GOP strate­gists: Clin­ton in good shape with 3 weeks left

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - OBITUARIES - By Thomas Beau­mont

DES MOINES, IOWA >> With roughly three weeks to Elec­tion Day, Repub­li­can strate­gists na­tion­wide pub­licly con­cede Hil­lary Clin­ton has a firm grip on the 270 Elec­toral Col­lege votes needed to win the White House — and may be on her way to an even more de­ci­sive vic­tory over Don­ald Trump.

“He is on track to to­tally and com­pletely melt­ing down,” said Repub­li­can poll­ster Whit Ay­ers, who is ad­vis­ing Florida Sen. Marco Ru­bio’s re-elec­tion cam­paign. Like many Repub­li­can strate­gists, he was will­ing to speak pub­licly about the GOP nom­i­nee’s rough road ahead at the end of an un­prece­dented cam­paign.

Things can change be­fore Elec­tion Day. There is one more pres­i­den­tial de­bate, and Trump has ral­lied be­fore. His core sup­port­ers re­main strongly com­mit­ted.

But along with indicators such as polling, cam­paign travel, staffing and ad­ver­tis­ing, the in­ter­views with Repub­li­can po­lit­i­cal pro­fes­sion­als un­af­fil­i­ated with the Trump cam­paign sug­gest only an epic col­lapse by Clin­ton would keep her from win­ning enough states to be­come pres­i­dent.

In the past week, Trump’s cam­paign has been hit by al­le­ga­tions the New York bil­lion­aire sex­u­ally ac­costed sev­eral women over the past three decades. Early vot­ing in piv­otal North Carolina and Florida shows pos­i­tive signs for Clin­ton, and do­na­tions to the Repub­li­can Na­tional Com­mit­tee are down about a quar­ter over the past three months from the same pe­riod in 2012, when Mitt Rom­ney was the nom­i­nee.

Pref­er­ence polling in the past week, mean­while, has gen­er­ally moved in Clin­ton’s di­rec­tion, with the Demo­crat im­prov­ing in na­tional sur­veys and in a num­ber of con­tested states.

If the elec­tion were held to­day, Clin­ton would likely carry the en­tire West Coast and North­east, as well as most of the Great Lakes re­gion — a place Trump once iden­ti­fied as ripe ter­ri­tory for his pop­ulist mes­sage against free trade.

Only Ohio is a toss-up in that part of the coun­try, but the peren­nial bat­tle­ground may not play a de­ci­sive role come Elec­tion Day this year due to Clin­ton’s strength — and Trump’s weak­nesses — else­where.

Trump and run­ning mate Mike Pence have made a hard play for Penn­syl­va­nia, a state car­ried by the Demo­cratic nom­i­nee in the past six elec­tions. But their strat­egy to hold down Clin­ton in Philadel­phia and its sub­urbs while run­ning up Trump’s vote to­tal in more con­ser­va­tive parts of the state has failed to ma­te­ri­al­ize.

“He’s get­ting his brains beat in by women in the Philly sub­urbs,” said Ed Goeas, a Repub­li­can poll­ster who is sur­vey­ing pres­i­den­tial bat­tle­grounds and sev­eral states with races for U.S. Se­nate.

Trump was al­ready strug­gling to at­tract sup­port from women be­fore his first de­bate with Clin­ton in late Septem­ber. It was at that event in New York where Clin­ton stung Trump by re­viv­ing his past sham­ing of a for­mer Miss Uni­verse for gain­ing weight.

Trump’s re­sponse, call­ing the con­tes­tant’s weight gain “a real prob­lem” in a TV in­ter­view the next day, was quickly eclipsed by the pub­li­ca­tion of a video from 2005 on which the Repub­li­can bragged about us­ing his fame to prey on women.

An apol­ogy fol­lowed, but Trump also in­sisted his com­ments were noth­ing more than “locker room talk.” He de­nied at the can­di­dates’ sec­ond de­bate that he ever acted in the ways he dis­cussed in the 2005 video.

Within days, sev­eral women had come for­ward to ac­cuse Trump of un­wanted sex­ual ad­vances and sex­ual as­sault. He re­sponded by call­ing his ac­cusers liars and, on Fri­day, sug­gested they were in some in­stances not phys­i­cally at­trac­tive enough to merit his at­ten­tion.

“His en­tire tack could

not be bet­ter de­signed to drive away col­lege-ed­u­cated women,” said Ay­ers, the GOP poll­ster.

Ed­u­cated women liv­ing in sub­urbs have long been a key part of the GOP coali­tion, but polls in­di­cate the rev­e­la­tions about Trump’s be­hav­ior have pushed them to­ward Clin­ton in the bat­tle­ground states of Colorado and Vir­ginia.

The events have also foiled Trump’s late-in-the­cam­paign plan to re-ig­nite his hope of car­ry­ing Wis­con­sin. Trump and Pence were to cam­paign with House Speaker Paul

Ryan in his home state a day after the 2005 video was made public. Ryan with­drew his in­vi­ta­tion to Trump, and Pence later can­celled.

Trump can still count on car­ry­ing states across the West, the Great Plains and in the South, but Ay­ers and other Repub­li­cans pre­dict he may ul­ti­mately end up with fewer than 200 Elec­toral Col­lege votes.

Should the Repub­li­can fall short in Penn­syl­va­nia, he would need to post vic­to­ries in both Florida and Ohio, as well as sev­eral other bat­tle­grounds — North Carolina, Vir­ginia, Ne­vada and New Hamp­shire among them — to reach 270.

But that’s only if he pre­vails

in re­li­ably Repub­li­can Ari­zona, Ge­or­gia and Utah.

In Utah, Trump’s deep un­pop­u­lar­ity among the large pop­u­la­tion of Mor­mon vot­ers could lead to four can­di­dates win­ning 10 per­cent or more of the state’s vote. That kind of un­cer­tainty opens the door to a win there for Clin­ton or for third-party can­di­dates Evan McMullin and Gary John­son.

In Ari­zona, won by the Repub­li­can nom­i­nee in all but one elec­tion since 1952, Trump’s char­ac­ter­i­za­tion of some His­panic im­mi­grants as crim­i­nals has turned off many in the state’s grow­ing and Demo­cratic-lean­ing His­panic com­mu­nity.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.