This Election Cycle: A Gift from the Political gods to the Political Junkie

I mean, like, really? Oh, my. 2016.

“You mean I can’t directly quote the candidate?”

This was a question asked to me by my student who will be participating in our school-wide presidential debate. He asked me this question because I asked him to refrain on using certain anatomical references in the debate, even when quoting.

This is the first year I had to ask my students to self-censor. Trump happens.

And now, the return of Anthony Wiener?

And the October surprise that never actually happens but did this year?

Where to begin?

Let’s start with the October Surprise, which is the mythical event which shakes up the election mere weeks before the voting. It’s the unseen political jack-in-the-box of death which stabs a campaign with a nearly mortal wound. People talk about it ad nauseam every four years, and each campaign (especially the one who is trailing) is hoping that some skeleton in the closet will produce itself. It never happens.

Until this year. Everyone thought the off-camera remarks in 2005 about groping women would end up being the first October surprise that anyone can remember for a long time. This, assumed all, would put an end to Trump’s campaign, and indeed the poll numbers shifted sharply in Clinton’s favor as the Trump camp scrambled to minimize the damage.

But what happened last Friday, when FBI director Comey announced that the FBI had re-opened its investigation into Clinton’s emails after it discovered possibly relevant emails on a laptop used by infamous Anthony Wiener, who also shared the laptop with his wife, Huma Abedin–Clinton’s longtime personal assistant. What’s in the emails? Who knows? But the announcement sent shock-waves through the presidential campaign–Clinton claiming there’s nothing there and demanding Comey release the emails–Trump praising the FBI for backtracking and doing what he thought they should have done in the first place.

Trump’s poll numbers were already rebounding from the tape fiasco before the explosive October Surprise, but the early numbers indicate possible significant movement in Trump’s direction. The LA Times/USC tracking poll has Trump up by 7 points in a head-to-head match-up with Clinton for the time frame 10/26-11/1. Half of this poll was taken after the FBI’s news. The Real Clear Politics average for the 4-way race currently stands at 2.2 points in Clinton’s favor. On October 17, Clinton’s lead stood at 7.1 points. Her lead has evaporated. Further proof is if you look at the three RCP polls where half of the polling days have been on 10/29 or after. Those three tracking polls (Rasmussen, IBD, ABC/Washington Post) are all TIED. Dead heat. A draw. Clinton’s lead has disappeared.

Now, of course, how this plays out in the electoral college is a different matter. Clinton still has a substantial advantage and more paths to victory, but this October surprise has given the Trump team lift at a time when their numbers were already improving, likely due to continued attacks on Clinton from Wikileaks and other sources.

How this all plays out is a complete mystery. No one has ever seen anything like this campaign season, and I’m sure everyone just wants it to END, one way or the other.

But for the political junkie, this has been a dream come true. A Washington outsider prone to gaffes. A Washington insider tainted with scandals. An out of control media. An FBI investigation. An underage sex investigation (thanks to A. Wiener). A scandalous tape and a juvenile Twitter fiend. A network who has spoon fed a debate question to team Clinton. The release of emails from Wikileaks. Other emails which have gone missing. And now some that are found.

Catch your breath, America. It’s almost over.

This political junkie just might be a little sad about it.

 

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