The Two Worst People In America Face Off Tonight

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The debate will be starting soon (at 9 PM for those of use in the eastern time zone). Clinton and Trump go into the debate with the polls near tied, and with enough voters still undecided for the race to be altered by the debate.

Both campaigns have tried to game the event. Team Clinton has probably done a better job in this regard, as even conservatives agree, even if they are unhappy about it. They have managed to have the news dominated by talk of Trump’s dishonesty, calling on the moderator to fact-check him. Of course it might be hard for Clinton to get away with such a line of attack when neither candidate is trusted, and for good reason.

It is easy to speculate on many ways in which either candidate could come out the winner. Clinton is clearly the more knowledgeable of the two–which has not kept her from being wrong on virtually every major decision of the career, often having to come back later and describe her past decisions as a mistake. Trump might be exposed for just making things up as he goes along and having little grasp of the details of policy. However, this article on the Bush/Gore debate in 2000 from The New York Times shows that the more ignorant candidate can still win.

While I will not predict who will win, I think it is safe to predict the response of the loser. Clinton will blame a loss on sexism, while Trump will claim the debate was rigged against him.

For those who want a different opinion during the debate, Green Party candidate Jill Stein will be giving her answers to the questions via Twitter. Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson says he will also be using twitter and making himself available to the media. Of course the problem with the debate system is not only that it is limited to two candidates, but that the two party system limits the types of issues which are even considered, and gives the false impression that major parties provide far more of a choice than they actually do.

Update Post Debate: Donald Trump was not intellectually capable of challenging Hillary Clinton’s long history of bad decisions and poor judgement throughout her career. Clinton was better prepared, and it didn’t take much to out-debate a buffoon like Trump. It is a shame that Jill Stein and Gary Johnson weren’t allowed to participate and provide a more meaningful challenge to Clinton.

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Democrats Should Have Paid Attention To Warnings About Clinton Before Handing Her The Nomination

Hillary Down

I had been arguing for many months before the Democratic nomination that it was very risky for the Democrats to nominate Hillary Clinton. In addition to her many other faults, I argued that the email and Foundation scandals would greatly impair the ability of the Democrats to win the presidency, and would also likely also greatly decrease their chances of winning control of the Senate. Clinton apologists both denied the significance of the scandals, and denied that it would have any bearing on the election. For a while it appeared that it didn’t matter. While Clinton would probably be well behind any other Republican, she had been able to lead Trump (and as of now I think she will still pull it off). However, while Clinton doesn’t understand why she isn’t far ahead, her lead is now precariously small. A single gaffe, an unexpectedly decent performance by Trump in the debates, another revelation from Wikileaks, or any number of other items could now shift the election to Trump. Plus the Democrats’ chances of taking control of the Senate have dropped tremendously.

There are multiple reasons for this, but an op-ed by Thomas Patterson in the The Los Angeles Times provides further evidence  that I was right with my warnings in largely blaming the email scandal should Clinton lose:

If Hillary Clinton loses the presidential election in November, we will know the reason. The email controversy did her candidacy in. But it needed a helping hand — and the news media readily supplied that.

My analysis of media coverage in the four weeks surrounding both parties’ national conventions found that her use of a private email server while secretary of State and other alleged scandal references accounted for 11% of Clinton’s news coverage in the top five television networks and six major newspapers, including the Los Angeles Times. Excluding neutral reports, 91% of the email-related news reports were negative in tone. Then, there were the references to her character and personal life, which accounted for 4% of the coverage; that was 92% negative.

The author underestimates the importance of the email and other scandals, and gives Clinton far too much credit for her record considering that she has been wrong on virtually every major decision of her career,only to admit she made a mistake years later. Between the email and Foundation scandals, Hillary Clinton has been found to have violated policy with regards to using a home server rather than a government email system, failed to turn over email for archiving which was sent over personal email, destroyed over half the email falsely claiming it was personal, and failed to disclose all donors to the Clinton Foundation as she agreed to prior to her confirmation.

The State Department Inspector General report showed that Clinton not only violated the rules in effect, but that she failed to cooperate with the investigation and tried to cover up her actions.  FBI Director James Comey further showed how she acted irresponsibly, and how many of the statements she has made in public and Congressional testimony over the past year have been false. Clinton unethically made rulings on multiple occasions regarding parties which contributed to the Foundation and/or made unprecedented payments for speeches to Bill Clinton. I’ve previously discussed the Clinton Foundation scandals in greater detail, including here and here. I’ve recently noted how both fact checkers and ethicists viewed the scandals and Clinton’s violations of the ethics agreements which she entered into before becoming Secretary of State, while Common Cause called for an independent audit of the Clinton Foundation well before her nomination.

