100 days to go in volatile race
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One hundred days from now, either Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonThe Hill's Morning Report - Crunch time arrives for 2020 Dems with debates on deck The Memo: All eyes on faltering Biden ahead of first debate Trump says he's not prepared to lose in 2020 MORE or Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpConway defends herself against Hatch Act allegations amid threat of subpoena How to defuse Gulf tensions and avoid war with Iran Trump says 'stubborn child' Fed 'blew it' by not cutting rates MORE will be elected president.

In such a volatile political year, the outcome is anyone’s guess.

Clinton and Trump are hampered by the worst favorability ratings for nominees in modern times, though both have committed, fervent supporters. 

The electoral map and the shifting demographics of the United States appear to favor Clinton, particularly because Trump is struggling mightily to attract support from minority voters.

But a nation hungry for change could rally to Trump, the consummate outsider. A Pew Research Center poll last month found that 71 percent of adults are dissatisfied with the way things are going in the nation.  


When head-to-head polls include nominees from other parties — Libertarian Gary JohnsonGary Earl JohnsonAmash won't rule out Libertarian challenge to Trump Buzz grows Amash will challenge Trump as a Libertarian Potential GOP primary challenger: Trump's 'contempt for the American people' behind possible bid MORE and the Green Party’s Jill Stein — Trump’s position in relation to Clinton usually improves slightly. That dynamic could make all the difference, especially if anyone other than Clinton and Trump gets onto the debate stage this fall.

Even so, Clinton is an experienced debater who could shine in the three presidential clashes that have been scheduled. The first will take place at Hofstra University on Long Island, N.Y. on September 26. 

In a normal year, the campaign might be about to enter a lull now that the nominating conventions are over. The height of summer beckons, and the Olympic Games will command many voters’ attention for more than two weeks when they begin on Aug. 5. 

But 2016 has been anything but a normal year, and there is almost certainly more turbulence ahead. 

Edgy Democrats are hoping that opinion polls in the coming days will show Clinton received a bump in support from her party’s national convention in Philadelphia this week. Reliable assessments of the true effect — or lack of effect — from the four-day gathering should be available by the middle of next week.

For now, opinion polls indicate that Trump received a modest bounce after the Republican National Convention in Cleveland last week, despite the uproar when Texas Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward Cruz Hickenlooper, Bennet bring deep ties to 2020 debate stage 2020 Democrat Bennet releases comprehensive government reform plan GOP frets about Trump's poll numbers MORE (Texas) declined to endorse the nominee in a controversial primetime speech. 

Trump, who had been lagging in the polls by a small but significant margin, is now competitive once again. Statistician and data expert Nate Silver — a figure esteemed more by liberals than by conservatives — suggested earlier this week that Trump would be a narrow favorite to win an election held right now.

That could change fast if Clinton’s Thursday night acceptance speech as the first female nominee of a major party resonates with voters. The numerous Democratic Party stars who gave speeches advocating for her, including President Obama and former president Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson ClintonBiden, Eastland and rejecting the cult of civility Democrats not keen to reignite Jerusalem embassy fight The bottom dollar on recession, Trump's base, and his reelection prospects MORE, could also help.

Some Democrats believe other convention speakers, including retired Gen. John Allen, could provide yet another boost.

Democratic strategist Hank Sheinkopf asserted that “she should get a bump” in part because testimonies from figures such as Allen could reassure centrist voters in battleground states.

“John Allen and the other military guys speak to people in the Midwest and in the heartland,” Sheinkopf asserted. “It begins to break up that great bloc of people Trump has been able to corral.”

If that proves true, it could have a dramatic effect. 

Trump’s most plausible route to the White House runs through Rust Belt states such as Ohio, Pennsylvania and Michigan. His strength with white working-class voters in those states could offset his unpopularity with Hispanics, a factor that could weigh him down in other battlegrounds such as Colorado, Nevada and, to some extent, Florida.

State-level polling, however, is patchy at this point. There’s no mistaking the closeness of Ohio, where five significant polls have been conducted this month; four of those polls put the race for the Buckeye State in an exact tie. Within the same time-frame, however, Pennsylvania has seen only three major polls, and the results have ranged from a 9-point Clinton lead to a 2-point Trump edge.

Meanwhile, some experts note that the Democratic convention had its share of trouble, given the vocal dissent expressed by diehard Bernie SandersBernie SandersThe Hill's Morning Report - Crunch time arrives for 2020 Dems with debates on deck The Memo: All eyes on faltering Biden ahead of first debate Progressive group launches campaign to identify voters who switch to Warren MORE supporters and the resignation of Democratic National Committee chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.).

“I think it was a wash,” said Grant Reeher, a Syracuse University political science professor. “I think Hillary Clinton was able to begin to hammer this message of a contrast between her and Trump, in terms of preparedness, competency and the overall party platform.”

But, Reeher added, “it was not this great celebration of unity that they were trying to achieve. The divisions were real, and apparently were deep, and they look set to continue.”

Clinton is able to rely, for the moment, on much greater TV advertising firepower. The New York Times, citing data from Kantar Media, reported on Friday that the former first lady and her allies had spent $68 million on TV ads, compared to just $6 million by Trump and his supporters.

Trump prevailed in the Republican primary over opponents who spent much more money, however. His capacity to command media coverage — positive or negative — is undiminished, as this week’s comments over Russia, hacking and Clinton demonstrated.

More generally, Trump has a simpler message to project, some Republicans say, under the banner of making America great again.

In his convention speech, “clearly Trump was trying to portray things as ‘we need a huge change.’ It was a very pessimistic view of the current situation,” said GOP pollster David Winston. 

“Hillary Clinton, on the other hand is potentially running for a third Obama term,” Winston added. “She had to walk this interesting line of identifying the major problems the country was facing without having those problems be blamed on the current administration.”

The 2016 race can be shaken up at any moment. Late Friday afternoon, the FBI said it was looking into allegations that the Clinton campaign had been the victim of a hacking attack, potentially at the hands of the Russians. 

It was yet another twist in a campaign that has had so many of them.