With a little over two months remaining before the Presidential election, 2016 has already proven to be nothing short of an unpredictable political whirlwind.
At least, that’s been the case for the Republican Party, which has seen Donald Trump emerge victorious from a field of sixteen other governors, senators and former candidates. He’s also run an exceptionally poor general election campaign for the first few months. While I’m hesitant to use this word to describe anything about 2016, the election has been fairly conventional, outside of the GOP Primary. We know that, while Trump has defied political gravity, it does still exist.
Hillary Clinton was a huge favorite to win the Democratic nomination, and she did so — albeit with a stiffer challenge than many expected from Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont. So far in the general election, Clinton is outspending Trump, out-organizing him, beating him in the ground game, dwarfing him in advertising and is less unpopular than he is (though she is still strikingly unpopular in her own right). As would be expected considering all these factors, Clinton has consistently led Trump in almost every national and swing state poll taken since the Democratic National Convention in late July and is a pretty heavy favorite to win in November.
The good news for Clinton is that she received a much larger “convention bounce” in the polls than Trump received after the GOP convention, and that bounce doesn’t seem to be fading much if at all. Clinton is polling well nationally and in a pretty strong position in most swing states, in addition to polling surprisingly well in some solid red states like Kansas and South Carolina. She currently has a decisive lead in the electoral college, and if the election were held today, would likely win by a margin approaching Barack Obama’s 2008 victory over John McCain. The bad news for Clinton is that she has to run out the clock for two more months. While Trump has not yet shown the capability or willingness to run a campaign seemingly capable of challenging her, the length of time between now and the election is an eternity in politics. There’s plenty of time for Trump to catch and surpass Clinton in the polls, and it’s entirely possible that this race could end up extremely close like the 2000 race between Al Gore and George W. Bush that was effectively decided by 500 voters in Florida.
As September begins, Clinton has a clear lead. But to put it in football terms, this is only the start of the fourth quarter. It remains to be seen whether Trump’s next pass will be a touchdown or an interception, and how effectively Clinton can run out the clock.