There was good reason for the media to cover this story. Clinton predictably made it worse for herself as she tried to coverup information, resulting in facts slowly coming out from news cycle to news cycle. She further made matters worse by lying about the matter, and then repeating the same lies when confronted by the fact checkers. This is what caused the story to remain dominant in the news. Plus, regardless of whether it is a good thing, we knew before Clinton was nominated that the media prefers to cover scandals as opposed to complicated matters of policy. As Patterson also wrote:

In today’s hypercompetitive media environment, journalists find it difficult to resist controversies. Political scientist W. Lance Bennett explored this phenomenon around Trump’s 2011 allegation that President Obama was not a native-born American. Trump’s “birther” statements were seized upon by cable outlets and stayed in the headlines and on newscasts for days. Veteran CNN correspondent Candy Crowley even interviewed Trump, who was then not a political figure at all. She justified it by saying on air: “There comes a point where you can’t ignore something, not because it’s entertaining …. The question was, ‘Is he driving the conversation?’ And he was.” In truth, the news media were driving the conversation, as they have with Clinton’s emails.

Nominating Hillary Clinton with all her baggage would be like the Republicans nominating Richard Nixon after  knowing about his role in Watergate. It was a remarkably foolish thing to do, and the Democrats now risk paying the price. In contrast, Bernie Sanders polled far better than Clinton did against Donald Trump and other potential Republican candidates. He very likely would also have won the Democratic nomination if not for a system heavily tilted towards helping Clinton and stopping insurgent candidates. Plus if Sanders were the nominee, there would be no scandals to dominate the campaign, and we would definitely be talking about issues.

Jill Stein and Gary Johnson Denied Participation In The First Presidential Debate Limiting Expression Of Alternative Opinions

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The two party system acts to restrict political discourse so only the very limited differences between the major parties are discussed during the campaign. This is particularly undesirable this year when both candidates are from the authoritarian right quadrant of the political spectrum. As I discussed yesterday, regardless of whether Clinton or Trump wins, we will see a continuation of the horrors of the Bush administration. We will see a strengthening of the warfare and surveillance state, increased restrictions on First Amendment rights, and increased government secrecy. The two candidates with alternative viewpoints, Jill Stein and Gary Johnson, have now been officially declared ineligible for the first presidential debate.

Theoretically they can still qualify for subsequent debates, but it will be even harder after they are denied the free publicity provided to the major party candidates in the first debate.

The rules which determine who qualifies are arbitrary rules which were written to limit access to the debates. Doug Mataconis described how the Commission on Presidential Debates is not truly “bipartisan” but is an organization jointly run by the two major parties:

…the commission is an organization controlled equally by the Republican and Democratic parties. Its two co-Chairman are Frank Farenkopf, a top Republican who once served as Chairman of the Republican National Committee, and Mike McCurry, a top Democratic Party alumnus who once served as Press Secretary for former President Bill Clinton. The Board Of Directors includes top GOP officials such as former Senators John Danforth and Alan Simpson and top Democrats such as Caroline Kennedy and Kennedy ally and former Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission Newton Minor.

Doug also made a strong argument as to why Johnson should be included in the debates:

The Libertarian ticket has officially qualified for the ballot in all fifty states, an accomplishment that isn’t exactly easy for non-establishment political parties. The ticket is also polling better far better than any Libertarian nominee ever has, hitting an average of 9,2% according to RealClearPolitics and according to Pollster. Among younger voters, the Johnson/Weld ticket has been consistently polling competitively, with a new Quinnipiac poll showing them just two points behind Clinton/Kaine among voters aged 18 to 34. The two former Governors have also picked up endorsements from newspapers such as the traditionally Republican Richmond Times Dispatch, the Winston-Salem Journal, and, just dropping overnight, the New Hampshire Union-Leader.

While Stein has not achieved this level of success, she does present yet a different viewpoint, and is already polling better than Ralph Nader’s results in 2000. Either candidate could have even more of an impact if more people heard their views.

Hillary Clinton has a strong interest in limiting the expression of alternative viewpoints as she is already losing support to third party candidates, especially among younger voters. The Atlantic points out:

In the last day, two major polls have found that more than one-third of voters under the age of 30 plan to vote for either Libertarian Party nominee Gary Johnson or the Green Party’s Jill Stein instead of either Clinton or Trump in November.

A defection by millennials of that size could be devastating for Clinton; in 2012, President Obama won 60 percent of voters under the age of 30, and the bloc provided a crucial advantage in his four-point victory over Mitt Romney. In a Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday, Clinton earned support from just 31 percent of voters under the age of 35 in a four-way race. It’s not like millennials are suddenly flocking to Trump. They plainly loathe him. Three in five have a “strongly unfavorable” view of him, three in four say he would divide rather than unite the country, and four in five millennials say Trump is not a candidate they can relate to. So yes, younger voters clearly prefer Clinton to Trump, but what they really want is someone else. Clinton carries that bloc by more than 20 points in a head-to-head matchup, but her support peels away when younger voters are given the option of supporting Johnson or Stein.

