All right, Hillary, this is serious.
Against Jeb or somebody, it would’ve just been your party depending on you (and all the people your party represents). But now, with Trump, the country and the world are depending on you. The global economy. Things like that. Don’t screw this up.
Yes, you’re still the favorite. Heavy favorite. As I write these words, Nate Silver has you at 66 percent likely to win. And the betting markets have you at 70 percent. But those are both down—in the FiveThirtyEight case, down from close to 80 percent at the beginning of the week. And that Times poll has the race tied.
The email story is doing considerable damage. James Comey did considerable damage, which he no doubt wanted to do. I know—the truth isn’t nearly as bad as the screaming headlines. The truth is that out of all those thousands of emails, we’re down to three—three—that might have been marked classified. And if we believe the State Department, two of them were marked mistakenly, which brings us down to one! And the markings might have been confusing and easily missed. And they weren’t about anything important—prep for phone calls to foreign dignitaries. But alas none of that matters right now. What matters is that more than half of America thinks you should have been indicted.
And the email story isn’t over. As the Beast’s Shane Harris reported, Republicans in Congress are going to drag this out through the entire election—and into your putative presidency. Last week, Trey Gowdy said “our committee’s work is done”—and this week, that same committee conducted another interview of another Defense Department official.
And it’s not just Republicans. Judicial Watch, the right-wing organization that helped start all this, has a civil lawsuit going. A judge is supposed to decide next week whether you can be deposed. If that happens, the deposition will probably be made public. This is the only realistic Republican path to victory, and they’ll be out there with their machetes clearing it all the way up to Nov. 8. You are just not going to be able to avoid talking about this for the next four months.
As for Trump, his apparent selection of Mike Pence as his running mate is smart, if it’s so. In the long run I think it’s doubtful Pence helps much and he may hurt a little. He’ll bring out evangelical voters, but he’ll turn off independents. The one big thing he’s known for in the last few years, the “religious freedom” law for private business people, is opposed by 58 percent of independents, while only 36 percent of them favor Pence’s position. Pence also sponsored the very first House bill to defund Planned Parenthood. He’s out there, and he can be made into a minor liability.
But the important point right now is that Trump appears to be making the serious and sober choice. Going with Chris Christie would have been laughable. And going with Gingrich would have been beyond that—tantamount to throwing the election. But Pence would say that Trump means business, for the time being.
Let’s also expect that Trump is going to get a bit of a bounce out of his convention, more than you will. Why? Simple. He’s going to get higher ratings. Sure, there could be some calamity—a delegate fight, a street brawl with brownshirt-ish overtones. But let’s not count on that. It will probably be a well-produced show, and he’ll probably stick to the teleprompter. And boy were these polls perfectly timed from his perspective—they’re settling some pre-convention nerves, getting more people to hop on the train.
You, on the other hand, might be limping into your convention. A couple more iffy polls and—well, you know how the media love “Hillary In Trouble!” stories. You’re probably going to name a boring white guy as your veep. Which is fine, as you-know-who would say—Kaine and Vilsack are both good choices in their ways. But they aren’t going to set Twitter on fire. Obama will give you a great speech, that’s a given, but you can’t count on him. You need a barn-burner of your own.
Four months. The most important four months of your life. Yes, you should win going away, at least in Electoral College terms if not popular vote ones. But despite that, there is very little margin for error here. That stunt Bill pulled with Loretta Lynch—there can be no more of that. And that RBG nonsense. No, you don’t control Supreme Court justices, but your campaign needs to communicate to Democrats and Clinton sympathizers everywhere from the courts to the business world to Hollywood to please try not to commit stupid unforced errors that become three-day media bacchanals.
I want to note here the extent to which a Clinton win scenario assumes and depends on Trump continuing to behave like Trump. And he probably will. “He can’t help himself,” people in my line of work always say. But what if he can help himself? What if he doesn’t go off on any more Judge Curiel-type benders? What if he becomes disciplined? It’s not the craziest thought. Invanka will be texting him hourly: “Dad. You’re on the precipice of doing this. Don’t say it!”
I’m not saying it’s panic time. It’s not. Trump is going to perform miserably among blacks and Latinos and women. You lead by 11 points, for the time being, among white college-educated voters, a group the Democrat never wins (in 2012, Romney won the group by 14 points). If that holds, the Donald’s a dead man. And I think you’ll out-debate him (although you’ll have to watch coming off as the smarty-pants, but that’s a future discussion).
So no, it’s not panic time. But it is discipline time. And it’s time to think of a way to grapple with this trust thing, as I wrote last week. You have to win this.
The decks were basically cleared for you back in 2014 (although Sanders had other ideas) on the premise that you could win. You got your votes on that premise. Democratic voters held up their end. Now you hold up yours.
Dont. Screw. This. Up.