Hil­lary Clin­ton holds a clear ad­van­tage

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Worldwide -

COLUM­BUS — Two months from Elec­tion Day, Hil­lary Clin­ton has a clear edge over Don­ald Trump in nearly ev­ery mea­sure tra­di­tion­ally used to gauge suc­cess in pres­i­den­tial races.

She’s rais­ing huge sums of money and flood­ing air­waves with tele­vi­sion ad­ver­tise­ments. A so­phis­ti­cated data team with a his­tory of win­ning White House con­tests is metic­u­lously track­ing vot­ers in key bat­tle­ground states. Clin­ton also has mul­ti­ple paths to the 270 elec­toral votes needed to win in No­vem­ber — so many that she could lose Ohio and Florida and still be­come Amer­ica’s first fe­male pres­i­dent.

But Trump’s cam­paign be­lieves there are pock­ets of vot­ers ea­ger to be per­suaded not to back Clin­ton. While Trump squan­dered a sum­mer’s worth of op­por­tu­ni­ties to court those vot­ers, his cam­paign heads into the fall sud­denly con­fi­dent in its abil­ity to make up lost ground.

Trump aides were gleeful on Fri­day over the re­lease of FBI notes re­gard­ing Clin­ton’s con­tro­ver­sial email prac­tices while sec­re­tary of state. His cam­paign plans to come out of the Labour Day week­end wield­ing the re­port as a warn­ing about the Demo­crat’s judge­ment.

Get­ting Trump to make that kind of con­sis­tent case against Clin­ton has been a her­culean task for much of the cam­paign. But ad­vis­ers say he’s more re­cep­tive to his new lead­er­ship team’s more scripted ap­proach, mostly be­cause it’s co­in­cided with a tight­en­ing in the pub­lic polls he mon­i­tors ob­ses­sively.

“There’s a re­newed fo­cus on Hil­lary Clin­ton and her prob­lems, which I think has been ben­e­fi­cial,” said Matt Borges, the chair of Ohio’s Repub­li­can Party. “He’s got to sus­tain this for an­other cou­ple weeks.”

Still, Trump aides ac­knowl­edge that the brash busi­ness­man needs to more to ad­dress his own shaky stand­ing with vot­ers.

Trump’s cam­paign has spent no gen­eral elec­tion money on pos­i­tive, bi­o­graph­i­cal ads, de­spite hav­ing plenty of cash to do so. Ef­forts to high­light a warmer side of the New York real es­tate de­vel­oper at the GOP con­ven­tion were quickly over­shad­owed by flaps of his own mak­ing. He’s also an­gered anew His­pan­ics vot­ers, a fast-grow­ing seg­ment of the elec­torate that Repub­li­cans are des­per­ate to draw from, by hold­ing fast to his tough im­mi­gra­tion poli­cies.

“He’s run­ning up against a pop­u­la­tion trend and a de­mo­graphic re­al­ity,” said Steve Schale, a Florida-based Demo­cratic strate­gist.

If Trump can re­shape the race, he’ll need to do so quickly. Early vot­ing be­gins in some states this month. North Carolini­ans can start sub­mit­ting ab­sen­tee bal­lots Fri­day. In Ohio — a state no Repub­li­can has won the White House with­out - peo­ple can start vot­ing on Oc­to­ber 12, a week be­fore the last of three pres­i­den­tial de­bates.

Both cam­paigns ex­pect enor­mous au­di­ences for the de­bates. Clin­ton, who has been in in­ten­sive study ses­sions with her de­bate team in re­cent days, is sure to face higher ex­pec­ta­tions from vot­ers. Trump’s po­lit­i­cal in­ex­pe­ri­ence leaves him with a lower bar to clear.

Pri­vately, Repub­li­can lead­ers say it will take more than strong de­bates for their nom­i­nee to al­ter a race that ap­pears to be lean­ing in Clin­ton’s favour. While Trump pub­licly main­tains sup­port from nu­mer­ous high­rank­ing GOP of­fi­cials, a strik­ing num­ber of dis­cus­sions among Repub­li­cans in Wash­ing­ton of­ten be­gin with an as­sump­tion that Clin­ton will be pres­i­dent come Jan­uary.

Trump ad­vis­ers vig­or­ously dis­pute that the race has slipped from their grasp. They con­tend most Amer­i­cans are just now tun­ing into the pres­i­den­tial cam­paign in a se­ri­ous way.

“We’re very much on sched­ule to do what we need to do to turn out the vote for Mr. Trump,” said Bob Pa­duchik, Trump’s Ohio state di­rec­tor and one of the most ex­pe­ri­enced op­er­a­tives on the Repub­li­can’s staff. Pa­duchik said Trump’s ef­forts head­ing into the fall are fo­cused pri­mar­ily on ral­ly­ing “dis­af­fected Democrats and in­de­pen­dents.”