So, Clinton is having difficulties because many young voters don’t want to vote for her and will vote for third party candidates or stay home. If only the Democrats could have nominated a candidate who excited young voters…

We know they had that option with Bernie Sanders–who also has polled better than Clinton against Donald Trump. Young voters are more willing to consider alternatives, not having a strong connection to either major party–and often seeing both as rotten. On the other hand, the Democratic Party might have gained the loyalty of younger voters for years to come if they had nominated Sanders.

The conventional wisdom was that Stein would take votes from Clinton and Johnson would take votes from Trump. This has turned out to not be the case, with Johnson running to the left of Clinton on foreign policy, social issues, civil liberties, and drug policy. As a consequence of Clinton’s conservative views in these areas, Johnson is taking votes from her along with Trump. Politico reports:

She leads by five points among likely voters in a two-way national race, 48 percent to 43 percent. But when Johnson and Green Party candidate Jill Stein are included, Clinton’s lead shrinks to two: she’s at 41 points, with Trump at 39, Johnson at 13, and Stein at 4. Democrats assume that all of Stein’s support comes from the Clinton column, meaning Johnson’s is split roughly evenly between Clinton and Trump.

John Fund has also analyzed the effect of third party candidates in recent polls:

In the New York Times/CBS News poll released Thursday this week, Trump and Clinton are tied at 42 percent each among likely voters. Johnson captures 8 percent of the vote and Stein 4 percent. But among voters younger than 30, Clinton has 48 percent, Trump 29 percent, and 21 percent plan to vote for Johnson or Stein or not vote at all. That level of non-support for the Democratic candidate among young people is a warning signal for Clinton. By comparison, Barack Obama won 60 percent of their votes in 2012.

Some polls show Johnson doing far better with young voters than he does in the NYT/CBS poll. A Quinnipiac poll released Wednesday showed that among Millennials, Hillary is winning 31 percent, 29 percent favor Johnson, 26 percent pick Trump, and 15 percent choose Stein…

The strength that Johnson shows in Western states is also impressive, and it confirms that his presence in the race is more harmful to Hillary than to Trump. Earlier this month, the Washington Post conducted in-depth individual polls in all 50 states. Their polls were revealing in contested Western states. In a two-way contest, Hillary leads in Arizona by one point, in Colorado by two points, and in Nevada by five points. In a four-way race that includes Johnson and Stein, Trump leads by two points in Arizona, ties in Colorado, and is down three points in Nevada. Even New Mexico, Johnson’s home state, is much more competitive in a four-way race: Hillary leads by 14 in a two-way race and only eight in a four-way race.

When this many young voters are thinking of voting for a third party, this can no longer be called just a spoiler or protest vote. It is a vote towards attempting a long term change in the system–which is necessary when both major parties have nominated candidates which are unfit to be president.

Why Clinton Can’t Pull Away From An Opponent As Awful As Donald Trump

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Donald Trump has said one idiotic thing after another. He has been found to have bribed an attorney general to avoid prosecution for his scam university, among other scams he has been involved in. He clearly has no understanding of the issues. Yet he is now now in a virtual tie with Hillary Clinton, with many Democrats struggling to understand why. Will Democrats ever figure out that the nomination of someone as unfit to be president as Hillary Clinton was one of the biggest political blunders in history (ranking with the Republicans’ blunder in nominating Trump)?

Many Democrats have resorted to responses which do not help matters. They deny that she is corrupt and dishonest, despite overwhelming evidence that she is, and ignore the seriousness of her scandals. This only turns independents more against partisan Democrats who make such claims.

Clinton doesn’t help herself when she repeats the same lies over and over, even when the fact checkers repeatedly call her out on it. She didn’t help matters when she answered Anderson Cooper in a dishonest manner this week, claiming to have been transparent about her health and her email,  when he pressed her on her lack of transparency. pointed out:

…almost everything that Clinton has disclosed in this campaign has come under duress. The reason we have thousands of her emails is because she was forced by the State Department to turn them over. The reason we know about her pneumonia is because of her stumbling incident on Sunday in New York City. Forced transparency isn’t all that honorable

The most common argument from Clinton and her supporters is to argue how terrible Donald Trump is. While they are right, that does not help Clinton when they cannot provide positive arguments to support her. Many agree about Trump, but do not think Clinton is any better.

At least one Clinton supporter,

…her 4256 favorable/unfavorable split in national polling is truly, freakishly bad. Political junkies have probably heard the factoid that Clinton is the least-popular major party nominee of all time — except for Donald Trump. But conventional dialogue still underrates exactly how weird this situation is. John McCain, John Kerry, Al Gore, and Bob Dole were all viewed favorably by a majority of Americans on the eve of presidential elections that they lost, and Mitt Romney was extremely close.

