Much Ado About Nothing and the Two Weeks From Hell

Steve Helber

Here's another interesting thing to consider about the last two months of the campaign.

I don't think I'm exaggerating to say that the second week of September was likely the moment of peak pearl-clutching for Democrats in the entire 2016 cycle. On September 9th, Clinton gave her 'deplorables' talk at a fundraiser. The story broke open the next day. Then the very next day, at a 9/11 memorial in New York City, Clinton collapsed because of some mix of pneumonia and acute dehydration. It seemed like a double whammy. And it did trigger several days of bad polls.

But if we look at the trend chart since May, we see something very interesting.

Much of this depends on when you decide to start the 'trend'. Here I've called up a chart going back to May. But if you look you see that right about the beginning of September her numbers begin a slow upward trend which has basically continued until today. In retrospect, the whole weekend of horribles made very little difference. In fact, an upward trend had begun a week earlier and it was basically unaffected.

What's also notable is that Trump too was on his own upward trend, slowly consolidating Republican voters after two really bad weeks in which the Democrats put on a successful convention and Trump followed it by getting into a nasty fight with the Khan family. After that Trump got Teleprompter religion and had a pretty solid and for-him-disciplined month-plus until the first presidential debate. That was the start of the bottom falling out. Clinton won that debate. But far more important than winning the debate was dropping the Alicia Machado story on Trump.

It started off as a replay of the Khan drama, with Trump spending days calling a woman fat, slutty and criminal. Then you had the 3 am tweetstorm in the early hours of September 30th. That was followed by The New York Times income tax story on October 1st. From there he's just never really recovered. But in case that wasn't going to be enough, on October 7th the Access Hollywood 'grab' tape broke. That in turn triggered a wave of sexual assault allegations just a few days later. At a certain point Trump just seemed to say F'it, tossed off his 'shackles' and turned his campaign into a nonstop tirade against basically everyone he hates or has ever (in his fantasy reality) wronged him.

It wasn't until I wrote this out just now that I put together just how much happened over such a short period of time. Let's review.

Sept. 26th: 1st debate, first mention of Alicia Machado.
Sept. 27th-Oct 1st: 'Machado War'
September 30th: Early morning "Sex Tape" tweet storm
October 1st: New York Times tax story
October 7th: Access Hollywood Tape
October 9th: 2nd debate, Trump insists "I have not" committed sexual assault
October 12th: 'The Night of Four Stories', beginning of avalanche of sex assault allegations.

(Needless to say, this accounting doesn't include various Howard Stern tapes, broken Cuba embargoes, twitter tirades, sex or creeper allegations, follow-on tax stories and more. I've tried to limit myself to major news implosions that themselves might have tanked a campaign.)

If we look both at this chart and at the progression of events through late September we seem to be on a fairly familiar trajectory: Clinton is ahead with a small but consistent lead and both candidates are trending upward as they consolidate their parties voters. Then the 1st debate happens and Trump just starts tumbling.

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Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.
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