Critical clues in the next wave of polling. A risky bet in Nevada. And Trump Tower palace intrigue.
It’s all a part of this week’s “Inside Politics” forecast, where you get a taste of tomorrow’s news today.
1) Is ‘I’ll never quit’ a negotiation ploy?
Does “never” mean never? An embattled Donald Trump says he won’t quit the race, but some allies of the Republican nominee aren’t so sure.
“I think it is all a negotiation ploy,” one Trump campaign official told CNN as the candidate vowed to ignore mounting Republican calls for him to drop out after a leaked tape revealed him making vulgar comments about women. “Never signal you are willing to give up out of the box.”
What? An “Art of the Deal” move by Trump? Sounds nuts, right?
But amid the madness of Saturday’s news we got a note from another longtime Trump friend reminding us that Trump is on record saying if the polls tanked he might quit the race, and raising the prospect that the candidate might be looking for an exit ramp if Sunday night’s second debate goes poorly.
The first source has known Trump only for the course of the campaign; the second for decades. They don’t know each other. Yet in separate exchanges they both volunteered the idea that Trump might be open to negotiating a withdrawal if things go badly in St. Louis.
And both added this: that perhaps the price would be a Republican party repayment of the personal funds Trump has poured into his campaign.
To be clear, both said they view this as a remote possibility, not a likely turn of events. But that two very different people, with very different relationships with Trump, would suggest that “never” could be the first play in a negotiation was striking.
2) Nevada’s Heck makes a risky bet
Listening to Trump brag about forcing himself on women was the last straw for many Republicans, including several in close Senate races.
Among those was Nevada congressman Joe Heck, who on Saturday forcefully called on Trump to step aside. For Heck it was a big switch after months of tolerating other controversial Trump statements.
And, as CNN’s Maeve Reston notes, a big risk.
“Dr. Joe Heck, who’s in a very tight Senate race, went out on stage yesterday and denounced Donald Trump and got booed over and over again. Now, of all the people who came out against Trump after this tape, I think that for Heck this has maybe one of the biggest gambles. Because Nevada is a state that has been very kind to Donald Trump.”
3) Clinton’s poll ceiling
It will take several days to get a good sense of how Trump’s taped comments impact the presidential campaign. And the second debate will also be a factor, regardless of how much Trump’s offensive remarks come up.
The biggest test will be where Trump stands in the polls by the end of the week.
But Dan Balz of The Washington Post said the flip side is equally, if not more, important. Balz says another key question is whether this episode allows Hillary Clinton to move past the poll ceiling she has had so far throughout the race.
“If it’s a good week for Donald Trump he goes up [in the polls], and if it’s a bad week for Hillary Clinton she goes down, and vice versa,” explains Balz.
“People, particularly Democrats, are wondering whether this moment — this tape — will finally break that cycle. That she will be able to push beyond the margin that she hasn’t been able to top … the four-to-five-point range, and go even higher. That’s the thing that everyone’s going to be looking over the next couple weeks.”
4) Ohio as test case
It was just a few weeks ago that some Democrats were ready to write off Ohio as a target state for Clinton.
But the first debate changed that. Some polls show her moving to a narrow lead in the Buckeye State.
It’s near impossible to draft a Trump path to 270 electoral votes without Ohio.
So now that the tape of Trump bragging about groping women is in the campaign mix, Glenn Thrush of Politico suggests Ohio could be a prime test case of its impact.
“Ohio has been really kinda the bulwark of Trump’s Midwestern strategy, where obviously we have seen some pretty significant defections on the part of women as a result of this tape. Hillary had surged ahead by one or two points in some recent polling,” says Thrush. “I would just love to see if her improvement in that state is accelerating, because if it is, it’s lights out (for Trump).”
5) Help for Hillary
The nuts and bolts phase of the campaign is upon us, and Hillary Clinton is getting some help from some progressive friends.
CNN’s Nia-Malika Henderson shared details of separate pushes by Planned Parenthood and The Human Rights Campaign to identify and turn out Clinton supporters in these final 30 days before the November 8 election.
“The Planned Parenthood $30 million effort — this is all in swing states, particularly targeting millennial voters. In terms of the HRC, they are very much targeting swing states as well,” Henderson says. “This goes to show the organizational strength, I think, of the left compared to the right, which is very much in shambles right now in terms of figuring out how to support Donald Trump.”