It is totally unheard of to win a presidential election while having deeply underwater favorable ratings, and it is actually quite common to lose one despite above water favorable ratings.

Since there are only two major party nominees in the race and they are both far underwater right now, it’s pretty likely that precedent will be shattered. But we are in a bit of an undiscovered country in terms of the underlying opinion dynamics.

RealClearPolitics’ four-way polling average shows Gary Johnson at 9.2 percent and Jill Stein at 2.7 percent.

If those numbers hold up (which of course they might not), they would make Johnson the strongest third-party candidate since Ross Perot in 1992. That’s a big deal. Stein’s strength is, however, even more unusual. She is polling ahead of where Ralph Nader did in 2000 and is the strongest fourth-party candidate we’ve seen in a 100 years, besting both the Thurmond and Wallace tickets from the infamously four-sided election of 1948.

To find a fourth-place candidate polling higher than Stein’s current results, you need to dial all the way back to the 6 percent of the vote Eugene Debs earned in the bizarre 1912 election that saw the GOP nominee (the incumbent, no less!) finish in third place behind a third-party bid spearheaded by ex-president Teddy Roosevelt.

These two unusual quirks of the 2016 race seem to be linked.

Lambasting Trump while being unpopular herself would be a clear winning strategy in a zero-sum head-to-head race. But in a four-sided race, where the two lesser candidates aren’t receiving much scrutiny from the press or the campaigns, it tends to have the side consequence of pressing a lot of people to Johnson or Stein. The fact that there are two different third-party candidates in the race — one for people who think Clinton’s too left and one for people who think she’s not left enough — makes it really difficult to avoid bleeding voters…

It’s simply going to be very hard for Clinton to open up the kind of stable lead that her supporters think Trump’s awfulness deserves while she herself is so little-liked. September of a general election year is probably not a great time to turn that around.

But the fact remains that her basic problem in this race is almost painfully simple. Over the course of her winning primary campaign she became a deeply unpopular figure. And it’s hard — indeed, unprecedented — for such an unpopular person to win the presidency.

Both major parties have nominated candidates who are unfit to be president. There is little motivation for many voters to choose the lesser evil, as opposed to voting for a minor party candidate, when even the lesser evil is so evil this year. If the major party candidates were not both so awful, Johnson and Stein would be polling as low as minor party candidates usually do.

For Clinton, it is not only her lies. It is also her record, as Common Dreams recently discussed. In past elections, the Democratic Party received the support of many independents, as well as those on the left, due to the serious problems under George Bush. Instead of nominating a reform candidate such as Bernie Sanders (who consistently polled much better against Donald Trump), they went for the candidate most likely to institutionalize the horrors of the Bush administration. We need to end the state of perpetual warfare we have been in since 9/11. While Clinton admits that her vote for the Iraq war was a mistake (like her support for mass incarceration, various trade deals, and anti-gay legislation were mistakes), as described, support for interventionism was actually part of a pattern for her:

For years, Clinton has blamed Bush for misleading her into voting for the resolution. But an examination by The Washington Post found that her decision was based as much on advice from her husband’s advisers as from Bush administration officials. There were also significant gaps in her fact-gathering, most notably her apparent failure to read a classified analysis that other senators cited in voting against the resolution…

She continued that path when she advocated intervention in Libya as secretary of state…

Besides Clinton pushing for interventionism in Libya, Clinton repeated the same mistakes in Syria, advocating war based on logic as flawed as anything we have heard from Donald Trump. Her views on Russia place us at risk of an even more dangerous situation.

Kranish stressed how Clinton failed to read classified intelligence reports which were available, leading others to oppose the war. Unlike some Democrats who did initially vote for the war, Clinton also continued to support the war:

A year after the vote, Clinton defended it on CNN, citing “grave threats to the United States.”

As The Intercept pointed out, Hillary Clinton’s National Security Advisers Are a “Who’s Who” of the Warfare State. The Iraq vote was not a fluke. It is what we can expect if Clinton is elected.

Clinton desires to replicate the horrors of the Bush years in other ways. Besides perpetuating the warfare state, Clinton desires to expand the surveillance state and has a terrible record on civil liberties with views (minus the Islamophobia) which are comparable to Trump’s. As occurred under Bush, Clinton also has a long history of supporting an increased role for religion in public policy. The reality is that, no matter how much the point out Donald Trump’s flaws, Hillary Clinton already has a record of doing much of what Trump is accused of.

The Democratic Party establishment made a horrible mistake in acting to ensure that Hillary Clinton would win the nomination. While Clinton still has the edge, they might have to face the consequences of their actions if it leads to defeat and the election of Donald Trump as president.

