It is hard to tell whether we are experiencing the calm before the storm, or the storm before the calm.
With only a day to go before the election, the presidential candidates and their surrogates are crisscrossing the battleground states at breakneck pace, and bombarding the air waves and TV screens with relentless negative ads.
A race Hillary Clinton led by a comfortable 6 points pre-Comey letter,has morphed into a tossup post-Comey. Clinton’s current 2-point lead has dispatched her chances into the margin-of-error territory.
People are wondering if destiny is on Trump’s side. On August 22, Time magazine put Trump on its cover with the caption: “Meltdown.” On October 24, Time did it again, this time with a more definitive: “Total Meltdown.”
Didn’t quite happen that way, did it? It is not only the world’s premier weekly that got the Trump phenomenon wrong, just about everyone else did.
Since we cannot interview “destiny” to ascertain her intentions, let us try and divine ourselves what has happened, and is likely to happen.
Providence did come to Trump’s aid anytime he was in danger of being blown away. The first rescue was after the two party’s national conventions in July.
The Republican convention was erratic, and Trump’s acceptance speech dark. Democratic convention was flawless, and Hillary’s speech inspiring. Hillary raced to a 89% chance of victory according to Nate Silver by August 14. Hence, Time’s first cover.
Then the Russians hacked into the Democratic Party’s and Clinton’s campaign manager’s websites, and WikiLeaks began releasing unsavory information.
By September 26, the contest was even. The presidential debates (September 26, October 9, October 19) which Clinton won handily, and the release of the Access Hollywood recording on October 7, sent Trump’s campaign into another tailspin. Clinton’s chances soared to 88% by October 17, resulting in Time’s second cover predicting Trump’s imminent doom.
With the Access Hollywood tape and Trump’s poor performances in the debates receding in the rear view mirror, the race settled into a comfortable 6 to 7 point national lead for Clinton. It appeared that Clinton would coast to a comfortable 350-Electoral College vote victory.
On October 26, Trump surrogate, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, boasted on Fox News that an imminent event was going to shake up the election campaign and turn the election in Trump’s favour, adding that even “liberal polls” will show its impact.
Two days later, on October 28, came the bombshell in the form of a letter from FBI Director James Comey to Congress, informing them that new emails have been found that could be “pertinent” to the Clinton email investigation that the FBI had concluded in July.
Anyone who deliberately attempted to sway the election though misinformation will go down in history as a villain as vile as the Revolutionary war traitor Benedict Arnold
The director’s cryptic, Clinton-incriminating letter omitted several exculpatory facts:
1. The emails were not found on Hillary Clinton’s computer, but on the laptop her aide, Huma Abedin shared with her former husband, Anthony Weiner.
2. The director had not read any of the emails, and therefore, did not know if they were pertinent to the email investigation.
3. Since the FBI had no idea about the content of the emails, no voter, or Trump campaign official, should assume that there is anything incriminatory about Clinton in the emails.
Republicans and Democrats beseeched Mr Comey to explain his letter. Harvard law Professor Alan Dershowitz even composed a short letter that Comey could use that would be fair. He and Republican Professor David Gergen of Harvard’s Kennedy School, among thousands of others, warned Mr Comey that his silence was unacceptable -- because it would harm Clinton, and help Trump.
As Comey remained silent, the Trump campaign seized upon his letter to paint Hillary as a criminal-in-waiting. They are running ads saying that America must not elect someone president who will be indicted for crimes after the election.
When Rudy Giuliani was a federal prosecutor in New York, James Comey was his subordinate. In a radio interview, Giuliani bragged that he had received information about the “bombshell” from retired and active FBI agents.
Democrats are pointing out that the FBI is dominated by white males, the only segment of the population Clinton is not winning. No one is accusing Mr Comey of personally leaking the information about the “bombshell” to Mr Giuliani.
But, as its director, he is responsible for any leak emanating from the FBI that could swing the election.
Currently, the Democrats are focused on winning the election. Win or lose, after the election, Democrats will focus on the FBI leaks that attempted to tamper with the will of the American people. They will get to the bottom of this. Anyone who deliberately attempted to sway the election through misinformation will go down in history as a villain as vile as the Revolutionary war traitor Benedict Arnold, and Aaron Burr, the man who shot Alexander Hamilton.
Trump supporters have demonstrated that his perjury, racism, bigotry, misogyny, debauchery, and xenophobia do not matter to them whatsoever.
The Comey letter is their latest excuse to come home and vote for the Republican candidate, regardless of how obnoxious he is. Thanks to them, America will elect the president it deserves.
America’s is not a national election; it is a state by state election.
Post-Comey, state races have tightened considerably. Polling is unreliable at this stage because early voting has been taking place for the last few weeks in many states.
Thirty four states allow no-excuse early voting. Three states allow voting by mail. In only five states, voting takes place only on election day. It is in three of these states -- New Hampshire, Michigan, and Pennsylvania -- the polls are tightening the most, and Trump is spending most of his time.
Pennsylvania is so critical to Clinton’s chances that she and President Obama will make a joint appearance at her campaign finale in Philadelphia on election eve.
One major concern for the Clinton campaign is the lack of African-American enthusiasm for early voting, which is down 8% from 2012. Young African Americans have not forgiven President Bill (and Hillary) Clinton for enacting the 1994 Crime Bill that has resulted in mass incarceration of blacks for petty crimes and minor drug offences.
The Clintons have since apologised for the bill.
President Obama is campaigning his heart out for Hillary, and attempting to energise African-Americans by reminding them that his legacy is on the line: With Hillary, his legacy lives; with Trump, it dies.
According to Nate Silver, as of writing, Clinton has a 65.8% chance of victory, with 293 Electoral College votes. The chances of Democrats regaining Senate control is 50.2%.
Prediction of turmoil in the election’s aftermath is overblown.
America loves a winner. The loser is quickly forgotten. Electoral College is predicated on the winner taking all.
George W Bush won only 537 more votes than Al Gore in Florida in 2000, but won 100% of the Electoral College votes.
If Donald Trump loses, he will huff and puff, but, nobody will listen to the loser Trump anymore.
Dr Fakhruddin Ahmed is a Rhodes Scholar.