While much of the political and media class have declared the presidential race for 2016 all but over — with the never say never #NeverTrump now urging the Republican National Committee to abandon the race for the White House — a funny thing has happened.
The post-convention poll bounces are over, for both candidates, and the race for president has settled into a fairly competitive contest.
On August 12, the USC Dornsife-LA Times poll had the race within the margin of error, with Hillary Clinton at 44 percent and Donald Trump at 43 percent nationally. By August 15, it is at 45.6 percent to 42 percent in favor of Clinton.
Trump still leads among seniors, with a 48 percent to 46 percent lead. And males, 47 percent to 42 percent. Clinton leads similarly albeit wider among women and younger Americans. Trump still leads with no college and some college, 48 percent to 42 percent, and 45 percent to 41 percent, respectively. Watch these numbers closely, as they could prove to be a critical factor come Election Day when it comes to turnout.
Still, the race on whole is fairly close. Close enough to eventually flip. Trump appears to be hitting the demographics he needs to win, but he must press his advantage.
Clinton of course is notorious for not finishing off her opponents in presidential races. She couldn’t put away Barack Obama in 2008. And only by the grace of DNC superdelegates — and more than a little help from national party leaders — did she beat Bernie Sanders in 2016.
Now faced with a Republican candidate in Donald Trump who nobody gave any chance of winning the nomination, let alone the general election — who seemingly creates new, shocking headlines on a daily basis that would cause any other candidate to self-destruct — and once again Clinton cannot seem to finish the job.
After the Khan episode and even the Second Amendment stand Trump has taken, all the smart people in the room have once again declared the race to be over — even though not a single vote has been cast.
Yes, Clinton got a bounce out of her convention. But so did Trump out of the Republican convention in Cleveland. Now, the race is evening out headed into September and the debates.
But why hasn’t Clinton put Trump away?
The fact is, it’s still too early to declare the race is over. Trump is fond of noting that he has not spent any money on television ads yet, even though his opponent has spent hundreds of millions of dollars against him. And still, the race is tight.
Trump appears to be keeping his powder dry, apparently for the fall, when the debates will happen and then the final sprint to Election Day in November.
If we get through August and the race still appears to be tight, the questions will begin to circle on Clinton and why she underperforming — not on Trump, who everyone has already been told is finished and cannot win.
The American people like an underdog. And so far, thanks in no small part to the media’s narrative to count Trump out the race, he has been successfully cast into that role.
Trump’s path is there. But to get there, he needs to expand his leads with older Americans, males and those disaffected by the weak economy, particularly those without college degrees. Talking on security, law and order and promising new jobs and expanding industries helps, and Trump can narrow Clinton’s lead among the wealthy with a supply side, low-tax message.
So much of today’s politics is about building expectations, where one side attempts to dispirit the other with a spate of negative news cycles and the like.
But one thing we’ve learned in 2016 is that voters appear to be in a mood to shatter those expectations. This could be a change election year. Clinton is not inevitable.
Time will tell if it ultimately benefits Trump at the ballot box, but prognosticators declaring the race now finished should remember Yogi Berra’s old adage, “It ain’t over till it’s over.”