Being Hillary-ous, getting Trump-ed

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[stextbox id=”info”]A summary of the debates, opinion polls, allegations and counter-allegations by the two camps in between[/stextbox]

Washington, DC: As October started, Democratic Party presidential nominee Hillary Clinton-led Republican Party presidential nominee Donald Trump in the RealClearPolitics head-to-head average 47.4% to 44.7%. In the four-way race, Clinton led Trump 43.7% to 41.1% with Libertarian Party presidential nominee Gary Johnson at 7.0% and Green Party presidential nominee Jill Stein at 2.3%.

The politics of polling became a campaign issue as national polls fluctuated throughout the month with some showing as high as a 12-point lead for Clinton and others with Trump in the lead. In statewide polling, in a rarity for independent presidential candidates, Evan McMullin, who named political consultant Mindy Finn of Texas as his running mate in October, took the lead in his home state of Utah in an Emerson poll. As Election Day, November 8, drew near, early voting began in multiple states in October. RealClearPolitics declared FloridaOhioMichiganPennsylvaniaNew HampshireMaineNorth Carolina, Georgia, Colorado, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico and Iowa as toss-up states.

October was a month of surprises. As Trump continued to refuse to release his tax returns, on the first of the month, The New York Times published Trump’s 1995 returns sent to them from an anonymous source. The returns showed Trump had declared a $ 916 million loss in 1995, allowing him to shield $ 50 million in taxable income per year for the next 18 years for the purposes of federal income tax.

Clinton speculated Trump had not paid any federal income taxes during the period. She asked, “What kind of genius loses $1 billion in a single year?” In a statement, the Trump campaign claimed The Times had illegally obtained the record and accused it of being “an extension of the Clinton Campaign.” Going further, the statement said Trump had a “fiduciary responsibility… to pay no more tax than legally required.”

Tim Kaine and Mike Pence embrace before the vice presidential debate with moderator Elaine Quijano looking on. Image: NBC News

Trump later argued he had “brilliantly” taken advantage of tax laws. A day after the publication, political operative Roger Stone, warned of another WikiLeaks release of documents related to Clinton. As observers awaited the release, Trump running mate Mike Pence and Clinton running mate Tim Kaine participated in the vice presidential debate. According to AP analysis, Kaine spoke in an aggressive manner and often interrupted Pence, who remained relatively calm throughout. A CNN poll of debate watchers declared Pence the winner, 48% to 42%.

Days later, still without any WikiLeaks release, Trump supporters began to wonder if any release was pending or whether an outside entity influenced WikiLeaks director Julian Assange not to release the documents. A statement from the United States Intelligence Community claimed, with confidence, that documents released on WikiLeaks were the result of hacks by the Russian government. On 7 October, as Trump took some time off from campaigning to prepare for the 9 October debate, the WikiLeaks release did occur, but a different leak had a greater impact.

The Washington Post set off a political firestorm as it released leaked video of Trump from 2005 speaking with Billy Bush, then a presenter for Access Hollywood, about how Trump kisses women without waiting and “grab(s) them by the pussy,” explaining he can get away with it because he is famous. In response, the Trump campaign immediately put out a release calling the comments “locker room banter”, claiming former President Bill Clinton had said “far worse” while playing golf with Trump, and apologizing “if anyone was offended.” Hillary Clinton sent out a tweet calling the comments “horrific” and argued the American people “cannot allow this man to be president.”

Many Republicans, including some supporters, denounced Trump. Pence was “beside himself” according to the Associated Press. House Speaker Paul Ryan disinvited Trump from a joint campaign appearance. Two dozen Republican officeholders including Senators Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, John McCain of Arizona, and Rob Portman of Ohio, unendorsed Trump. Some prominent Republicans called on Trump to withdraw from the race.

At the end of the tumultuous day, Trump released a taped message, again apologizing for his “foolish” 2005 comments while arguing “there’s a big difference between the words and actions of other people.” He accused Bill Clinton of having “actually abused women” and Hillary Clinton of “bull(ying), attack(ing), sham(ing), and intimidat(ing)” these same women. Trump promised further discussion on the topic and affirmed his participation in the upcoming debate. The next day, he told The Wall Street Journal he would never quit the race. Pence told donors he would remain on the ticket as well. According to a Morning Consult poll, only 12% of Republicans felt Trump should withdraw.

Media coverage of the tape overshadowed the WikiLeaks release of hacked e-mails from Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta, which included transcripts of paid speeches Clinton gave. Controversial parts included Clinton admitting to having both a private and public position on issues and describing her “dream” of a “hemispheric common market [in North America], with open trade and open borders.”

Just prior to the October 9 debate, Trump held a press conference with Kathy Shelton, a rape victim whose alleged rapist was defended by Hillary Clinton, as well as Paula JonesJuanita Broaddrick, and Kathleen Willey, who have each accused Bill Clinton of sexual impropriety. At the event, alluding to the 2005 tape, Broaddrick commented, “Mr. Trump may have said some bad words, but Bill Clinton raped me.”

