We had the great debate and my guess is nothing much changed from 24 hours ago. This election has always been about finding a reasonable alternative to Hillary Clinton, someone a large majority of Americans don’t like very much. One of the oldest rules of politics is that a well known, well established candidate polling below 50% is in trouble. Often, an incumbent that is in such a spot gets a primary challenger as his own party smells weakness, so a young gun is sent in to finish him off in the primary.
The one thing the sissy boys of Official Conservatism™ probably got right about this election thus far is that the other choices in the GOP primary would have probably started with a huge lead over Clinton. The collection of dwarfs assembled by the party had all been vetted to make sure they were the emptiest of empty suits, thus ensuring the Left could not say anything mean about them that anyone would believe. Guys like Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio would start out with the Cloud People seal of approval, thus beginning as an acceptable alternative to Clinton.
That’s why none of those options won the nomination. For good or ill, the GOP is the one place where the Dirt People can have a voice and they loudly rejected the dwarfs on the grounds they were nothing but low-tax liberals. Trump is not the ideal candidate, but he talks about the things normal people think are important and that made him look like a giant compared to the rest of the field. Going into the general, he was the high risk option, as far as an alternative to Clinton. As a result, he started from the trailing position in the polls
That has slowly changed over the last six weeks as voters were reminded of why they hate Clinton. Trump has also modified his approach, working on selling himself to the doubters, rather than throwing red meat to his fans. He has also avoided the traps the press has laid for him, which lets people know he can turn it on and off when he wants. People can tolerate a little bit of rough talk as long as they know the candidate knows when to behave. As a result Trump has closed the gap and may very well be leading now.
There’s another way to think of these things, which applies here. In every election, the three big categories are security, economics and culture. They are not of equal importance and some issues fall into all three buckets. Immigration, for example, has a bit of all three, depending upon how it is being discussed. The voters are looking for a general sense of which candidate is more compatible on each of these three areas. What holds it all together is the voter’s sense of the candidates trustworthiness on these matters.
For instance, Mitt Romney polled much better than Obama on the economy, but no one believed Romney. He had been on all sides of all issues for no reason other than expedience. Even though the things he was saying with regards to the economy made sense, the assumption was he was saying them because they polled well. Mitt is one of those pols who will come out in favor of bestiality, if some consultant tells him it is a winning issue. In his case, being right was of no value because he lacked authenticity.
In this election, Clinton’s honesty problem is not a big issue because her lying does not change the voter’s sense of where she stands on the big three items. On the other hand, Trump’s authenticity is a great benefit because it makes him trustworthy. You may not agree with his position on an issue, but you know what you are getting with Trump. His authenticity not only helps him on a personal basis, it helps him overcome the uncertainty issue all newcomers face. It makes him seem less of a risk.
This is why the walls are closing in on Clinton. If you look at the map, states are going from “too close to call” to “leans Trump.” If you look at the polling, states like Georgia and Florida are just about a lock now for Trump. Ohio has been abandoned by Clinton, suggesting her polling says it is over there. States like Colorado and Pennsylvania have now moved into the toss-up category. In all probability, more people were reassured by Trump in the first debate than were convinced Hillary is worth a second look.
There are more debates and plenty of chances for both to harm themselves. Hillary could fall over again or Trump could punch a hobo. At this point, you would rather be on Team Trump as the wind is at his back and his road forward is clearer and more controllable. Clinton will need some help and she has to hope everyone that has dirt to dish is too afraid to go public. Still, she has the media and most of the GOP behind her and that is no small thing. The state of the race at the moment is Trump ahead by a tiny bit.