By Harish Venugopalan
The three debates are over and the countdown to the big day has started. It has become a much tighter race than it was a week ago. But a little needs to be mentioned about the debates and the aftermath.
Much has happened since the first debate. A week or two before the first debate, Hillary Clinton was leading by about 10 points. Then she took ill, was out of action for a week or so. Meanwhile, Trump took advantage of the situation, among other things, went and addressed African American churches, moderated himself, brought down the points difference to around two. So what does this mean? Does it mean that suddenly all African Americans changed their minds and decided to vote Republican, thus bringing down the lead from -12 to -02 points? Nope. It meant that by addressing the African American community, he was able to sway either people who were undecided or people who were hesitant to accept him. And then what happened?
He walked straight into the trap set by Hillary Clinton. She opened the cage not by saying ‘Open Sesame….’ but saying the Spanish equivalent of it ‘Alicia Machado……’ and our guy with a big smile happily walked into the cage. Clinton promptly shut the cage. Then the other events began to happen. There is a school of thought which says that monks and spiritually inclined people wake up at 03.00 AM in order to evolve themselves through meditation and other spiritual practices. Trump proved to the world that one does not have to be spiritually inclined to get up at that early an hour. He woke up at 03.00 AM and furiously ranted on twitter about a sex tape.
What does it matter whether there was a sex tape featuring the concerned person or not? Was it really related to what the Americans saw as problems or election issues? ‘Who cares’ says Trump. ‘If I have some negative emotions which are stuck in my solar plexus, this is the way that I will get them out’. Said he and boy, promptly did he lose the gap that he was narrowing at that time. If that was the only twist in the tale, the tale would have been a much happier one for the GOP supporters. Then the video where he bragged about his unwelcome sexual advances made towards women came out. At last the unbelievable happened. Donald Trump apologised. Of course not without a rider ‘I am a man of words. But Bill Clinton is a man of action….’
Then all came to know that Trump was a man of action too. 12 women have accused him of groping charges ‘till now’. And Trump has called all of them liars. It would be difficult for even the staunchest Trump supporter to believe that all the 12 women from different states having different political preferences are coming together and lying against Trump. But with all due respect, it is only fair to ask ‘why did the concerned women wait for so long and why are they revealing the information at this point of time just a few weeks ahead of the elections?’ Elections should not be decided by analysing bedroom happenings or an individual’s personal life. But one need not sympathise with the Donald on this because it was he who started it. He just got it back. Anyway, the Americans seem to be forgetting all this and are focusing on more important issues. Which they should do….
So, what about Hillary Clinton? In the third debate, Hillary , when she was asked about the speech that she made to a Brazilian bank where she mentioned that she wanted open borders, she gave some muddled answer about energy which clearly no one including her understood. Then she went on to speak about the fact that the more important issue is that Russians are interfering in this election (Russians are accused of making the revelation about her speech through Wikileaks). So according to her great logic, if someone is committing a crime and if the Russians happen to bring out the truth about that crime, the criminal should not be made accountable. This is logic at its beautiful best !!!
Finally, about the fact that Donald Trump is calling this election rigged, it all started with him terming the media entirely biased in favour of Clinton. He has a lot of truth there. But he did not give it the proper direction. As a result, it went out of control after the third debate when he replied to Chris Wallace by saying that he is not going to commit right now whether he would be willing to accept the election irrespective of the outcome. Actually, it is not that big a deal. If Trump wins, he will accept the verdict of the people with all humility of course. If he loses, Hillary would become the President. Then, does it really matter whether he accepts the verdict or not? If at all a legal challenge is thrown by him or his team, that would be dealt with by the courts in an appropriate manner. So why flutter and flitter about it?
Finally, talking about the electoral college, with states like California and New York (55 and 29 votes respectively) voting Democrats predominantly and states like Texas (38 votes) generally voting Republican, swing states or purple states like North Carolina (15 votes), Pennsylvania (20 votes), Ohio (18 votes), New Hampshire (4 votes) and others become crucial for both the candidates to get to the crucial number of 270. Among the swing states, Hillary has a lead in New Hampshire. But a Monmouth university poll shows Trump closing in (42%-46%) whereas a NBC News Wallstreet journal poll (WSJ/NBC) shows Hillary having a substantial lead (45%-36%). An WSJ/NBC poll shows a tie (43%-43%) in Nevada. A boost through the Bloomberg poll puts him in front in Florida by 2 per cent (45%-43%). In another important battleground state Ohio, Trump has either led or tied with Hillary. But he is struggling in Arizona (11 votes), Georgia (16 votes) and Utah (6 votes) which Mitt Romney won easily. In the RCP national poll, Clinton’s lead has come down from 7.1 points to 5.1 points. RCP average in Pennsylvania has come down from 8.7 points to 4.4 points now.
One final mention needs to be done about voters who vote for Trump but do not want to reveal that they are voting for Trump because it is not politically right to say so. Only of late have people started speaking about that. Not many people have analysed whether this could have a substantial effect on the outcome. It might or it might not. One can know that only when the results are announced. Hence we are in for some very interesting days. Finally, the predictions…. Hillary Clinton, at this stage with a substantial lead in most opinion polls, looks the favourite and all set to win. However, I predict a surprise result on November 8.
Harish Venugopalan is a Research Assistant with the Observer Research Foundation. He has done his Masters in International Relations from the Dublin City University (DCU) in 2011-2012. His current research interest is ‘Conflict Management in Africa’.