Clinton’s debate victory margins historic
Trump’s campaign is running out of time
HILLARY CLINTON ADMINISTERED a historic thumping to Donald Trump in the three presidential debates. The candidates met Wednesday night for the third and final time, and the outcome was the same as the first two outings — post-debate polls from CNN and YouGov showed Clinton again walking away with the win. A perfect string of 15 polls covering the three debates all show Clinton the winner. Add it all together and Clinton’s collective debate victory over Trump was the largest in history, according to a FiveThirtyEight analysis.Losing another debate hurts Trump more than it helps Clinton. History suggests third debates usually have at best a marginal impact on the polls, so Clinton may not gain much from the win. But she denied Trump one more chance to alter his downward trajectory, and checked yet another day off the rapidly diminishing electoral calendar. Coming into the debate, Trump was trailing Clinton by an average of 7 points in national polling. She also leads in enough states to win the 270 electoral votes needed to secure the presidency.
If the past two debates are a guide, the post-debate fallout could make matters worse, as Trump drags out the negative storylines. After the first debate, his campaign spent days pushing a conversation about the value of unscientific website surveys as evidence he won the debate. All this did was extend the media’s focus on the fact that the real polls showed him losing. Then there was his feud with the former Miss Universe, which culminated in a late-night tweetstorm.
The big headline coming out of the final debate is that Trump refused to say he would accept the results of the election. “That’s horrifying,” said Clinton, previewing a cascade of bipartisan condemnation for the idea. Others chimed in on Twitter. Arizona Sen. John McCain, the 2008 Republican nominee, said in statement: “I didn’t like the outcome of the 2008 election. But I had a duty to concede, and I did so without reluctance. A concession isn’t just an exercise in graciousness. It is an act of respect for the will of the American people, a respect that is every American leader’s first responsibility.”
Even Maine Governor Paul LePage, not known for his measured rhetoric, slammed Trump. “Not accepting the results, I think, is just a stupid comment,” he said.
But while some Trump surrogates tried to spin the comment to be more benign, Trump baited critics again on Thursday, suggesting he would only accept the election outcome if he wins. This pattern of Trump drawing continued attention to his weakest and worst arguments has hurt Trump throughout the general election. This time, by again focusing media coverage on the possibility he won’t accept the outcome, Trump is robbing himself of what he needs most: time to recover.With just 19 days to go to Election Day, Trump cannot afford to spend any more news cycles on these kinds of sideshows. His path to a comeback is already steep and narrow due to his deficit in the polls. No candidate has ever recovered from this size of polling deficit with this little time remaining. The path is yet more difficult by the fact that early voting has already begun in many states. Over 2.5 million votes have already been cast. By Election Day, estimates suggest a third of the total votes will already be in.
For the Clinton campaign, this is great news. They can use early voting to roll up votes while they have a lead, and to deny potential votes to Trump. Every vote cast now is one the Trump campaign cannot win back, even if he does begin to recover in the polls. And by extending coverage of the worst moment of the debate, Trump crosses a few more days off the list, and lets Clinton bank more votes.