Is Hillary losing her edge?


She may not be. But Donald Trump is gaining a good lot of it

Hillary Clinton’s selection of Tim Kaine, the senator from Virginia, as her running mate is interpreted by the media, including The New York Times, as a bold move that looks beyond the November presidential elections. Earlier, the expectation within progressive sections of the Democratic Party was that Clinton would choose someone with leftist credentials to win over supporters of Bernie Sanders, a self-declared Democratic Socialist who challenged her during the primaries. But Kaine is a centrist from a swing state; a practising Catholic, he has strong ties with the corporate sector and supports free trade. One explanation behind Clinton’s decision is that she is anyway certain that she could rally Democratic votes behind her and that with Kaine she’s trying to appeal to the conservative base of the Republican Party. But can she pull this off?
This is a risky game. Because, this time, the Democrats are as divided as the Republicans. Sanders and Clinton represented two starkly different ideas during the primary campaign. True, Clinton moved towards the centre to accommodate some of Sanders’s policies such as higher minimum wages. But as a whole, she still represents the Democratic establishment, and the selection of Kaine shows she’s not ready for any radical compromises in her right-of-the-centre views. What’s uniting Sanders and Clinton now is their common enemy—Donald Trump. But can Clinton win over Sanders supporters without giving in much to their camp? That’s a big ask.
The just-blown controversy over leaked emails of the Democratic Party has already jolted the Clinton campaign. The emails reveal the Party establishment overtly supported Clinton over Sanders. Though this was a known fact, the emails led credibility to the theory that the Democratic primary system was rigged. Secondly, data suggest supporters of Sanders are less likely to be habitual voters than those of Clinton, Ted Cruz and Donald Trump. For example, if 88% of Clinton voters voted in 2012 general election, the percentage of Sanders voters was 79%. It’s much starker in 2014. Only 67% of Sanders voters cast their votes in 2014, while it’s 78% for both Clinton and Trump supporters. This means there’s a higher chance for supporters of Sanders to stay at home for the general election than Clinton’s Republican rivals. So it’s riskier to assume that Sanders supporters would anyway vote for Clinton.
Another interesting factor is the gains Trump is making in opinion polls. In three major polls released after the Republican Convention, Trump is leading Clinton—1 percentage point in a CBS News poll; by 5 points in a CNN survey; and by 4 points in the Morning Consult poll. Even a RealClearPolitics average of the last eight polls suggests Trump has a 0.2 point lead over Clinton. This is huge compared to the 6-7 per cent lead Clinton had over her rival a month ago. Historically, polls are much more accurate closer to the election. In particular, polls after the conventions will offer a clearer trend. The Democratic convention is still on. Clinton is likely to get a convention bounce after her acceptance speech later this week. So the next round of polls will offer a clearer picture. But what’s undisputable at this point is that the Democratic house is still divided and Clinton will have to work hard to win over left voters. She let them down in the VP selection. Secondly, Donald Trump is making fast gains. He’s no more a clownish entertainer of national politics, but rather a potent rival for Hillary Clinton.

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