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Thursday, September 15, 2016

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump tied with eight weeks to go

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In a recent New York Times/CBS News public opinion survey, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are virtually tied with less than eight weeks to go. And both presidential candidates seem to be struggling to win the confidence of their bases.

Among likely voters, the Democratic party nominee Hillary Clinton has the support of 46 per cent of likely voters, compared to 44 per cent for Donald Trump, the Republican candidate. As such, neither shows signs of jumping into a commanding lead. Among the broader electorate of registered voters, however, Mrs. Clinton leads Mr. Trump by five points, 48 per cent to 43 per cent respectively.

According to the New York Times:

Discontent with the major party candidates is widespread. Among those who say they intend to vote for Mr. Trump or Mrs. Clinton, slightly more than half express strong support. The rest say that they harbor reservations about their candidate, or that they are simply voting to thwart the other nominee.

Mr. Trump reorganized his campaign team last month, and since then has been more disciplined. For this, he has been rewarded with improving poll numbers. Mrs. Clinton, for her part, has been under attack recently for saying “half” of Mr. Trump’s supporters fit into a “basket of deplorables”—she did say later that she regretted using the word “half” to describe the Trump supporters to which she was referring.

Further controversy ensued after an incident on Sunday when Mrs. Clinton was leaving a 9/11 anniversary ceremony and video caught her nearly collapsing and being helped into a van as she left the event early. Initially, her campaign attempted to conceal what eventually was explained as pneumonia.

Since Sunday, there has been a lot of buzz about Mrs. Clinton’s health and her “basket of deplorables” slur, and that obviously is not helping her in the polls.

I wonder whether questions about Mrs. Clinton’s health has prompted many voters to take a more serious look at both candidates’ running mates, putting greater emphasis on them when deciding between the Democratic and the Republican tickets? It certainly had me re-doing my Google searches on both men. Donald Trump, of course, has chosen Indiana Gov. Mike Pence as his vice-presidential running mate, while Hillary Clinton’s running mate is Sen. Tim Kaine.

Gov. Mike Pence is a social conservative who is well known among Republicans and, seemingly, is appealing to followers of the Tea Party movement. He spent six terms in Congress and in 2008 rose to the No. 3 spot in the party, Republican Conference chairman, a job dedicated to shaping the GOP’s messaging. Among Republicans, at least, Gov. Pence would be considered a pretty save back-up to Donald Trump’s precedency—in fact, I dare say that some in the GOP would prefer him over Trump for the top job. If I had a vote, I would.

Tim Kaine is a senator from Virginia. He’s a lawyer by training and served as mayor of Richmond, Va., and as lieutenant governor and governor of Virginia before winning election to the Senate in 2012. Apparently he has good foreign policy chops—that’s his strength. He’s not well-known nationally, however. In a recent CNN/ORC poll, 19 per cent of those surveyed said they had never heard of him, and 21 per cent said they had not formed an opinion of him.

Sen. Kaine himself seems to be still in a pinch-me moment several weeks after being nominated to be Mrs. Clinton’s running mate. “I felt like I was Pinocchio turning into a real boy,” the senator told a Virginia audience. “I mean, like, ‘Wow, what? You want me? Are you kidding?’”

My advice to the senator: Turn into a real vice-presidential candidate fast or your GOP rival will eat you alive in the Oct. 4 vice-presidential debate.

If both these men were running directly for the top job, I’d choose the GOP’s Mike Pence.

If the electorate does not soon perceive Sen. Kaine as having the experience, skill, character and views sought after in a president-in-waiting, Mrs. Clinton’s campaign will be in real trouble. With The Donald already nipping at her heels, a slip or two more and her hopes of being America’s first female president could be toast.

[Photo credits: United States Department of State (Official Photo at Department of State page) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons | Michael Vadon [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons]

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