Clinton Holds Democrats in Immediate Aftermath of FBI E-mail Bombshell
The bombshell that FBI Director James Comey dropped Friday on the 2016 election has accelerated a trend of Republicans moving toward Donald Trump. But early data suggest Democrats in key states are unmoved, a sign that Hillary Clinton is holding together a coalition that has kept her in the lead for most of the presidential race.
A CBS/YouGov survey of likely voters across 13 battleground states showed that 1 percent of Hillary Clinton supporters were less likely to vote for her after the announcement that the FBI is reviewing newly discovered e-mails that Comey said may or may not be pertinent to the probe into her use of a private server during her tenure as secretary of state.
Among Democratic voters, a mere 5 percent said they were less likely to support Clinton, with 13 percent saying they were more likely to support her and 50 percent saying it didn't matter.
Initial statistics from early voting on Saturday in North Carolina, Nevada and Florida don’t show a drop-off for Democrats that would change the trajectory of the presidential race as a result of the FBI letter, said Michael McDonald, a University of Florida professor who runs the U.S. Elections Project that updates early voting data daily.
There was an increase of 332 Democratic votes in North Carolina on Saturday compared with the same day in the 2012 election, and more registered Democrats cast ballots than Republicans on Saturday in Washoe County, Nevada, a county that Republicans carried in 2012, McDonald said. There was not a falloff in early voting in Florida, he said.
"I don’t see any negative effect," McDonald said.
Clinton's use of a private e-mail server as secretary of state has dogged her campaign since last summer, earning widespread coverage with every new twist and turn and revelation. It has correlated with declining favorable ratings and the perception that she's dishonest and untrustworthy, even as she won the Democratic presidential nomination and led Trump in the polls.
Yet as the race has worn on, Clinton has shored up her base with a successful convention, three strong debate performances, and the often erratic behavior of her opponent.
"Nothing that Comey or Clinton could do in the last nine days would make a Democrat vote for Donald Trump. I also think there's not much they can do to make them not vote," said Ken Goldstein, a professor of politics at the University of San Francisco and polling analyst for Bloomberg Politics.
But 26 percent of Republicans in the YouGov poll said the revelation made them less likely to support Clinton, giving Trump a boost with GOP voters who were already trending his way, and slightly improving his prospects.
In a Washington Post-ABC national poll released Sunday, Trump's support among likely Republican voters jumped four points to 87 percent since last week, similar to Clinton's 88 percent showing among Democrats.
A Politico/Morning Consult survey taken over the weekend found no change in the race after Comey's announcement, with Clinton leading 42 percent to 39 percent, the same as immediately before the FBI director's letter was released.
Goldstein said the FBI letter is "unlikely" to negate Clinton's large advantage with the Democratic-tilted electorate, and argued that polling has fluctuated too dramatically with independent voters lately to get a clear picture. For example, a 12-point lead for Clinton in the Post-ABC poll, including a slight advantage with independents, has narrowed to 1 point in one week. During that stretch, Trump pulled ahead by 19 points among independents.
Clinton's advantage in the electoral college was strong in polls taken before the FBI news on Friday.
According to CBS News/YouGov polls released Sunday, Clinton was leading by 8 points in Pennsylvania, 3 points in Colorado and 3 points in North Carolina. New NBC/Wall Street Journal surveys showed Clinton leading by 1 point in Florida and and 6 points in North Carolina, while a Siena poll found Trump leading by 4 points in Florida.
Trump's hopes of victory hinge on carrying the states Republicans won in 2012 as well as ones they lost—North Carolina, along with Florida, Ohio, Iowa and Nevada—where polls show a close race. But even with those states, Trump would be five electoral votes short of 270, a hypothetical scenario illustrated in the map below. Trump would need a state like Colorado or Pennsylvania, where he has consistently trailed, to win.
Still, the Republican coalescing before and after the FBI's jolt to the race dim hopes for Clinton to win reliably red states like Arizona, Georgia or Texas, where recent polling has shown her to be surprisingly competitive. Six days before the election, Clinton plans to campaign in Phoenix, hoping to expand the map in a state her party hasn't won in two-and-a-half decades.
For both campaigns, Comey's opaque letter could help increase the odds that supporters will actually get out and vote.
Since he accepted the GOP nomination in July, the rallying cry that most dependably unites Republicans behind Trump is the anti-Clinton "lock her up!"
"We must not let her take her criminal scheme into the Oval Office," he said at a Friday rally in Manchester, New Hampshire.
"Lock her up!" the crowd responded.
On Clinton's side, the controversy provided an opportunity to mitigate ongoing fears about complacency within her base. In an open letter published Saturday, campaign chairman John Podesta urged supporters to "buckle down, stay focused, and win this."
"You need to say you’re not willing to let Trump bully or buy his way into the presidency, and you’re not going to let anything stop us from making history," he wrote.