The first two weeks of October saw major political twists and turns, that simply could have sealed the fate for any presidential candidate, and given his or her opponent a clear shot to win. But this time, the elections are not about policy differences, reforms, or leadership; this time the elections are more about the gender, and the need for an ideological paradigm shift in the United States.
After what has ensued in these last few weeks, one might simply wonder, does Donald Trump still have a chance? The recent turn of events suggest that his chances are now worse than what they were a couple of weeks ago. He is still lagging behind his opponent in Florida by 3 points, and by 8 points in Pennsylvania. What's worse is that in Ohio, he is trailing by 1.6 points, even though there he had a lead by 3 points over Clinton. Recent polls indicate that he is now behind Clinton in the states of Nevada, North Carolina and Colorado, in which he was ahead of her just last month.
This month, too, has been full of surprises, that has seen both sides launch coordinated attacks on each other, but the most damaging of which was thrown at Trump. It is widely accepted that had it been anyone other than Trump, he or she would not have been able to withstand the demands of this campaign with so much baggage. But sadly, it is Trump, and whether anyone likes it or not, nothing sticks or dents his public image. He is quite like the anti-hero, who has had an unfavourable, unsavoury history, but still manages to scrape through because he has never really played the angel. He will continue to be favoured and liked by the people he has appealed to, despite whatever surfaces about his character.
Nevertheless, the Republican nominee managed to climb the polls last month, bringing the White House within his sight, only to be followed with a poor performance in the first debate, a spat with former Miss Universe and worse of all, the release of an old recording showing him making lewd comments about women, coupled with allegations of harassment.
All this in the run-up to the second debate didn’t really do much to dent Trump’s rating. Although he addressed a press conference with women accusing Bill Clinton of sexual harassment hours before the second debate, and haughtily attacked his opponent in personal terms, being the bully that he is, his ratings slumped another four points nationally.
During the debate, Clinton had less negative hits on Trump, as compared to the first one, and even though her responses to questions such as the one concerning her email server were abysmal, and her Lincoln defense on her speeches to Wall Street were disconcerting, she still managed to come out of it as the winner. Why so one may wonder? Clinton essentially had a great momentum leading up to this debate – from her performance in the previous one, to the obstacles Trump faced every step of the way. Interestingly, she also did not make any major blunders that could help her opponent bounce back. She remained steadfast despite being constantly jabbed with personal attacks. Another interesting facet about the debate was that she did not step down to Trump’s level of interruptive rhetoric. She let him speak, and maintained her poise throughout.
On the flip side, Trump seemed hell-bent on the notion, or may be a perception in his mind that the moderators of the debate, CNN’s Anderson Cooper, and ABC’s Martha Raddatz were on an agenda biased towards his opponent. In fact Raddatz constant questioning of Trump over Syria may lend credence to the very same perception.
There were also instances where Trump fared better. He made sure he gagged the issue of Clinton’s emails again and again, and also about the Clinton Foundation, something he hadn’t done in the last one. This shows that Trump actually prepared for this debate, irrespective of the level of preparation.
But despite the performance, Trump has always been his own worst enemy. The pre-debate press conference was redundant, and uncalled for. Whatever mileage he aimed to gain at that hour, possibly to unsettle his opponent, was not a wise trick. Instead, he should have waited, or brought the matter up earlier, and then built upon the momentum that the controversy could have created. But from the timing of that press conference it seemed he intended a short-term effect, which fizzled away and failed to faze Clinton.
Furthermore, Trump’s insistence that Clinton would be in jail if he was elected president, and accusation that she has hate in her heart, may have landed him some favourable ground in the Republican camp, which has yearned for a leader who would counter the Clintons without any fear of backlash.
But the problem is, Trump does not yet command a support base that can win him an election, much like Imran Khan, who despite being a populist leader in the country, does not have the electoral strength to win a majority. Same may be the case with the Republican leader.
To sum it up, whatever chance Trump had of capturing the presidency has evaporated. Knowing that he desperately needed to win to reverse his poll slump, he performed better than in the first debate. But he blew it off within the first 15 minutes after which he never really recovered. According to a poll by CNN, voters found that Clinton got the best of him by 57 per cent to 34 per cent. Trump may have slid down, but not as significantly as was expected and unfortunately for him, he has failed to bring in any new voters, particularly women, who he has continued to antagonise throughout. •