Hillary hanging on by a finger nail

The new FBI email investigation trimmed Hillary Clinton’s lead – so comfortable this time last week – to near zero, both nationally and in key battleground states.

Surveys indicate that a re-energised Donald Trump has won voters from third-party candidate Gary “What’s Aleppo?” Johnson – the two-time Republican governor of New Mexico who had been polling in the 7% to 8% range has suddenly fallen to 4% to 5% territory (the Libertarian has helped Mr Trump’s cause with a string of interview blunders). Green Party candidate Jill Stein has remained static around 2%.

The latest poll-of-poll numbers are below.

Some caveats before you read them.

Green candidate Jill Stein is not on the ballot in all states, including battlegrounds North Carolina and Nevada. Mormon candidate Larry McMullin is only on the ballot in a single state – Utah – but the latest poll indicates he could win it and its 6 electoral votes, which could prove crucial in what now seems to be a super tight race (270 Electoral College votes are needed to win the White House; votes are allocated to states on a per-population basis, in nearly all cases winner-take-all).

More than 31 million have cast an early vote (in 2012, 46 million cast an early vote of a total 128 million voters – remembering that the election is always on the first Tuesday of November, a work day). In some battleground states, a quarter of registered voters had cast a ballot before the FBI bombshell hit. Surveys of early votes have been mixed for Hillary Clinton. Hispanics are voting in greater numbers than 2012, but the black vote is down by roughly the same margin. 

The momentum is with Mr Trump. His position has been improving day by day since the FBI news broke last Friday. Mrs Clinton could arguably perform better than polls suggest, given she has substantially more money for last minute advertising, and a larger get-out-the-vote operation on the ground. But things are still on a knife edge.

Mr Trump is now ahead in the two largest battleground states, Ohio and Florida, and ahead or within the margin of error in key smaller battleground states that get him over the 270 line. Even states like Pensyvannia — regarded as a must-win for Trump but seemingly out of reach a week ago — are now competitive for the Republican. Mrs Clinton's possible saving grace is that her margin in some of the swing states is slightly more than her razor-thin national lead.

The Democrat can take some solace from the fact that no new damaging revelations have emerged from the newly investigated emails (at least so far) and the fact that FBI director Comey did not know their contents before he informed Congress created a line of counter-attack.

Mr Trump’s attacks are vague, with nursery-rhyme level riffs (he told a Miami crowd early today NZT:  “Crooked Hillary. She is crooked. She is a crooked one. Has anyone seen crooked Hillary Clinton today?") Yet, clearly, the FBI controversy was a Clinton scandal tipping point for a number of independent or Gary Johnson voters – who have been drawn to Trump.

So, there’s how things stand as the long-suffering American electorate endures Mr Trump flipping to supporting the establishment, and Mrs Clinton flops to saying the FBI is trying to rig the race:

RealClearPolitics’ poll-of-polls

  • Clinton: 47.0%
  • Trump: 45.3%

RealClearPolitics poll-of-polls with the third-party candidates included:

  • Clinton: 45.3%
  • Trump: 43.4%
  • Johnson: 4.6%
  • Stein: 2.1%
     

New York Times poll-of-polls

  • Clinton: 45.5%
  • Trump: 42.1%

Or, with Johnson factored in (the NYT is not tracking Stein):

  • Clinton: 45.0%
  • Trump: 41.5%
  • Johnson: 5.3%
     

FiveThirtyEight

  • Clinton: 48.6%
  • Trump: 45.1%
  • Johnson: 4.7%
  • Other: 1.6
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