The Clinton campaign referred to the press conference as a “stunt”. As the candidates took the stage for the debate, they forewent the customary handshake. During the debate, organised as a town hall moderated by Anderson Cooper and Martha Raddatz, Trump proclaimed he had not done any of the things he mentioned in the leaked tape. Clinton attempted to connect Trump to Russia and claimed Trump lived in an “alternative reality”. Trump referred to Clinton as “the devil” and said she has “tremendous hate in her heart”. He called for a renewed criminal investigation into her handling of classified information.

After Clinton remarked, “It’s just awfully good that someone with the temperament of Donald Trump is not in charge of the law in our country,” Trump quipped, “Because you’d be in jail.” Clinton addressed the content of her paid speeches, arguing her statement about having both private and public positions referred to Abraham Lincoln. Trump responded, “She’s blaming the lie on the late great Abraham Lincoln… Honest Abe never lied… That’s the big difference between Abraham Lincoln and you.” Trump openly disagreed with his running mate Pence, arguing the US military should not target the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria.

Ken Bone during the October 9 presidential debate. Image: NBC News

Near the end of the debate, audience member Ken Bone asked a question about energy policy. Bone’s attire and demeanour turned him into an instant online viral sensation. For the final question, an audience member asked each candidate to say something nice about the other. Clinton praised Trump for his family, while Trump praised Clinton as a “fighter”. The two shook hands at the conclusion.

Although opinion polls scored the debate as a victory for Clinton, according to Politics1.com, Clinton was “not as sharp” and Trump had a “much better night” likely enough to end the repeated calls from GOP officials for him to leave the race. A 22-member focus group hosted by Fox News pollster Frank Luntz scored the debate for Trump, 16 to 6, leading Luntz to conclude, “Tonight was so significant that (Trump) is back in the race.” Pence also declared Trump the winner and tweeted congratulations. The tweet served as an affirmation Pence would remain on the ticket.

As Trump returned to the campaign trail, he renewed attacks against the GOP establishment, including Speaker Ryan, for its tepid support. He accused the establishment of involvement in a “sinister deal” to hurt his campaign. Politico reported the RNC had spent no money on TV advertisements for Trump. Nevertheless, as the media focus shifted away from the leaked 2005 tape, several officeholders who had just un-endorsed Trump, re-endorsed his candidacy. Moreover, his support among GOP members increased from 74% before the debate to 89% afterwards.

WikiLeaks continued an incremental release of Podesta e-mails while, simultaneously, women came forward accusing Trump of sexual misconduct. The New York Times published a story in which two women accused Trump of inappropriate touching. Trump threatened to sue the paper. He accused Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim, a Times shareholder, of being behind the story to hurt his campaign due to Trump’s proposals related to Mexico. More women came forward accusing Trump of unwelcome kissing, groping, and sexual advances. Trump denied all the claims, at times insinuated his accusers were too unattractive for him to assault, and vowed to sue each accuser after the election. He referred to his accusers as pawns of globalist special interests and political elites, and claimed, “This election is being rigged by the media pushing false and unsubstantiated charges, and outright lies, in order to elect Crooked Hillary!”

As Trump and his supporters continued to describe the election as rigged, President Barack Obama chimed in, saying Trump “seems to be in middle of the game making excuses for why he might be losing”. On 16 October, the campaign took a violent turn as a GOP office in North Carolina was firebombed. Trump claimed the story would have received more attention if it was a Democratic Party office.

As WikiLeaks continued to release Podesta e-mails, Ecuador shut off Julian Assange’s internet access at his residence in the Ecuadorian embassy in London. The government of that country claimed it did this to avoid interference with the US presidential election.

WikiLeaks vowed to continue releasing documents. According to a new WikiLeaks e-mail dump, DNC interim chair Donna Brazile forwarded at least one question for a CNN town hall to the Clinton campaign ahead of the event during the primary campaign. Brazile denied sending the message. Conservative group Project Veritas joined in surprise releases, publishing undercover video allegedly of a Democratic Party operative discussing the use of individuals to disrupt Trump rallies and claiming the Clinton campaign was aware of the efforts.

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Setup of the 19 October debate with Trump, moderator Chris Wallace, and Clinton. Image: NBC News

As the 19 October debate approached, Trump questioned the fairness of the election process, the legitimacy of opinion polls, and asked supporters to “forget the press, read the internet”. To the final debate, he invited President Obama’s half-brother Malik Obama, who had endorsed Trump, as well as Patricia Smith, mother of diplomat Sean Smith who died in the 2012 Benghazi attack. She had previously spoken at the Republican National Convention. Clinton invited businesswoman Meg Whitman, billionaire Mark Cuban, and former basketball player Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, all of whom had endorsed Clinton.

The third and final debate took place in Las Vegas and was moderated by Fox News host Chris Wallace. As in the second debate, there was no handshake between the candidates before. Unlike the second, there was no handshake afterward. During the debate, Trump stated he would appoint pro-life justices to the Supreme Court and that the likely result would be the overturning of Roe versus Wade. Clinton countered she would nominate justices to uphold Roe.

Trump was criticised for referring to illegal immigrants as “bad hombres“. After Trump spoke about having a closer relationship with Russia, Clinton implied Trump was a “puppet” of Russian President Vladimir Putin, to which Trump repeatedly interrupted, “No. You’re the puppet!”

Trump referred to the Clinton Foundation as a “criminal enterprise” and accused Clinton of encouraging violence at his rallies based on the Project Veritas video. His most controversial comments came when he refused to say whether he would accept the results of the election and near the close of the debate when he interrupted Clinton to refer to her as “such a nasty woman”.

The “nasty woman” comment became a rallying call for Clinton supporters with Senator Elizabeth Warren later commenting, “We nasty women are going to march our nasty feet to cast our nasty votes to get (Trump) out of our lives forever”.

According to CNN‘s poll, Clinton won the debate 52% to 39%. However, according to CNN‘s 15-member focus group, Trump won 10 to 5. Frank Luntz’s focus group likewise showed Trump winning, by a margin of 14 to 12.

A day after the debate, Trump held a rally and announced, “I will totally accept the results of this great and historic presidential election — if I win.”

Trump and Clinton both attended the traditional Alfred E Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner with Archbishop of New York Cardinal Timothy M Dolan seated between them. Although the event was meant to feature lighthearted and often self-deprecating statements from the candidates, Trump received boos when the crowd felt he was too harsh on Clinton. Nevertheless, Clinton and Trump shook hands at the conclusion.

Back on the campaign trail, Trump began using the phrase “Drain the Swamp” to describe the defeat of the establishment in Washington, DC.

In a 22 October speech in Gettysburg, he laid out a plan for the first 100 days of his administration and unveiled a “Contract for the American Voter”, which included such policy proposals as a constitutional amendment to impose term limits on Congress, a federal employee hiring freeze, and a ban on fundraising by foreign lobbyists in US elections.

Trump received his first major newspaper endorsement from the Las Vegas Review-Journal, owned by billionaire Trump supporter Sheldon Adelson. For the Clinton campaign, surrogates such as First Lady Michelle Obama, President Obama, and Bernie Sanders travelled about to spread the campaign’s message; entertainers such as Miley CyrusKaty Perry and Jennifer Lopez also played a role.

As most opinion polls continued to show Clinton ahead of Trump, Trump’s campaign manager Kellyanne Conway admitted the campaign was behind and that Clinton “has tremendous advantages”. Meanwhile, Trump began arguing Democrats were creating “phony polls” to suppress the turnout of his supporters. He also argued the media was ignoring polls such as those from Rasmussen Reports and the Los Angeles Times, which regularly showed him tied or slightly ahead of Clinton. Still, he acknowledged, “I guess I’m somewhat behind in the polls, but not by much.”

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Photo from The Atlantic

As October drew to a close, three additional surprises threatened to change the course of the election. First, Obamacare rates were announced to be rising significantly for 2017 throughout the nation; over 50% in some states and by an average of 25% nationally. One in five users would have only one plan from which to choose. Second, more revelations from WikiLeaks including a release showing how an adviser used President Bill Clinton’s status, what he referred to as “Bill Clinton, Inc”, to secure donations to the Clinton Foundation from certain corporations as well as speaking fees, travelling expenses, and vacations in exchange for access, leading to accusations of pay-to-play. Third, FBI director James Comey wrote a letter to certain Congressional committee chairs stating that the FBI had discovered new evidence and was re-opening the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s e-mail server.

According to reports, the relevant e-mails were discovered on a device of former Congressman Anthony Weiner, who was under investigation for sexting with an under-aged girl. Weiner allegedly shared the device with his wife Huma Abedin, a top aide to Clinton. The Clinton campaign demanded to see the evidence. Senator Harry Reid argued Comey’s letter may have violated the Hatch Act and accused the FBI of not releasing information about connections between the Trump campaign and the Russian government.

Commenting on the matter, Trump said, “Clinton’s corruption on a scale we have never seen before. We must not let her take her criminal scheme into the Oval Office.” Clinton said, “No matter what they throw at us these last few days, we’re not going to back down.” In the RealClearPolitics average for 31 October, Clinton led Trump 48.0% to 44.9% in the head-to-head matchup, but her lead dwindled in the four-way race, 45.6% to 42.7% with Johnson at 4.7% and Stein at 2.1%.

From Wikinews under Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 licence