Hillary Clinton is back on the stump. She did yesterday after a four-day rest from the campaign trail caused by a pneumonia bout. At several events where she gave speeches, Clinton sounded and looked healthy and fit for what promises to be an intensely brutal campaign in the remaining period before Election Day.
In Greensboro, NC, where she held a rally, followed shortly after with a press conference, Clinton laid into Donald Trump in measured if sharp, tone. Among other things, the former secretary of state rebuked her opponent for insulting Faith Green Timmons, an African-American pastor who had only politely asked Trump during his visit to the church in Flint, Michigan on Wednesday to refrain from making a political speech in which he was setting out to attack Clinton. On Thursday, Trump called Timmons “a nervous mess” during an interview with Fox News Channel. “His latest target is a pastor in Flint, Michigan who respectfully asked him not to use her pulpit for political attacks. He called her a nervous mess. That’s not only insulting. It’s dead wrong,” Clinton said at the press conference.
But it was at the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute annual awards gala in Washington, D.C. last night where she delivered her most passionate attack on Trump since her return. She sailed into Trump for his racist comment about President Barack Obama’s citizenship. “He was asked one more time where was President Obama born and he still wouldn’t say Hawaii. He still wouldn’t say America,” Clinton said. “This man wants to be our next president? When will he stop this ugliness, this bigotry?”
When you are back on the trail from a few days’ sick leave and suddenly discover that momentum has shifted away from you towards your opponent, when your supporters are rattled and are about to run scared like their heads are on fire because they think there could actually be a President Donald Trump, then it’s time to get back to work spiritedly to recapture the sweet rhythms of your interrupted campaign.
Quite aside from her four-day absence from the campaign trail, Clinton’s slump in the polls and Trump’s consequent rise in same, is a composite of several factors. After months of undisciplined and terrifying garrulity that had landed him in trouble after trouble over the course of his entire campaign, Trump has finally “normalized” by reading his campaign speeches off the teleprompter. As a result, his fellow Republicans are gravitating back to him. They have forgotten and forgiven him for every outrageous thing he had said and done in the past. They now even think him “presidential.”
In her most unguarded moment so far, Clinton screwed up with the rather inartful “Basket of Deplorables” remark, and no doubt some moderate Republicans, offended by that, have opted as a consequence to head back home.
The most disconcerting aspect of the situation the Democrats are facing [at this time] is that Gary Johnson, and to a small extent Jill Stein, the two third-party candidates in the run for the White House, are purloining Clinton’s thunder. In a batch of recently released polls, Millennials who formed a core part of the Obama Coalition which Clinton is relying on to power her to victory, are not excited about her, and are therefore drifting away towards Johnson and Stein. If Johnson and Stein had consciences at all, or possess anything remotely close to commonsense, they would take a hike from the race for fear their continued participation could siphon away enough votes from Clinton and make her fall short of victory. That was what happened to Al Gore in the 2000 presidential election in Florida which ultimately decided that contest. Ralph Nader, an incurable egomaniac and the Green Party candidate in that election, had 97,421 votes in Florida. George W. Bush beat Gore with only 537 votes there.
Had Nader stayed out of the race, Gore would have won the state and therefore the presidency, staving off the Iraq war and an economy run aground because of it. But none of these two current third-party candidates, especially Stein, a Nader acolyte and nominee of the Green Party, would step out of the race. Stein is even more dangerous than Nader in her egomaniacal disposition. She attacks Clinton more than she pans Trump, if she criticizes the latter at all. Worse, Stein had the shamelessness to crash the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia to recruit Bernie Sanders followers who were angry at their principal for conceding the primary race to Clinton.
What to do in the face of these problems? The Clinton campaign is deploying to the battleground states surrogates with the ability to connect with Millennials. On Tuesday, President Obama was in Philadelphia where he gave a stem-winder in support of Clinton. On Wednesday, Bill Clinton filled in for her in a Nevada campaign event. Today in Virginia, Michelle Obama delivered a barnburner before a crowd of students that filled the auditorium to the rafters. Next week, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren will be in Ohio where Clinton has slipped in the polls by at least five percentage points.
Unlike Trump, Clinton has an A-list campaigners on her behalf, a murderer’s row of surrogates. In the last analysis, they can help to push her across the finish line. But in the meantime, it is only the nominee who can save herself. To get back in the lead, she has to do a number of things.
The first is that, she must not appear sick or take another day off the campaign trail until voting day.
Second, she should start telling the voters more about herself, what she will do for America, and contrast all that with Trump’s divisiveness, racism and unfitness for the office of president. It’s not enough to keep criticizing Trump without highlighting her great plans and good character.
Third — and very crucial — Clinton has to wipe the floor with him in their first debate on Monday, September 26, 2016. It is the single most important event since the last convention where she laid the groundwork for the lead she had until it disappeared. That debate is also the most crucial of all the three debates she and Trump will have because of the unprecedentedly large television audience it will command. Clinton has to use that great opportunity to expose the stunning inadequacy of her opponent. Outside of the teleprompter, the real Trump is going to emerge again, that Trump who is all hat and no cattle, and about which those with short memories seem to have forgotten today. That very Trump, the real Trump, is going to say a thousand controversial and awful things that could form the staple of a week’s news cycle.
To bring that Trump out, Clinton has to challenge him on his lies, opaque answers to questions while at the same time remaining composed, authoritatively in command of the facts and, not to put too fine a point on it, presidential.