as ev­i­dence the for­mer sec­re­tary of state might face a crim­i­nal trial as pres­i­dent.

Na­tional polls show a tight­en­ing race. But with more than 23 mil­lion bal­lots al­ready cast through early vot­ing, it’s un­clear whether Trump has the time or ca­pac­ity to dra­mat­i­cally im­prove his stand­ing over the next week in states like Michi­gan, where few po­lit­i­cal pro­fes­sion­als in ei­ther party ex­pect a Repub­li­can vic­tory on Nov. 8.

Clin­ton fo­cused Mon­day on bat­tle­ground Ohio, a state Trump’s team con­cedes he must win.

“There is no case here,” Clin­ton said of the FBI ex­am­i­na­tion. “Most peo­ple have de­cided a long time ago what they think about all this.”

She added, “In these last days, let’s not get dis­tracted from the real choice in this elec­tion and the con­se­quences for your fu­ture.”

With just seven days to go, the race for the White House re­mains at its core a test of a sim­ple ques­tion: Will the con­ven­tional rules

of mod­ern-day cam­paigns ap­ply to a 2016 elec­tion that has been any­thing but con­ven­tional?

For much of the year, Clin­ton has pounded the air­waves with ad­ver­tis­ing, as­sem­bled an ex­pan­sive voter data file and con­structed a na­tion­wide po­lit­i­cal or­ga­ni­za­tion that dwarfs her op­po­nent’s.

The Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee and her al­lies in a dozen bat­tle­ground states have more than 4,800 peo­ple knock­ing on doors, mak­ing phone calls and oth­er­wise work­ing to sup­port her can­di­dacy. Clin­ton’s num­bers, as re­ported in re­cent cam­paign fil­ings, tripled those of Trump and the na­tional and state Repub­li­can par­ties.

The New York busi­ness­man over the past year has largely ig­nored the key com­po­nents of re­cent win­ning cam­paigns, de­pend­ing in­stead on mas­sive ral­lies and free me­dia cov­er­age to drive his out­sider can­di­dacy. This week, he’s de­vot­ing his most valu­able re­source — his time — to states where polls sug­gest he’s trail­ing Clin­ton by sig­nif­i­cant mar­gins.

Trump had two ral­lies on Mon­day in Michi­gan, a state that last went for a Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee in 1988. The day be­fore,

he ap­peared in New Mex­ico, which has sup­ported the GOP just once over the last three decades. And on Tues­day, he’s sched­uled to ap­pear with run­ning mate Mike Pence in Wis­con­sin, which hasn’t backed a Repub­li­can for pres­i­dent since Ron­ald Rea­gan’s re-elec­tion in 1984.

“It makes no sense to me,” Repub­li­can poll­ster Frank Luntz said of Trump’s strat­egy.

Michi­gan-based Repub­li­can op­er­a­tive Saul Anuzis de­scribed Michi­gan as “a cre­ative op­por­tu­nity” for Trump.

“The de­mo­graph­ics in Michi­gan are per­fect for Trump,” Anuzis said of the state’s large white work­ing-class pop­u­la­tion. “That doesn’t mean he’ll necessarily win here.”

Trump’s cam­paign hopes that frus­trated work­ing­class vot­ers across the Mid­west will tip states like Michi­gan or Wis­con­sin his way, es­pe­cially if he ben­e­fits from re­duced en­thu­si­asm for Clin­ton in AfricanAmer­i­can strongholds like Detroit and Mil­wau­kee. New Mex­ico is seen as a longer shot, with Trump’s hard line im­mi­gra­tion stance a harder sell in a state with the na­tion’s high­est percentage of Latino vot­ers.

Adding to Trump’s chal­lenge: Mil­lions have al­ready voted by mail and at polling sta­tions across 37 states. They in­clude crit­i­cal states such as Florida, Ne­vada and Colorado, where one third of the ex­pected bal­lots have al­ready been cast.

The break­down of those vot­ers by party af­fil­i­a­tion, race and other fac­tors point to an ad­van­tage for Clin­ton.

Over­all, more than 23 mil­lion votes have been cast, far higher than the rate in 2012, ac­cord­ing to As­so­ci­ated Press data. That rep­re­sents nearly 20 per­cent of the to­tal votes ex­pected na­tion­wide, if turnout is sim­i­lar to 2012. In all, more than 46 mil­lion peo­ple — up to 40 per­cent of the elec­torate — are ex­pected to vote be­fore Elec­tion Day.

As for Trump’s charge that a Clin­ton elec­tion might prompt “a con­sti­tu­tional cri­sis,” it’s an open ques­tion whether sit­ting pres­i­dents are im­mune from crim­i­nal pros­e­cu­tion.

The Jus­tice De­part­ment’s of­fice of le­gal coun­sel said in 1973 that crim­i­nally pros­e­cut­ing a pres­i­dent would un­con­sti­tu­tion­ally un­der­mine the ex­ec­u­tive branch. A 2000 memo reached a sim­i­lar con­clu­sion. Pres­i­dents can face civil law­suits, how­ever.

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