Clinton’s Strategy Failing As Trump Moves Into Tie In Reuters Poll

Hillary Down

Hillary Clinton looked like a sure winner a week or two ago, and at this point I still believe will probably win, but that has become far less certain. The latest Reuters/Ipsos poll released Friday shows Clinton leading by only one point at 40 to 39 percent. The poll has a three point margin of error. By comparison, “In last week’s poll, Clinton was up by 5 points, and the week before she had a 12-point lead.” The Real Clear Politics average has her lead down to under four percent.

The change is probably a combination of Donald Trump avoiding major blunders, a string of negative news regarding the Clinton scandals, and Clinton failing to take any positive action to capitalize on her lead. Her one recent speech was particularly alarming, including a threat of war against Russia.

Last week Nate Silver wrote that it was too soon for Clinton to try to run out the clock. The Hill reports today that some are starting to worry about her run-out-the-clock strategy:

Hillary Clinton is facing questions about her campaign strategy as Donald Trump laps her on the trail and tightening polls show an increasingly competitive presidential race.

The Democratic nominee nearly vanished from the campaign trail in August to attend high-end private fundraisers and to prepare for the first presidential debate on Sept. 26.

At times it has appeared that Clinton believes she can run out the clock against Trump, who fell in the polls after a disastrous stretch following the Democratic convention.

But while Clinton remains the heavy favorite, Trump has rebounded in some national and battleground polls taken in late August.

In that time, controversy has exploded over Clinton Foundation ties to the State Department. A steady drip of developments surrounding Clinton’s use of a private email server also persists, punctuated by Friday’s release by the FBI of documents pertaining to its investigation into her email set-up.

Those controversies have dragged Clinton’s already-dismal approval rating to new lows and have kept her from slamming the door shut on Trump…

Clinton has gone days between events in some cases and hasn’t given a press conference in more than 270 days, a fact that Republicans have been eager to highlight.

The article concludes with a surrogate saying, “She’ll be driving the suitability question which is an important metric for a lot of undecided voters.”

The problem for Clinton this week has been that major questions have been raised over her own suitability to be president, in terms of both her honesty and judgement, with Clinton’s unfavorable ratings now almost as high as Trump’s. The papers released by the FBI on Friday add  further evidence that Clinton is unfit to be president. A defense based upon not remembering anything, not understanding how classified information is to be handled, and not understanding modern technology, are hardly attributes which make one suitable to be president. It is unlikely that Hillary Clinton could be hired into any significant position in the government or be confirmed to any appointed position. She only maintains the possibility of being elected president because of having an opponent as dreadful as Donald Trump.

USA Today Poll Confirms That Voters Are Motivated By Fear Of Opposing Candidate

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Another poll shows Hillary Clinton maintaining her post-convention lead over Donald Trump, but not because voters are so excited about her. A USA Today Suffolk University Poll showed, as others have, that people are voting out of fear and hatred for the opponent, not support for either candidate:

Not even their own supporters are all that excited about winning.

A nationwide USA TODAY/Suffolk University Poll, taken as Labor Day launches the final sprint toward the election, finds supporters of both Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump more motivated by fear about the other side claiming the White House than they are by excitement about their own candidate prevailing…

Driving the election is antipathy toward the competition: 80% of Trump supporters and 62% of Clinton supporters say if the other candidate wins in November, they would feel “scared,” the most negative of four possible choices.

Those are stronger feelings than they express about a victory by their own candidate. Just 27% of Clinton supporters and 29% of Trump supporters would feel “excited,” the most positive choice. A majority of both sides — 62% for Clinton and 52% for Trump — predict a more temperate “satisfied” feeling instead.

Despite such considerable dislike for Clinton and Trump, only 9% support Gary Johnson and 4 % support Jill Stein. However, 76 percent believe they should be included in the presidential debates. Presumably their support would also increase if more voters could actually see them in the debates. Current rules require that a candidate be at 15 percent in the polls to be included in the debates.

USA Today also found that a majority of those voting for Clinton are very likely or somewhat likely to split their vote and vote for Republicans down ticket. This is presumably because they are voting for Clinton out of hatred for Donald Trump and not support for her or her party. Besides, Clinton is far closer to the Republicans ideologically, and it would make sense for those preferring a Republican Congress to back Clinton for president. I also wonder how many see a Republican Congress as a means of keeping check on corruption from Clinton, assuming she is elected.

If this result holds, it suggests real disaster for the Democratic Party should Clinton be elected without bringing in Democrats down ticket. Normally the party winning the presidential election does well down ticket in the presidential election, but then suffers losses in the off-year election. If Democrats do not start out with a good year this year, midterm loses could be devastating, especially if Clinton remains as unpopular as she is now. I suspect this is an election in which the party who loses the White House will wind up doing better long term.

