Clinton feels the pressure

Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonNevada Senate passes bill that would give Electoral College votes to winner of national popular vote 2020 Dems break political taboos by endorsing litmus tests Iowa Democrats brace for caucus turnout surge MORE is feeling the pressure in the race for the White House — even after a strong night in the first 2016 presidential debate.

Clinton has a huge staff advantage over Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump rips Dems' demands, impeachment talk: 'Witch Hunt continues!' Nevada Senate passes bill that would give Electoral College votes to winner of national popular vote The Hill's Morning Report - Pelosi remains firm despite new impeachment push MORE, which should help her turn out supporters this fall.

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The Electoral College is tilted in her favor, and demographics are moving in the Democratic Party’s direction.

She’s running to succeed a popular president who is firmly on her side, and the economy is strengthening.

She’s also running against Trump, who has divided the Republican Party while alienating large groups of Americans.

Despite all those advantages, Clinton finds herself in an excruciatingly tight race.

As recently as Aug. 27, she had a more than 6-point lead over Trump in the RealClearPolitics national average of polls after a strong stretch following the Democratic National Convention.

On Tuesday, her lead was 2.4 percentage points in RealClearPolitics national advantage.

Polls have shown Trump ahead in the swing states of Florida and Ohio, and he has at least a fighting chance in all of the other battlegrounds, from purple states such as Nevada and Virginia to Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, two states a Republican hasn’t won in decades.

Clinton’s team believes its candidate had a strong performance in Monday’s debate that will translate into a wider lead going into the second and third contests next month.

“The debate buoys her to the next big thing and the next debate,” said one Clinton surrogate.

They also argue that it is Trump who faces some pressure. The next presidential debate on Oct. 9 in St. Louis could be a must-win situation for the Republican.

All the same, Clinton and her supporters acknowledge they are in a dogfight over the next six weeks that could still go either way.

And they expect a fierce challenge from Trump.

“I’m afraid that since Trump is backed into a corner, he’ll come out swinging for the gutter,” said Democratic strategist and Clinton surrogate Jim Manley. “There’s still a long way to go between now and the election in November. There’s still lots of ups and downs and many twists to go.”

It some ways, it’s more than an election that’s at stake for the Democratic nominee.

If Clinton loses, the gains her party made in the Obama years could be turned back, from the Affordable Care Act and Wall Street reform to regulatory actions on climate change and immigration.

Clinton would also go down as the Democrat who lost to Trump — a status she clearly does not want. Democrats moved out of her way so that she had a relatively clear primary path in the hopes that the party could retain the White House for a third term.

“There’s a lot on the line,” one surrogate said. “And we don’t have a second to spare.”

The surrogate said the campaign has been sidelined at times by storylines like the controversy over Clinton’s use of a private email server at the State Department — which overshadowed her campaign and fed into the narrative that Clinton is dishonest and secretive.

“I think a lot of people have wondered why we don’t have a commanding lead in the final stretch, and I think she’s going to have to spend some time sealing the deal for a lot of folks.”

If Clinton is feeling the pressure, you rarely see it.

On Tuesday, she said she was up for the challenge.

“You should know by now, when I set my mind on something, I keep going,” she told reporters on her plane just weeks after a bout of pneumonia forced her off the campaign trail briefly.

“I don’t quit, whatever the static, whatever the incoming is, and that’s what I’ll do for the American people,” she said.

Still, that doesn’t mean Clinton hasn’t wondered why she doesn’t have a bigger lead against Trump with a little more than 40 days to go until Election Day.

Last week, during a videoconference with the Laborers International Union of North America, she vocalized it: “Why aren’t I 50 points ahead, you might ask?”

The comment was an acknowledgement of a question her supporters ask — and of their frustration.

Earlier this week, the Trump campaign put out an ad criticizing Clinton for the remark and accusing her of becoming “more and more frustrated with how out of touch she is” with voters.

“Her message is not resonating with everyday Americans, as evidenced by the closing poll numbers, and she has completely underestimated the influence of Mr. Trump’s movement,” said Jason Miller, a Trump spokesman.

“Expect to see more aggressive outbursts from the Clinton camp as she realizes her email scandal, horrific record and disdain for the American people block her from being coronated as she originally intended.”

Clinton allies say they hoped their candidate’s performance on Monday night stopped Trump’s momentum so they can begin building a lead again.

“I think her base may be stronger than ever, and motivated,” one longtime Clinton adviser said.

But, at the same time, the adviser cautioned that “there should be no resting on laurels.”