With less than fifty days to go until Election Day, the race for the White House has suddenly tightened as polls now show a much closer contest than previously expected. FiveThirtyEight projects Donald Trump’s chances of winning the presidency to be 43% as of September 21st , a substantial increase in comparison to a month ago when they hovered around 15%. National polls are reflecting this shift with most surveys putting Trump behind by only 3 percentage points or less, in direct contrast to his 12-point deficit after the Democratic National Convention.
As these polling numbers get tighter, the resources that the Clinton and Trump campaign have invested in various swing states such as Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania will become crucial in influencing the electorate and voter opinion within these regions. Given the growth of the third-party voter share relative to 2012, when they made up less than 2% of the overall votes cast, it is unclear what role they will play in this year’s election, although it is likely that many third-party voters will reconsider voting for one of the two major party candidates as the race continues to narrow. Both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump stand poised to lose many potential voters if more Americans choose to vote for third party candidates, possibly resulting in an even tighter race.
One contributing factor to this reversal in the polls is Clinton’s highly criticized comments at an LGBT for Hillary Gala where she stated that “you could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables. … The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic — you name it.” The Trump campaign and some Republicans, in response, have denounced these remarks as further evidence of Clinton being elitist and out of touch with middle-class families. Furthermore, Clinton had contracted pneumonia on her campaign tour and was later seen stumbling as she got into a van after abruptly leaving a 9/11 commemoration ceremony. This health scare came after several weeks of comments by Trump and other Republicans who have speculated about Clinton’s fitness.
Trump has refrained from any negative attacks on her health while revealing the results of a physical exam on Dr. Mehmet Oz’s daytime show where they discussed his weight and his use of statins to lower cholesterol. The day after, Trump promised under his economic plan to create 25 million jobs within the next ten years by reducing federal taxes and business regulations while supposedly generating a 3.5% GDP growth. Later in the week, Trump addressed the birther theory at an event in his newly opened Trump International Hotel where he definitively stated that Obama was born in the United States while also falsely claiming that Clinton started the issue during the ‘08 primaries.
Given both candidates’ abysmally low favorability ratings, the news stories of the past week have only served to reinforce many of the negative traits that the candidates have often failed to shake. As the news media continues to debate, advocate for, and excoriate the various candidates for office, it is unlikely that the poll numbers will change in favor of Trump or Clinton absent some fresh news story. Look forward to the presidential debate on September 26 as both Clinton and Trump will be aiming to contrast their policies and personalities while remaking their image to undecided voters, if such a thing is possible.