Clinton Unfavorability At Highest Level Ever–Nearly Tying Trump

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The primary process certainly seems to have been a success if the goal was to find the two worst people in America. Hillary Clinton’s unfavorability ratings have worsened over the past month with Clinton losing support among groups including women, Hispanics, college graduates, and liberals. Her favorability is now almost as low as Donald Trump’s. An ABC News/Washington Post poll found:

Hillary Clinton’s unpopularity reached a new high in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll, putting her on par with Donald Trump among registered voters.

The latest findings solidify their positions as the two most unpopular presidential candidates in polling dating back more than 30 years.

Among all adults, 56 percent now view Clinton unfavorably, up 6 percentage points in three weeks, compared with 63 percent who say the same about Trump.

Among registered voters, the two candidates have nearly identical unfavorable ratings: 59 percent for Clinton versus 60 percent for Trump.

See PDF with full results here.

Before the 2016 election, George H.W. Bush had the highest unfavorable rating for any major-party candidate for president in ABC/Post polls, in July 1992, on his way to losing his re-election bid.

Clinton’s rise in unpopularity follows renewed focus on her use of a private email server and alleged conflicts of interest regarding her connections to the Clinton Foundation while she served as secretary of state. This metric rose among some of her core support groups, including women, postgraduates, Hispanics and liberals.

The change in recent weeks could be because Donald Trump has not made mistakes as serious as those he made around the time of the conventions, such as attacking a gold star family. By softening his language and avoiding negative statements which dominate the headlines, Trump has allowed the media to concentrate more on new revelations related to Clinton’s email and Foundation scandals. Trump’s trip to Mexico today will probably be seen as a positive, while Clinton gains no points in attacking Trump for the trip.

Although Clinton has lost much of her bounce since the conventions, she still maintains a significant lead in many of the battleground state polls, and Trump is far behind in establishing a ground game.

Third Party Candidates Unusually Strong In 2016–Should Be Included In Presidential Debates

Stein Johnson

With most voters unhappy with both the Democratic and Republican nominees for president, voters are more open to consider third party candidates. Even if not yet willing to say they will vote for one, many do believe third party candidates deserve a place in the debate. A Quinnipiac University poll shows 62 percent of likely voters say that Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson should be included in the debates this year. They weren’t asked about Jill Stein but, as the number of those supporting inclusion in the debates doesn’t correlate with plans to vote for Johnson, and is split among supporters of each major party, I bet a similar number of voters would also support include Stein.

Third party candidates are only included if they reach fifteen percent in the polls, but have difficulty reaching this number without exposure from the debates. While neither third party candidate is close to fifteen percent yet, third party candidates will very likely far better than usual this year. Most years the support for third party candidates has started to fall by now, and dwindles to near nothing by election day. FiveThirtyEight notes that we are not seeing that pattern so far this year:

Johnson is pulling in about 9 percent in the national polls, according to the FiveThirtyEight polls-only average. And his share in national polls has not fallen as we’ve gotten closer to the election. Indeed, Johnson’s support right now is higher than many other viable1I’m including third-party candidates who garnered a significant amount of media attention and were on the ballot in a substantial number of states. third-party candidates’ at a similar point in campaigns since 1948.

Johnson is pulling in at least twice as much of the vote as Henry Wallace or Strom Thurmond was in late August 1948, as Ralph Nader was in 2000 and certainly as Johnson himself was four years ago. Perhaps even more impressive is that Johnson is polling right about where Ross Perot was in 1996, when Perot had a nationally known name after his strong 1992 run. That said, Johnson is nowhere near the success of that 1992 campaign: Perot was pulling in 20 percent as a hypothetical candidate after leaving the 1992 campaign in July but before re-entering the race in October.

And notice: Most third-party candidates didn’t lose that much support between late summer and Election Day. Besides John Anderson in 1980, no candidate ended up finishing more than 3 percentage points below where they were polling in late August. The average drop-off is about 2 percentage points. Anderson, meanwhile, was already fading at this point in the campaign. In Gallup’s polling, for example, his support peaked at 24 percent in early summer and by now had dropped by 10 percentage points…

Why is Johnson’s support proving more durable than past third-party candidates’? The most obvious answer is that Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are extremely unpopular for major party presidential nominees; if third-party voters eventually settled on a major party nominee in past campaigns for fear of “wasting their vote,” they may be less willing to settle this year. (Of course, Johnson’s support may simply fade later than past third-party candidates.)

There is, however, some bad news for Johnson in his steady numbers: They’re not going up either. He’s showing no signs of reaching 15 percent in national polls, the threshold necessary to get into the debates. Still, if he ends up with 7 percent of the vote — as we’d expect based upon history and the current polls — the Libertarian Party will qualify for federal campaign funding in 2020, and Johnson will claim the highest share of the vote of any non-major party nominee in 20 years.

The final paragraph reveals one reason to support third party candidates even if they have no chance of winning this year–qualifying for federal matching funds in the next election, along with an outside chance of making the debates. Both third party candidates are working to increase their vote totals this year.  Johnson is starting to advertise in the battleground states and Jill Stein is increasing her ballot access, hoping to make the ballot in forty-seven states. The Nation ran a recent op-ed arguing that Stein should be part of a four-way debate.

