Ok, technically, I'm not posting this on the eve of the last Presidential debate. I'm posting it on the morning of the debate. I wanted to establish where things are before the candidates give their last high profile pitch.
Unsurprisingly, after Trump's denial that he actually did the things he bragged about to Billy Bush, at least a half dozen women have come forward to say that Trump did those things to them. This does not seem to have hurt Trump's numbers since the initial crash following the release of the tape.
Even so, if the election were held today, Clinton would almost certainly win.
Shockingly, Arizona is now trending blue, with Georgia and Utah also in contention. Clinton is even running some ads in Texas, although I think that is a dream.
Ohio has moved back into the red category. However, I expect Clinton to win there. Ohio, which started early voting a couple of weeks ago, gives a benefit to a candidate with a strong get out the vote (GOTV) campaign. Clinton has one, Trump has none, literally none. He has made no effort to establish a GOTV operation in any state. On top of that Trump recently attacked the Ohio Republican Chair, meaning any independent party GOTV effort is likely off the table as well. As a result, Clinton may have an advantage in Ohio of 2-3% beyond what the polls indicate. Since Trump is only up by less than 1%, Clinton could win there.
But even if Trump can win Ohio, and Arizona, and North Carolina, and Nevada, and Florida, he still loses. Here is another map without giving Clinton any states still in serious contention:
The only two States I've listed as blue here that there is really any debate about are New Hampshire and Wisconsin. These are both reliably Blue States in the last six elections and where Clinton is up in most polls by a good five points. As such, I don't really consider them in contention.
Even if Trump won all the gray states, Clinton still has the electoral votes for a victory. Absent some massive October surprise, there is no realistic path to victory for Trump.
Speaking of October surprises, the Trump campaign seemed to be banking on the Wikileaks releases to turn things around. Unfortunately, the releases, mostly emails from party insiders, have created little outrage. Yes, Democratic partisan professionals often have a poor view of Republicans and sometimes make fun of people in emails. Yes, Hillary gave speeches to Wall Street Executives where she pandered to them in generalities while committing to nothing -- yawn. There is no smoking gun showing illegal activity, nor would I expect one given the level of scrutiny that all her behavior has already received.
In the meantime, Trump's Grope-gate had taken up most of the air time. People seem far more focused on that for now.
It could be that Wikileaks has more shoes to drop, but the Ecuador Embassy has cut off Assange. Whether that will prevent or slow any releases remains to be seen. Ironically for me, cutting off Assange annoys me more than anything he might release. It seems clear to me that the block was made under pressure, most likely from the US Government. Why hasn't Watergate, and numerous scandals since, taught politicians that the cover up is usually worse than the crime? Let the releases come and let the voters yawn at them.
Numerous pundits have pointed out they hypocrisy of conservatives who support Trump after condemning Bill Clinton for his escapades. I find it hypocritical too, though I also find the reverse to be hypocritical: former Clinton supporters saying Trump is ineligible based on his wandering hands (or tongue, or whatever -- ew!).
Personally, I think Bill Clinton was one of the better Presidents we have had in recent years, even though I also disagreed with many of his policies. Despite his personal issues he kept the Country in better condition than his predecessor or successor (not that that is a very high bar). If I had a daughter, I would not want her alone in a room with Clinton, but I also would not mind him as President again.
I would make the similar argument for Trump, except for the fact that there are numerous other issues that I think make him ineligible as a serious leader. In short, if this was the only thing that people had against Trump, and he supported all the policy positions I liked, it would not prevent me from voting for him. I'm sorry, but a personally flawed candidate with the right policy positions and abilities is better than a personally pure candidate that does not have the ability nor the right policy positions.
All that said, I think Trump has numerous character flaws of which his treatment of women is only one small part. His callousness toward refugees, his tendency to categorize and treat people based on race, religion, or ethnicity, (as well as sex) all contribute to my view that he would be a horrible leader.
But like most of America, I don't see Hillary Clinton as a much better alternative. Much of that for me is policy. She wants a larger domestic bureaucracy. She does not seem motivated to try any new or different solutions, just more money into the same programs that accomplish nothing. Her main motivation seems to be pandering to interest groups. She reminds me a lot of Walter Mondale. On foreign policy, I am convinced she will get the US into a war, almost certainly in the mid-east, but possibly also with China or Russia as they continue to push the US. Since it appears she will win, I hope I am wrong about this, but cannot in good conscience support her.
In many of my posts, I look at polls and comment "if the election were held today..." The reality is the election has already begun. Many States have early voting. Many people have already submitted their ballots. Even small polling changes at this point may not have as large an impact in States where early voting is well underway.
The one remaining issue that brings uncertainty is voter fraud. I'm not talking about the nonsense that Trump is spouting, but the ability of hackers to sow confusion on election day by messing with registered voter rolls, or possibly even change results. I know there are numerous protections that prevent this, but if some states are called for Trump, then backup tapes show fraud and prove the Clinton actually won, imagine the discord that such an outcome would create. Hopefully, these fears will be allayed. But trusting in government competence rarely works out well.
Tonight's debate will likely solidify everyone's existing views. Traditionally the final 2-3 weeks focus on energizing supporters and getting out the vote. Trump can energize his supporters, but I think Clinton will do a better job in turning out people to vote.