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Can Trump Get Back On Track?

Binyamin Rose

After mistake-filled week, campaign shifts back to issues

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

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President Obama’s current approval rating: 51.1%. Pundits contend as long as the number stays above 50%, it’s a positive for Hillary Clinton. (Photos: AFP/Imagebank)

No one is too surprised that Hillary Clinton has opened a sizable lead in the polls, considering the Democrats’ well-orchestrated convention and the cacophony of sour notes hit by Donald Trump, who squandered his convention bounce with a pointless personal attack against a single speaker at the Democratic National Convention.

This week and next will be crucial to see if Trump can bounce back, or if his self-inflicted wounds have become lethal.

Pollsters universally agree that once both post-convention bounces wear off, the polls to be released in mid-August will be far more indicative of which way the contest is heading.

The math has always looked forbidding to Trump, especially in the all-important Electoral College, where some ofAmerica’s most populous states, such asCaliforniaandNew York, are also the most liberal and solidly Democratic.

Political analysts such as Real Clear Politics, which aggregates the results of a variety of pollsters, showsClintonwith a solid 246 to 154 for Trump. Taking toss-up states out of the equation, RCP showsClintonin a romp, at 346 to 192.

That number is confirmed by Sabato’s Crystal Ball at the University of Virginia Center for Politics. They too show Hillary winning 347-191, with just 270 needed for victory.

There is also a consensus that if the electoral map is to change in the 90 days remaining till the November 8 election, it will have to shift in a handful of states, where results in recent elections have been close.

Those shifts would center onOhio,Pennsylvania, andFlorida, as well asNorth Carolina,Michigan, andWisconsin. If you don’t live in these, or in a handful of other toss-up states, don’t expect to see much of the presidential contenders.

“We’re going to see campaign stops isolated to a dozen key states,” says Kyle Kondik, managing editor of Sabato’s Crystal Ball.

In 2012, the two presidential and two vice presidential candidates made 250 campaign stops across the country in only 12 states after the conventions. “Seventy were inOhioand 40 inPennsylvania, so you’re going to see a lot of campaign stops concentrated in these states again,” Kondik says.

It isn’t only the new tenant of the White House that’s in question this election cycle. House and Senate seats are also being contested across the nation, and Democrats are on the offensive everywhere, says Geoff Skelley, associate editor at Sabato’s Crystal Ball. Skelley says that the GOP’s 54-46 Senate majority is in jeopardy. “Republicans are defending seven seats in states Obama won in 2012. The only Democratic-held seat in play is inNevada, where Harry Reid is retiring.”

Look for Republicans to retain control of the House of Representatives, no matter what happens in the Senate. “Trump’s greatest appeal is in rural areas, and the battle for the House is fought inAmerica’s suburbs,” Skelley says. “And there aren’t too many rural Democrats left in this country.”

Geoff Skelley: “Republicans are defending seven seats in states Obama won in 2012. The only Democratic-held seat in play is in Nevada, where Harry Reid is retiring.”

The battle for the final votes may depend on who delivers the more convincing economic message, so both campaigns delivered major economic addresses this week. The economy is still one area where Trump holds more favorable ratings thanClinton, and at press time, he worked that advantage.

Late last week, Trump unveiled his team of economic advisors, whose solid Wall Street credentials should mollify an investment community that fears change. (At the same time, his team will hinder his ability to tag Hillary negatively as the Wall Street candidate.)

Trump’s economic proposals include cutting the corporate tax rate to 15 percent and eliminating the estate tax, two measures his campaign hopes will resonate with well-to-do mainstream Republicans who so far have rejected him. Coupled with his longstanding proposal to virtually eliminate income taxes on families earning less than $50,000 a year and individuals earning less than $25,000, which will appeal to his working-class rural base, Trump’s bigger challenge will be to show how such tax cuts won’t bust a budget already running at a $500 billion deficit.

In fact, theClintoncampaign wasted no time in painting Trump as fiscally irresponsible, and positioning the Democrats as the party of sound economic policies.

It’s another example of how traditional party roles are reversing in a year in which we can still expect the unexpected.

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