Advantage Trump, but this isn't over
- Hillary Clinton has been diagnosed with pneumonia
- Polls indicating a swing to Trump since Clinton suffered her dizzy spell Sunday
- Raises very legitimate questions as to her suitability for role of president
Clinton needs show of strength (literally) to prove she still has it
- Unpopularity of both candidates should keep race close
I'm absolutely fine, thank you very much for asking. Photo: iStock
By Martin O'Rourke
We've been pretty consistent in our view that the US presidential election race would go down to the wire for some time now.
Just three weeks ago, when the polls had Democrat presidential candidate Hillary Clinton enjoying a comfortable lead over Republican rival Donald Trump, the latter's invitation to Brexit architect Nigel Farage to speak at a Republican convention may have had some scratching their heads (including it has to be said, many of Trump's die-hard followers), but we saw it as evidence that Trump was prepared to fight tooth-and-nail for victory in November.
Perhaps Trump knew something that we didn't. The revelation that Clinton has been diagnosed with pneumonia after she seemingly fainted on, of all days, September 11, underpinned a right-wing narrative that has now firmly entered the mainstream.
We said she would not be counting her chickens back in August, but she should maybe have been counting the number of engagements that she had committed to. Now, having chosen to ignore a doctor's warning on September 9, she is scrabbling to re-establish her credibility after seizing the spotlight in the most unfortunate of ways Sunday.
Clinton's camp has already been out saying that she will be back on the campaign trail in the next day or two and she will no doubt be patched up, ready to go and have all the medical backup she requires to ensure that she can perform to the best of her ability.
But what limitation does that episode on Sunday place on her ability to perform? Trump has raised the question over Clinton's health again and again and, whatever we may think of his politics, it is a legitimate question particularly as speculation surrounds her decision to retire as secretary of state in 2013.
If she is unable to withstand the rigours of an admittedly gruelling election process, will she also be able to handle the unique and enormous pressures that come with being in the White House including the requirement to take up the US' traditional role on the international stage?
Markets need certainty and while Clinton's representation of the status quo is that certainty that they crave, a president encumbered by health problems and surrounded by international hard men like Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping will not wash in the long term.
The pollsters already had Clinton's nine-percentage point lead on Trump at the start of August narrowed to near parity before her dizzy spell Sunday (which also followed on from her misfiring critique of Trump's supporters as a "basket of deplorables").
While the Democrat and Republican diehards will be virtually unmoved by the drama of the last three or four days, the undecided may just be ready to throw in their lot with Trump. That is particularly so if Clinton's illness combines with her politically inept attack on Trump's constituency among middle-ground voters to raise not only question marks about her judgement and capacity for doing the job, but also to reinforce the widely-held belief that she is of the establishment, for the establishment and will solidify the position of the establishment if elected.
Advantage Trump, but it is far too early to claim victory. Photo: iStock
It is clear that she has much to do. And yet, just as we suggested three weeks ago that this was no foregone conclusion when speculation mounted that Trump might exit the race, it is more than reasonable to expect that with 56 days to go, there will be numerous swings of fortune in this most bizarre of all presidential races.
Both the principal candidates (Trump not fit to be US president) remain deeply unpopular for a variety of reasons that we have covered in depth at Saxo Bank (Clinton's status quo is not fit to rule) and those flaws in the makeup of both are just as evident today as they were six months or a year ago.
It means that further shifts and swings in the presidential race are inevitable. Clinton's lead was not decisive a month ago. It's difficult to believe that Trump's current lead of three points (48.7% to 45.8%), according to the UPI/CVoter tracking poll Monday will prove to be decisive too.
He is after all extraordinarily gaffe-prone when his mouth runs some distance from his brain or, to put it perhaps more accurately, from the campaign brains of Kellyanne Conway who has helped iron out some of the rough spots (note his measured response to Clinton's dramatic episode) since she took the reins as campaign manager.
A glance at a league table of polls also shows that for every poll (national and regional) that has Trump ahead, there are still at least two favouring Clinton since Sunday's episode.
Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson meanwhile has taken advantage of the distaste that a sizeable segment of the population have for Trump and Clinton to close in on the minimum 15% he needs in five national polls to be allowed to participate on the presidential debates.
The first of these is on September 26. What a turn up that would be if Johnson could turn this into a genuine three-horse race. He wouldn't stand a chance, of course. But it would say everything about the unpopularity of the two principal candidates if he could eat into their share.
Martin O'Rourke is managing editor at Saxo Bank