As weeks go, the last one has been pretty bad for The Donald. It started with him tanking in the first presidential debate and ended with a revelation (presumably, the first of many) about his agressive tax avoidance. In between he managed to insult women, Latinos and fat people all in one go, had a 3 AM Twitter meltdown, brought up the Lewinsky scandal (which boosted Hillary‘s image in the 90s), has seen an investigation of his fundation expanded, and was venting publicly over his campaing people conceeding he lost the debate. You’d be excused for thinking that he’s over and done with. Only you’d be dead wrong.
It seems like ancient past, but it was only two weeks before that Hillary had her pneumonia become public in the most ungracious of ways, had to backpedal on the “deplorables” comment, hit a rough patch in Nevada and at one point dropped to just above 270 electoral votes in some projections.
With 35-or-so days until US presidential elections the whole thing has so many moving parts that calling the result is foolish, at best. On one hand, there’s the general game plan (or the lack thereof in the case of The Donald), on the other there is the fact that every move causes a counter-move, potentially closing some vectors of attack and opening others, combined with unforced errors by the candidates as well as outside factors, the likes of more DNC leaks or Trump’s tax returns.
This is not to say that the measures by which the candidates for the leader of the free world are judged, are in any way equal. Entering the debate Monday last, Clinton was expected to be assertive but not abrassive, above it but not arrogant and presidential yet not assuming it’s a foregone conclusion. On the other hand, all Mr. Tiny Hands had to do was to show up and not screw up too much. And even in this setting she overperformed and he underdelivered. And yet, it doesn’t really mean a thing. Because as far as the media narrative goes, all Trump needs is one good performance (“good” as in “better than expected”) and everybody will be going on about him staging a come-back and whathaveyou.
Admittedly, there is a notable shift in the way the media approach the issue. As the push is finally coming to a shove, plenty of media outlets are taking a firm stand with one of the two candidates and are more in-depth with the other one. Until now, it was mostly the opposite, with Trump getting a free pass at virtually any fart that left his mouth (because ratings) and Hillary getting the third degree (because woman, emails and Clinton). But counting on this shift either holding until the end or producing a massive movement of the needle is – to put it mildly – stupid.
You see, just as the media turned on Trump seemingly overnight, so can they fall back into their previous MO and not bat an eyelash. This has, in fact, happened already this summer when the prevailing narrative was that Clinton had all but wrapped it up and when even hyper-intelligent people were only talking about by how much she will beat Trump. But as the media got tired of the narrative by early September, the dynamic changed and suddenly there was talk about Trump’s trend gaining traction. And there is plenty of time for the cycle to repeat itself at least once.
In politics, a week is a long time.