Sunday 25 February 2018

Former Democrat strongholds ready to desert Clinton as impact of crass Trump recording fades

Children dressed up as Donald Trump and Abraham Lincoln at a rally in Warren, Michigan. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
Children dressed up as Donald Trump and Abraham Lincoln at a rally in Warren, Michigan. Photo: AFP/Getty Images

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With one week to go to the finish line in one of the most remarkable election campaigns in US history, Republicans believe they have a new found reason to be cheerful.

Even before yesterday's ABC-'Washington Post' poll which showed Donald Trump in the lead by one point, GOP-ers said they felt some of their base "returning home" as the hours tick down on the race.

And in the key battleground state of Pennsylvania, where there's been a long hiatus in support for Republicans, this may be so. Pennsylvania has voted Democrat for the last six elections in a row. The last time it went red was in 1988 under George Bush Senior, but leading members of the GOP in Pennsylvania say they've seen a significant trend in changes to voter registration from Democrat to Republican in key industrial cities like Pittsburgh.

Yesterday, the Trump-Pence ticket teamed up for a trip around the state to condemn the tyranny of Obamacare, calling it "confusing", "expensive" and vowing to repeal it as a matter of urgency should they win the White House.

People are "calling us and telling us, we're for Republicans now," says Rob Gleason, chair of the GOP in Pennsylvania.

And it's all because of Obamacare, he says.

"We call it coming home," Gleason explains.

For Hillary Clinton, the latest round of queries about the use of her private email server, although without any substance thus far, appears to be proving more than just an annoying distraction.

Party stalwarts were quick to denounce FBI director James Comey's actions in writing to Congress about issues that he had few or no specifics on as partisan and designed to influence voters at a critical point in the race.

Yet, others say that he had an obligation to do so and would likely suffer worse criticisms if it emerged after the election that he'd withheld his concerns, and allowed Hillary Clinton become president despite them.

At a time when Donald Trump's message is projecting him as an agent for change from the political establishment, the characterisation of Clinton as a untrustworthy and part of the problem appears to be strengthening.

"I'm not a politician, my only special interest is you, the American people," Trump told a group of voters in Montgomery County, PA, yesterday.

Clinton is campaigning with President Obama today in another key state, North Carolina.

She has called on James Comey to release any details about her emails, but it'd be impossible for this to happen ahead of polling day.

The ABC-'Washington Post' poll showing Trump ahead by one percentage point is well within the margin of error, yet Trump has for a long time been talking about "rigged" polls. And although purely speculative, the 'shy' Trump voter - the person unwilling to admit their intention to vote in favour of such a publicly pernicious character because of social pressures - may also help boost numbers for Republicans next Tuesday.

One of the gratuitous utterances most likely to dissuade voters from declaring their hand should they be willing to vote for Trump was his conversation with Billy Bush, formerly of NBC's popular 'Today Show', where he described in the most base terms how he forces himself on women he finds attractive. Roundly condemned outright by several Republican figures, the impact appears to have faded somewhat by those weighing up the alternative to voting for a man who wears his habit of sexual harassment like a badge of honour.

Once the 'Never Trump' fringe group was the fringe group to watch, now it appears 'Never Hillary' is far more relevant.

"I don't condone it, I don't appreciate it, but it has no bearing on my opinion of his part in this election," says 27-year-old Chloe Hills from Pittsburgh of Trump's comments, which saw him lose public support from several high-ranking Republicans such as Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, Senator John McCain and former secretary of state Condoleeza Rice.

He still speaks to me "as a woman" and as "a voter", says Ms Hills. "I don't trust her, and I don't have any concerns about him winning this election."

"That was early on," says Rob Gleason of the tape that was leaked just a few weeks ago. People start to think at this stage "well, how important was that?"

For some, not very.

Irish Independent

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