Friday’s bombshell about the FBI looking at more emails related to Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonGOP political operatives indicted over illegal campaign contribution from Russian national in 2016 Clinton lawyer's indictment reveals 'bag of tricks' Attorney charged in Durham investigation pleads not guilty MORE’s private email server has overtaken the headlines, but will it impact the election as much as it has the latest news cycle?
There are four aspects of this story that will determine that answer.
First and foremost, the impact of this revelation will depend on what ultimately comes out in the next few days about the content and scope of the emails in question. Early reports suggest that the Huma Abedin emails were recovered from the laptop of her estranged husband, Anthony Weiner, during the investigation of the scandal plagued former congressman.
Since the emails were not related to, nor found on her private server, this will help ease the minds of Hillary’s supporters.
However, the last thing the Clinton campaign needed was a rehashing of the email story that continues to highlight the lack of honesty and transparency that has dogged the Clinton campaign since last year, and in many ways has haunted the Clinton machine since the early 1990s.
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Hillary has been viewed by large segments of the electorate as untrustworthy the entire campaign. Even though there is nothing thus far in this latest investigation that suggests she has done anything wrong, this is merely another example that feeds into Donald TrumpDonald TrumpTrump takes shot at new GOP candidate in Ohio over Cleveland nickname GOP political operatives indicted over illegal campaign contribution from Russian national in 2016 On The Money — Dems dare GOP to vote for shutdown, default MORE’s narrative about “crooked Hillary,” a narrative that Trump supporters believe to their core.
Of course, the wildcard in these latest developments, as has been the case this entire election season, is Trump. Will he say or do something outrageous enough to push the emails or ongoing WikiLeaks story to the back page?
Trump has been surprisingly quiet and on message as he crisscrosses the country at his rallies the past couple of weeks. If he can continue to avoid the spotlight and let the press focus more on the details of the emails than his outlandish antics, he may actually make a little bit of headway in the polls.
This leads us to the biggest problem Trump faces in capitalizing on the latest email headlines: The vast majority of Americans have already made up their minds.
Much like Trump’s supporters have stuck by him as months of inappropriate and outlandish comments have fallen from his lips and his Twitter account, Clinton’s backers have not and will not abandon her in the closing days of this election. Even if they wanted to jump ship — millions of people have already voted.
Here in Florida, where my pubic research and polling laboratory is based, more than 3 million voters had cast their ballots before this news broke on Friday. In today’s America, elections occur weeks in advance of Election Day, and in a key swing state like Florida more than one-third of all votes have already been cast.
There are still a few undecided voters left though, and how might this weekend’s story affect them?
Based on polling of whom the undecided voters are — independents fed up with both candidates, Republicans hesitant to support Trump, and a slice of the disillusioned Bernie Brigade — the latest headlines are not likely to have much influence.
People that have unfavorable views of both candidates likely do so in Hillary’s case because they see her as untrustworthy, this is simply more of the same. The concerned Republicans have known for 20 years that they don’t like Hillary, again nothing new in this story.
The left wing of the Democratic Party that felt betrayed by the Clinton campaign and vindicated by the WikiLeaks revelations about the lengths Clinton went to win the primary are not even the least bit surprised.
Will this change a few votes? Possibly. Will this cause a few more people to stay home? Maybe. But, will this alter the trajectory of the election and be the “October surprise” we talk about decades from now? Not a chance.
Binder is an associate professor of Political Science and faculty director of the Public Opinion Research Lab at the University of North Florida.
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