Trump has made massive progress in the opinion polls and opened up a significant lead over his main Democatic rival. And yet it’s not so long ago that Hillary Clinton had built up a seemingly unassailable double-digit lead over Trump. Here we are now and they are both polling more-or-less even. The latest Washington Post/ABC News poll places Trump on 46 percent, just ahead of Clinton’s 44 percent (one week earlier Clinton was eleven percentage points ahead of Trump in the same poll). An NBC News/Wall Street Journal survey now places Clinton on 46 percent, just three points in front of Trump (her lead in the same poll at the end of April was also eleven percentage points). The latest Fox News polling has Trump ahead on 45 percent, three points up on Clinton’s score of 42 – in April Fox reported Clinton on 48 percent to Trump’s 41.
For the past few weeks I have strolled by Trump Tower on 5th Avenue as I have made my way to lunch every day. For the first few days I only ever saw a small group of reporters gathered on the sidewalk. Every single day the group of reporters has got bigger and bigger. Trump Tower is now almost under siege from reporters and TV cameras, with broadcast vanslining the street. Security procedures at Trump Tower’s entrance (non-existent until just a few weeks ago) are being tightened every day. Trump, viewed by the vast majority as an outsider until recently, is now increasingly being talked about as potentially the next president of the United States of America.
What has led to this massive shift in perceptions in favor of Trump?
- Hillary Clinton is viewed by many Americans as a representative of the “Washington Establishment”, and they want nothing to do with it or her. On a daily basis the media adds to the list of big banks that have paid Clinton big money over the last few years to make speeches and appearances on their behalf. Hillary Clinton has picked up the image of being a Wall Street spokesperson, which has been making her just as unpopular and unloved among the genral population as Wall Street’s banks. The list of Wall Street banks, together with the list of donors to Bill and Hilary Clinton’s charitable foundation, have created the impression that she can be bought.
- Clinton is caught in a crossfire: From one side, she is being attacked by Trump, but, and this is even worse for her, she is also coming under attack from within her own party. Her Democratic rival, Bernie Sanders, has been winning primary after primary. Trump doesn’t really have to do anything to make Clinton look bad. Most of that work is being taken care of by Sanders, who has managed to position Clinton as a biddable Wall Street proxy. When he’s making speeches or giving TV interviews Trump just loves to quote Bernie Sanders, whose supporters he is now actively targeting. Much to the disdain of free-market oriented Republicans, Trump has heavily criticized the TTIP free trade agreement, often doing so with similar language to Sanders. And he has even gone so far as to express his sympathies towards the idea of a higher minimum wage. Trump and Sanders currently represent an anti-Clinton coalition. Sanders is clearly hoping that, despite that the fact that he has no real chance of catching Clinton, she may be thrown out of the race as a result of her email scandal. Such a turn of events wouldn’t be good for Trump as he would have a much harder time against the left-wing populist Sanders than he would against Clinton.
- Trump has managed to unite a majority of his own party behind his candidacy much faster than many expected. As recently as April news programs in the USA were dominated by a roster of Trump’s critics, including the last Republican presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, who is among Trump’s fiercest detractors. Now it is clear that Trump is going to be the Republican candidate most of these critical voices have either disappeared or are at least not heard from quite as often. Instead, we have recently seen a procession of Republicans taking to the airwaves to declare their “endorsements” of Trump. This procession has included a number of influential donors, figures that Trump will now have no choice but to turn to (during the primary race he has mostly paid for his campaign costs out of his own pocket). 82 percent of Republican voters say that they support Trump. Many of these “supporters” are most likely just coming to terms with the fact that Trump is now their candidate, lining up behind him because they view him as the “lesser of two evils”.
- Democrats look more and more like they don’t really care about the problems faced by ordinary Americans. This is exemplified most by the national debate over transgender toilet use – an abstruse issue that has been forced onto the agenda by the ultimatum made by the Obama administration to the state of Kentucky.
- Trump has changed his approach over the last few weeks and is attempting to come across as more “moderate”. Whereas, during primary season, almost no day passed without Trump making a new radical or provocative statement, he is now doing everything to appear more “presidential”. In doing so, he strengthens the hopes of those that believe he will not be as unpredictable as president as he has been as a candidate during the primary campaign. Whether this hope evaporates or not is something nobody can predict.
At a time when Clinton was streets ahead of Trump in every single opinion poll I wrote here that he should definitely not be underestimated. I shared my view that the presidential election was totally open. Given the latest developments, I believe that my view has clearly been reinforced.