An undeniably dreadful week on the campaign trail for Donald Trump was capped off on Sunday with the release of new polls suggesting that the Republican presidential nominee has fallen even further behind Hillary Clinton in national polls and -- more importantly -- that he is losing ground in key battleground states.
Trump himself ended the week by grabbing hold of an off-the-cuff remark Clinton made about misspeaking -- she said that she “short-circuited” -- and ran with it as evidence that she is somehow mentally incapacitated.
In an appearance late last week, Clinton appeared to claim that FBI director James Comey had said that her public statements about her use of a personal email server while secretary of state were “truthful.” Comey had defended a much narrower set of Clinton’s remarks, made in the context of an interview with the FBI, and effectively confirmed that Clinton had made factually false statements about the classified material being transmitted over her personal email system.
She later acknowledged that Comey was only talking about the interview and used the “short-circuit” metaphor to explain what she characterized as a mistake.
Trump, as he does, began experimenting with his attacks on Twitter, posting increasingly unhinged-sounding suggestions about Clinton’s mental fitness.
“Crooked Hillary said loudly, and for the world to see, that she "SHORT CIRCUITED" when answering a question on her e-mails. Very dangerous!” he tweeted.
“Anybody whose mind ‘SHORT CIRCUITS’ is not fit to be our president! Look up the word ‘BRAINWASHED,’” he added.
Finally, he signed off with, “Heading to New Hampshire - will be talking about Hillary saying her brain SHORT CIRCUITED, and other things!”
And he did.
“She’s got problems,” Trump said to a crowd in the town of Windham, NH on Saturday, adding, “Honestly, I don’t think she’s all there.” He also called Clinton a “liar” and a “horrible, horrible human being.”
Finally, the Trump campaign wrapped up the day by releasing an amateurishly edited video advertisement asking, “Is robot Hillary melting down?” It shows Clinton making the “short-circuit” comment before sparks begin shooting from her mouth and smoke rises from her head.
It remains to be seen whether Trump’s attacks on Clinton will materially distract from the data coming out that shows him steadily losing ground with voters. Three national polls came out on Sunday, one from the Los Angeles Times and the University of Southern California, one from ABC News and The Washington Post, and a third from Morning Consult.
The Times poll had Clinton ahead of Trump nationally by only one point -- a margin much smaller than other recent polls. The ABC/Post poll, however, showed Clinton ahead by 8 points. Their combined effect was to drive Clinton to a 7-point advantage in the Real Clear Politics polling average.
The Morning Consult poll, which is not included in the RCP average, showed Clinton expanding her lead over Trump to 9 points.
But a presidential election isn’t a national vote, and at the state level, things are looking even worse for Trump. A CBS News battleground poll released Sunday shows Clinton ahead by 12 points in Virginia, the home state of her running mate, Sen. Tim Kaine. The Clinton campaign is so confident in its strength there that late last week it announced that it would be moving assets out of the state in order to focus attention on other parts of the country.
CBS also found that Clinton appears to be competitive in Arizona, which hasn’t voted for a Democrat for president since 1996. She is trailing Trump by only two points in the latest poll and by only 0.3 points in the RCP average. That comes on the heels of an Atlanta Journal-Constitution poll from Friday that showed Clinton four points ahead of Trump in Georgia, which hasn’t gone for a Democrat since 1992.
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