SPRINGFIELD, Ohio — In less than a week, Hillary Clinton went from a 7 point lead over rival Donald Trump to a 5 point deficit in this must-win battleground state, which has, by the way, voted for the election winner more often than any other state and has picked the president every time since 1964.
All that puzzled pollsters can say is that they are certain the back-and-forth numbers will continue until Nov. 8, when this seemingly endless, painful campaign will finally — really — be over.
Clinton has 54 offices in Ohio. Trump has 16. He has made 10 trips to Ohio and plans many more. So does she. If anything is certain, it’s that the contest here will be hard-fought and, ultimately, very close.
So what changed in the last few days in this conflicted state? Hillary’s bout with pneumonia. Suddenly the Trump camp’s melodramatic innuendo about Clinton’s “frail” health, mental and otherwise, had legs. There was something wrong!
And in the throes of a feverish illness, which she tried unsuccessfully to hide, she called half of Trump’s supporters a “basket of deplorables” who have used Trump to validate their own racism, sexism and religious bigotry. Politics 101: Do not criticize the voters!
And her poll numbers headed downhill.
Never mind that Trump, 70, who’d be the oldest person to become president, has been secretive about his health, with his campaign manager insisting he has a right to privacy — until he chose to go on his familiar stamping ground, a TV show.
Never mind that he hasn’t given any of his own money to the Trump Foundation since 2008 and used others’ charitable donations to it to buy himself presents, including a 6-foot portrait of himself, according to The Washington Post.
Never mind he once called voters stupid.
Never mind that he refuses to release his tax records, which might show few charitable donations, no paid taxes and less income than he has boasted he has.
Do we have a double standard in this country? You bet we do.
“She doesn’t have a presidential look,” a disdainful Trump complained about Clinton.
Trump, he of the padded suits and contrived orange hair, calls the former first lady, senator and secretary of state “reckless,” “very unstable” and “totally unfit to be our commander-in-chief.” He doesn’t think she looks presidential because she’s not male.
Like her or not, Clinton is intrepid. She has a thick skin. She endured the public unfaithfulness of her husband. She fell victim to a “vast right-wing conspiracy,” in her words. She lost the 2008 Democratic nomination. She’s dealt with dictators, frauds and backstabbers.
And now she confronts the ongoing curse of sexism here in Ohio. All those white, uneducated men here who swear they would never, ever vote for her? One reason is that they don’t think a woman should be president.
It’s stunning how few yard signs there are for Clinton in Ohio, which used to be the land of neighboring sign duels, given that she would be the first woman president.
Trump is a sexist. He has never apologized for the hateful words he has used to describe women.
Trump is a racist. He led the so-called birther movement, which gleefully perpetuated the absolute lies that Barack Obama is Muslim, not a U.S. citizen and not entitled to be president.
Trump asks black voters, inexplicably urging them to vote for him, “What the hell do you have to lose?”
The question can be redirected. What do we have to lose by picking an experienced-if-secretive woman over a hyped-up, high-rise huckster who has publicly admitted he spent years womanizing and scoffed that the rules don’t apply to him?
It’s not true, of course, that everyone excited about voting for Trump admires his racism and sexism. They will say they just don’t like or trust Clinton. They want change.
But down deep they should ask themselves why Trump. Do they really think, given his total lack of specifics on major policy issues, that he will make their lives better, return jobs from overseas, destroy the hydra-headed Islamic State and take America back to 1950s values, whatever those are?
Could former Army general Colin Powell be right that Trump is a “national disgrace” and an “international pariah”?
Keep an eye on Ohio. No Republican has ever won the White House without it.
(c)2016 Tribune Content Agency, LLC
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
Ann McFeatters is an op-ed columnist for Tribune News Service. Readers may send her email at [email protected]