Clin­ton’s cam­paign has long ar­gued that Trump is over­es­ti­mat­ing the num­ber of vot­ers will­ing to switch from vot­ing Demo­cratic in pres­i­den­tial elec­tion to Repub­li­can. But Clin­ton aides are mon­i­tor­ing move­ment to­ward a pair of third party can­di­dates, Lib­er­tar­ian Gary John­son and the Green Party’s Jill Stein.

“There’s no ques­tion you’ve got two can­di­dates who are both un­der­wa­ter on their favourables right now,” Joel Be­nen­son, Clin­ton’s chief strate­gist and poll­ster, said by way of ex­plain­ing the ap­peal of John­son and Stein. “I think it’s im­por­tant as this gets closer that peo­ple un­der­stand the stakes and the im­por­tance of their vote.”

Clin­ton and run­ning mate Tim Kaine will have an all­star sta­ble of Democrats mak­ing that case on their be­half through the fall.

Pres­i­dent Barack Obama is ex­pected to spend much of Oc­to­ber cam­paign­ing for Clin­ton, fo­cus­ing in par­tic­u­lar on in­creas­ing turnout among young peo­ple, blacks and college-ed­u­cated whites. Vice Pres­i­dent Joe Bi­den will camp out in work­ing class ar­eas of Ohio and Pennsylvania. Ver­mont Sen. Bernie San­ders, Clin­ton’s van­quished pri­mary ri­val, will be ral­ly­ing the young vot­ers and lib­er­als who backed his cam­paign.

Trump will be largely on his own, with the ex­cep­tion of run­ning mate Mike Pence and a few loyal sup­port­ers such as New Jer­sey Gov. Chris Christie and for­mer New York City Mayor Rudy Gi­u­liani. In the bat­tle for con­trol of the Se­nate, most Repub­li­cans in com­pet­i­tive races have stayed away from Trump.

Mean­while, Trump promised African Amer­i­cans pros­per­ity and jobs on Satur­day in a visit to a black church in De­troit, as he called for a “civil rights agenda of our time”.

“I am here to lis­ten to you,” Trump told the con­gre­ga­tion at the Great Faith Min­istries In­ter­na­tional. “I am here to learn.”

The for­mer real es­tate mogul and Re­al­ity TV star has stepped up his ap­peals to mi­nor­ity vot­ers in re­cent weeks, but the visit was the first time Trump has ad­dressed a largely black au­di­ence since win­ning the Repub­li­can nom­i­na­tion.

While protesters were a vo­cal pres­ence out­side, Trump made a pitch in­side for sup­port from an elec­torate strongly aligned with Demo­crat Hil­lary Clin­ton.

“I want to help you build and re­build De­troit,” he said. “I fully un­der­stand that the African-Amer­i­can com­mu­nity has suf­fered from dis­crim­i­na­tion and there are many wrongs that should be made right.”

He also said the na­tion needs “a civil rights agenda of our time,” with bet­ter ed­u­ca­tion and good jobs.

The visit is a high-pro­file stop in Trump’s re­cent bid to off­set the over­whelm­ing ad­van­tage his ri­val Hil­lary Clin­ton has among African Amer­i­can vot­ers, who make up 12 per­cent of the elec­torate.

Be­fore the speech, protesters chant­ing “Dump Trump” and “We’re go­ing to church” tried to push through po­lice bar­ri­ers to gain en­trance.

“The devil’s in the pul­pit,” shouted Wy­oman Mitchell, one of about 200 protesters who were pushed back by po­lice on foot and on horse­back in the tense en­counter.

“[Trump] didn’t come to hear us, he came to talk to one of us to tell us what he thinks we ought to do,” Pas­tor Lawrence Glass, one of the or­gan­is­ers of the protest, told Al Jazeera.

“We are protest­ing against some­one who has proven to have a legacy of big­otry and bul­ly­ing . . . peo­ple of color and peo­ple of faith are not stand­ing for Trump and his an­tics of racial bias.”

To bol­ster his case, Trump points at the Demo­cratic stance on im­mi­gra­tion, claim­ing his ri­val would rather give jobs to new refugees than un­em­ployed black youth.

The African-Amer­i­can elec­torate tra­di­tion­ally leans heav­ily Demo­cratic.

In 2012, about 93 per­cent of black vot­ers backed Obama — an over­whelm­ing en­thu­si­asm that Clin­ton ap­pears to have kept alive, tak­ing 90 per­cent of the black vote in her pri­mary con­test against Bernie San­ders. — Al Jazeera

Hil­lary Clin­ton

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