Reason continues to look for reasons to hope that Gary Johnson will make the debate:

Looking for a glimmer of hope? Here’s one intriguing gap in the numerical record. Of the Commission on Presidential Debates’ determinative Big Five polls, in which Johnson has been averaging 10 percent instead of 9, none of them have produced results in the last three weeks. Beginning any minute now, we should have a much clearer idea whether the Libertarians are rising in the polls that actually matter.

If there has been no data for three weeks, there is the danger that Johnson’s support is following historical trends for third parties and falling, but it could be rising as Reason hopes. We can also hope that Jill Stein’s support is rising but has not yet been measured. With major party candidates as bad as Clinton and Trump, there is the possibility that more voters will reject them in favor of the alternatives.

The Democratic Convention Concludes: War Is Peace, And Fears Of A Loss To Donald Trump

Clinton Acceptance Speech

The Democratic National Convention concluded with a rather conservative message,followed by platitudes and imitation progressivism from Hillary Clinton. The message of the evening seemed to be: I will throw a few bones your way like paid family leave, and in return forget about restoring the civil liberties which you have lost since 9/11, don’t think about curtailing the surveillance state, and don’t get in the way of my wars.

Hillary Clinton gave a great speech in support of compassionate conservatism, but no mention of her support for expansion of the warfare/surveillance state. Hillary Clinton also gave a revisionist history, as Bill did earlier in the week. She boasted about helping children while ignoring how she betrayed them as First Lady. She once again took credit for the work done by Ted Kennedy, exaggerating her role in the creation of the Children’s Health Insurance Program. More fact checking of Clinton’s speech here,

Clinton spoke of service, leaving out how much money she has made off of “public service” and influence peddling. The Onion captured the spirit of her career and  campaign in mocking Clinton’s speech:

When I Was A Child, Most Special Interest Groups Wouldn’t Even Consider Donating Large Sums Of Money To A Woman

Delivering a historic and uplifting speech to the Democratic National Convention Thursday night, presidential nominee Hillary Clinton told the American electorate that when she was a little girl, most special interest groups would never even consider donating enormous sums of money to a woman. “It’s hard to fathom now, but back when I was growing up in the 1950s, Wall Street banks, major law firms, and every other special interest out there wouldn’t let a woman through the door, let alone funnel inordinate sums of money into her campaign as a means to advance their agendas,” said Clinton, adding that she personally had to work twice as hard as her male colleagues for decades just to be deemed qualified as a viable political conduit for hundreds of millions of dollars controlled by wealthy corporations and narrowly focused institutions. “In those days, it never even occurred to lobbyists that a woman was capable of accepting a gigantic check from a powerful entity in exchange for favorable policies several months later. My, how times have changed. We sure proved them wrong, didn’t we?” Clinton then assured the cheering crowd at the Wells Fargo Center that while she might be the first female presidential nominee of a major political party beholden to well-heeled influence peddlers, she would certainly not be the last.

Democrats are worried about Hillary Clinton’s inability to separate herself from Donald Trump in the polls, even after what they believe was a largely successful convention that represented a real step toward party unity.

Clinton is hoping for a big post-convention boost, but the reality right now is that she in behind Trump in the polls, and has been in a relatively tight race for weeks.

While the Electoral College may give her an advantage, party leaders and strategists say they remain concerned that Clinton is a tough sell when a majority of Americans think the country is on the wrong track and want to shake up Washington.

“The most important thing is there is a bias for change and there’s an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll where people express that bias even when they don’t know what the change is going to be,” said Geoff Garin, a pollster who worked for Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign and now advises Priorities USA, a pro-Clinton super PAC.

That July survey showed a majority of voters, 56 percent, prefer someone who will bring major changes to government even if they don’t know what those changes will be. Only 46 percent wanted a candidate who would bring a steady approach to government.

The Democrats sure are looking foolish for rejecting Bernie Sanders, a candidate who both led Donald Trump by double digits in the polls while Clinton was losing her lead, and who would win the support of voters who desire real change.

Thomas Frank warned that the Democrats are being outflanked by Donald Trump from the left:

Donald Trump’s many overtures to supporters of Senator Bernie Sanders were just the beginning. He also deliberately echoed the language of Franklin Roosevelt, he denounced “big business” (not once but several times), and certain of his less bloodthirsty foreign policy proposals almost remind one of George McGovern’s campaign theme: “Come home, America.”

Ivanka Trump promised something that sounded like universal day care. Peter Thiel denounced the culture wars as a fraud and a distraction. The Republican platform was altered to include a plank calling for the breakup of big banks via the reinstatement of Glass-Steagall. I didn’t hear anyone talk about the need to bring “entitlements” under control. And most crucially, the party’s maximum leader has adopted the left critique of “free trade” almost in its entirety, a critique that I have spent much of my adult life making.

