By almost any measure the presidential election is nearly over, even with 10 weeks left. Of course, things can change. There are still some fireworks to enjoy in the debates. A real scandal could drop in October, flattening either candidate. But since the conventions Hillary Clinton has widened her lead in national polling averages from about 4.5 percent to 6 percent, which — in presidential elections — borders on landslide territory.

In critical swing states, if Clinton wins the states where she’s currently 5 or more points ahead, she will be the next president. The challenge for Donald Trump, on the other hand, is daunting. He has to win all of the remaining “toss-up” states, including Florida, Ohio and North Carolina, where he’s now behind by a 3-point average, and Georgia and Arizona, where the race is tied. Then he has to win either Pennsylvania or Virginia, where Clinton is so far ahead she’s stopped advertising.

Clinton is winning in virtually all other measures of a campaign’s success, ranging from fundraising to ground operations. She has greater support among Democrats (82 percent) than Trump has among Republicans (72 percent) according to a recent Reuters-Ipsos poll. Her campaign has already spent $80 million in advertising in swing states, compared to Trump’s $4 million. And her swing state ground organizations are fully mobilized where Trump hardly has any.

That last point isn’t a small one. In 2012, Obama’s and Romney’s ads essentially cancelled each other out, but Obama’s organization increased his turnout in key states by 7 to 8 percent.

For months, prognosticators and ruminators have been trying to help Trump by providing free advice. Mostly, they’ve urged him to move to the center and leave the primary behind, put together a viable campaign organization, and stop being crazy. Trump has responded by lurching left and right, this week promising to be more kind about deporting millions of people and then hiring a new campaign director closely tied to the anti-immigrant far right.

Here is Trump’s best remaining chance to win: Clinton and Democrats hand the election to him with a nice big shiny ribbon on it. Here are four ways that could happen:


• Democrats celebrate too early. There is still a sizable block of “Bernie” Democrats who remain uncomfortable with Clinton If they go into the voting booth thinking Clinton has this election wrapped up without their support, and feel liberated to make a protest or feel-good vote instead, Democrats could wake up with a terrible hangover on Nov. 9.

• New scandals arise. Were it not for the “private server” email issue, a case can be made that Clinton would be ahead now by 10 to 15 points, rather than 6. That issue has been effectively used by Republicans to redefine Clinton as a liar and cheat, which are not terms that were used to describe her, by most Americans, prior to the start of this election cycle three years ago.

None of it, apparently, has been enough to derail Clinton, thanks in large part to Trump’s follies. By now, much of the voting public has heard all about it, weighed it against other factors, and made a decision. But if a new major scandal arises, and Trump has been a good boy for a few weeks, this election could still flip.

• She forgets to campaign. Clinton has a long track record of running frontrunner campaigns until she’s behind. She did it against Obama in 2008 and nearly did it again earlier this year against Sanders. Granted, laying low this year and letting Trump destroy himself has proved to be an effective strategy, but at some point Clinton needs to be playing offense not defense, expanding her lead or at least protecting it aggressively.

• She doesn’t stand up to Trump. All bets are on Clinton in the debates starting late next month. She’s a smart and seasoned debater. She also doesn’t shoot herself in the foot every time she has a microphone in front of her. She’s got tons of ammunition from Trump’s statements over the last year. And Trump won’t have the adoring fans he needs to be comfortable.

What she has to avoid is thinking that the winner of a debate is always the smartest one, or that debates are won exclusively in the head rather than the heart. When the opportunity arises, she needs to expose Trump’s lazy indifference to facts, and then show that she can stand up to a bully.

It’s not over, by any means, but with 10 weeks left I’d take Clinton’s hand over Trump’s.

Alan Caron, a Waterville native, is the owner of Caron Communications and the author of “Maine’s Next Economy” and “Reinventing Maine Government.” He can be contacted at:

[email protected]

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: