Four years ago yesterday the release of the Hollywood Access tape was thought to have ended Donald Trump’s chances for the presidency. It did have an impact, but it was not enough to end the campaign.
On Oct. 7, 2016 the RealClearPolitics.com average of polls conducted before the release had Hillary Clinton at 47.6% and Mr. Trump at 42.9%. After a full week of news coverage, however, Ms. Clinton’s average grew to 48.1% and Mr. Trump fell to 41.4% - his lowest of the entire fall campaign. But then-FBI Director James Comey’s move to re-open the investigation of Ms. Clinton’s emails shifted the race’s dynamics again. On Oct. 28, 2016, Ms. Clinton stood at 47.1% in RCP and Mr. Trump was at 42.5%. One week later, on Nov. 4, 2016, Ms. Clinton dropped to 46.4% and Mr. Trump rebounded to 44.8%. You know the rest.
This year the surprises did not wait until October. There have been several events that normally would have been enough on their own to severely impact an election, the latest being the presidential debate and President Trump’s falling ill to COVID-19. On Sept. 29, 2020, the first presidential debate, Mr. Trump was at 43.3% in the RCP to Joe Biden’s 49.4%. On Friday when the president was admitted to Walter Reed, he stood at 42.9% to Joe Biden’s 50.3%. Today, nearly a week later, the president is at 42.0%, Mr. Biden 51.4%. It is not yet clear Mr. Biden’s growth is sustainable. As in 2016, there’s plenty of time for things to shift the race again. That, paired with early voting and COVID-19, will keep this race shifting around for the next 26 days.