By Gregory Barradale.
As September rolls around once again, the end is in sight. The seemingly never ending race for the White House steps up a gear with polling day only two months away.
Polls suggest the gap between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton is closing, with the Democrat nominee losing a substantial chunk of the lead she has so far enjoyed. A small minority of pollsters grant Trump a narrow advantage.
On the campaign trail, Trump has been busy. A fresh strategy appears, as he courts the African-American vote by relaying injustices they are well aware of and asking “What do you have to lose in trying Trump?” As with any of his policy details, he is vague. He promises more jobs, and that “African-American citizens and Latino citizens will have the time of their life!” Meanwhile, there was a trip to Mexico to meet President Enrique Peña Nieto; a publicity stunt that characterises a recent softening of Mr Trump’s rhetoric in some areas. As the two appeared side-by-side at a press conference, he told Mr Peña that “I call you a friend”, a reversal on his previous assertions that Mexico is “not our friend, believe me.” Trump also seems intent on the unilateral decision to make Mexico pay for the wall, despite Mr Peña insisting otherwise on Twitter afterwards. He also criticised Republican Arizona Governor Jeff Flake as “very weak and ineffective” over his position on immigration. Now on his third campaign chief, Trump’s bid for the White House may lack consistency, but it does not want for publicity.
As much as Mr Trump seeks out controversy, Hillary Clinton cannot escape it.
Wikileaks have breathed fresh life into the recurring email scandal, which raises doubts over Clinton’s handling of sensitive material. She is also plagued by Donor scandal relating to husband Bill’s Clinton Foundation. To top it all, the Democratic Nominee is hounded by journalists over her apparent reluctance to give a press conference. So what is her strategy? Although her media presence has been understated, Clinton has been hard at work. She managed to fundraise $143m in August, and has been targeting traditionally Republican states, such as Arizona and Utah – perhaps tactics to make Trump waste time and effort on places he need not. Polls suggest 56% of Americans have an unfavourable view of her. In absence of great enthusiasm or trust, Ms Clinton must rely on her long record of committed public service and colossal campaign machine to win over voters.
Looking forward, it’s difficult to predict. Trump’s Primary success defied predictions, but it’s questionable whether this will carry through to November. Polls do suggest that Mr Trump’s fervent anti-immigrant rhetoric is hurting his chances in key areas, although this has softened in recent weeks. A series of three televised debates begin on 26th September. These provide opportunity for Trump, and could pose a challenge for Clinton, who is by her own admission “not a natural politician”. However, Clinton’s army of campaigners dwarfs Trump’s, and may prove crucial in mobilising voters in marginal battlegrounds such as Ohio and Pennsylvania. Trump’s off-the-cuff remarks were well suited to winning a primary, but he seems resistant to a –necessarily – more organised approach during this stage of campaigning. And he is now in need of the support of the Republican establishment who he spent so long passionately alienating. Although a Clinton victory looks more likely, Trump’s chances, like what might come out of his mouth next, remain unpredictable.