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Darcy Oberding Headshot

Underestimating Trump Could Be Hillary Clinton's Biggest Mistake

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The last three weeks would have been calamitous for any major party's presumptive nominee in recent memory. With the combination of the remarks concerning the potential bias stemming from the ethnicity of an Indiana-born judge, the Muslim ban, reaction to the mass shooting in Orlando and the firing of the campaign manager, one could reasonably assume that the nominee in question would be left with a lot of ground to make up.

That is, if we were not bearing witness to one of the most extraordinary election cycles in American politics -- and, of course, if that nominee was not Donald Trump.

Let's face it: Hillary Clinton is still leading in the polls. In fact, a recent WSJ and NBC poll has Clinton at 46 per cent and Trump at 41 per cent. Further, when we take a look at polls conducted in key battleground states such as Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania, we see the race tighten. And although nearly every poll still shows Clinton ahead, almost every single poll is within the margin of error.

Now, on the surface it may look like everything is going fine for Clinton. I mean any candidate or campaign manager could not conceivably be upset with the position Clinton is currently in.

In what has been possibly the worst month a presumptive nominee could have, we see Trump still within five per cent of Clinton nationally.

The certainty of Clinton success is brought into question when we accept the fact that Clinton and Trump were virtually tied in polls towards the end of May. In fact, the RealClearPolitics polling average had the candidates within 0.2 percentage points of each other. In what has been possibly the worst month a presumptive nominee could have, we see Trump still within five per cent of Clinton nationally, and still very competitive in key battleground states.

Let's assume that Trump never has a month as bad as the last one, and he continues to refine the way he speaks about issues. Notably a clarification on the proposed Muslim ban -- his campaign now states that it will only affect certain regions "that have been a major source for terrorists and their supporters coming to the U.S." as opposed to a carte blanche ban on all Muslims from entering the U.S. This kind of pivot in rhetoric makes it likely that we will see the gap close between himself and Clinton.

It is important to mention that Trump has been doing this, as he often reminds us, at a fraction of the cost. Each of the candidates filed reports with the Federal Election Commission detailing how much money the campaigns and their super PACs raised.

Hillary Clinton's campaign (including super PACs) has raised a total of $334.9 million, already spent $195.7 million and has $42.5 million on hand. Meanwhile, at this stage, Trump has raised less than Clinton, Sanders, Bush, Cruz, Rubio and even Carson. Trump raised only $67.1 million and has spent $63.3 million, leaving only $1.3 million on hand. This even prompted Trump to send out his first-ever email solicitation for a donation from supporters.

It is unlikely Trump will be able to equal the fundraising of efforts of the Clinton campaign at this stage, although the deficit will likely be diminished following the convention when it is clear to Republicans that there will be no other viable alternative to Hillary Clinton.

Obviously there is still lots of time left and anything can happen. I would heed caution to those who consider Trump's presumptive and likely subsequent nomination a blessing for Hillary Clinton to re-think that position. What is clear is that nothing will be handed to either nominee, and the biggest mistake Hillary Clinton and her supporters can make would be to underestimate their opponent.

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