It boggles my simple liberal mind. The party of free trade and free markets now says it wants to break up Wall Street banks and toss Nafta to the winds. The party of family values has nominated a thrice-married vulgarian who doesn’t seem threatened by gay people or concerned about the war over bathrooms. The party of empire wants to withdraw from foreign entanglements.

He warned that another Clinton move to the right (as occurred under Bill) might not result in victory this time:

Let’s see: trade agreements, outreach to hawks, “bipartisanship”, Wall Street. All that’s missing is a “Grand Bargain” otherwise it’s the exact same game plan as last time, and the time before that, and the time before that. Democrats seem to be endlessly beguiled by the prospect of campaign of national unity, a coming-together of all the quality people and all the affluent people and all the right-thinking, credentialed, high-achieving people. The middle class is crumbling, the country is seething with anger, and Hillary Clinton wants to chair a meeting of the executive committee of the righteous.

When Democrats sold out their own rank and file in the past it constituted betrayal, but at least it sometimes got them elected. Specifically, the strategy succeeded back in the 1990s when Republicans were market purists and working people truly had “nowhere else to go”. As our modern Clintonists of 2016 move instinctively to dismiss the concerns of working people, however, they should keep this in mind: those people may have finally found somewhere else to go.

It is theoretically possible for the Democrats to be outflanked from the left as Clinton’s DLC Democratic Party is a party of the right. It is only the view that support for reproductive rights and any government at all is sufficient to be considered liberal by many in the United States (and forgetting that it wasn’t all that long ago that many Republicans were pro-abortion) that Clinton is not widely recognized to actually be a right-winger. On the other hand, Donald Trump is far too incoherent on policy to be given a clear ideological label. His racism and xenophobia will make it especially hard to challenge Clinton from the left.

Correction: Donald Trump’s acceptance speech had higher ratings than Clinton’s speech, while the Democratic convention had overall higher ratings.

Republican-Lite Convention Opening With Trump In The Lead

Weaver DNC Emails

The Democratic (or more accurately these days, Republican-lite) Convention is beginning surrounded by controversy, with Clinton now trailing Donald Trump. While this might just be a post-convention bounce for Trump, there is no guarantee that Clinton will match this, and it should be alarming that Trump could take the lead considering how terrible a campaign he has been running. CNN reports:

Hillary Clinton in the race for the White House, topping her 44% to 39% in a four-way matchup including Gary Johnson (9%) and Jill Stein (3%) and by three points in a two-way head-to-head, 48% to 45%. That latter finding represents a 6-point convention bounce for Trump, which are traditionally measured in two-way matchups.
There hasn’t been a significant post-convention bounce in CNN’s polling since 2000. That year Al Gore and George W. Bush both boosted their numbers by an identical 8 points post-convention before ultimately battling all the way to the Supreme Court.
Nate Silver now gives Trump a 57.5 percent chance of winning.  FiveThirtyEight has underestimated Trump’s chances throughout the campaign, basing their predictions on assumptions which are probably not valid in 2016. They have finally figured out that this year is different, and Clinton cannot count on getting the votes from Sanders’ supporters as those who have won thier party’s nomination in the past have:

Hillary Clinton is coming into her convention with a real problem. Even before WikiLeaks released thousands of Democratic National Committee emails, including some that suggested officials were actively working against Bernie Sanders, Clinton had about a third of Sanders supporters left to try to win over. The emails have exacerbated tensions with Sanders loyalists. And here’s some more bad news for the Clinton campaign about those loyalists: New data and analysis shared with FiveThirtyEight from Catalist and SurveyMonkey shows that, before the 2016 primaries, Sanders’s supporters voted less frequently than other 2016 voters, and they were less reliably Democratic than Clinton supporters.

In other words, it’s not a matter of Clinton simply coaxing Sanders supporters back into the fold — many were never in the fold to begin with. That could increase the difficulty of the task facing Clinton.

In other words, if Democratic partisans think it is as important as they have been saying to beat Donald Trump, they must remove Clinton as the nominee. There is no guarantee that Clinton can receive a bounce to match Trump’s with the Democratic convention opening amidst such controversy.

The WikiLeaks revelations, which I discussed over the weekend, further weakening the argument that Clinton is any better than Trump. The accusations of fascism leveled against Trump sound less convincing when it is Clinton’s party which has conspired to rig an election. You can’t get more undemocratic than that. Nominating Clinton with what we know now would be as if the Republicans had nominated Richard Nixon with full knowledge of Watergate. Debbie Wasserman Schultz leaving the Democratic Party leadership, to only move over to the Clinton campaign is not enough. The penalty for rigging an election process should be disqualification of the candidate.