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Clinton rests, the world waits

Clinton rests, the world waits

Not sure how much rest she is going to get. As we all now know, Hillary Clinton, diagnosed with pneumonia, is taking two days off the campaign trail after having a spell at a 9/11 ceremony that was captured by onlookers and broadcast to the world. While Clinton attempts to recuperate at home, the rest of the country (and plenty of us outside of the US as well) will be discussing her health, and what the diagnosis means for the presidential election, now less than two months away. Here are four possible outcomes:

1. It's bad for Clinton and good for Trump

Let's assume, as the candidate has assured us and impartial assessments agree, pneumonia is no big deal. Clinton picks up mid-week where she left off. Will there be any lingering damage? If speed, transparency and truth are the three lodestars that should guide the communication of bad news, Clinton's campaign team did her no favours over the weekend. For a candidate who struggles in the trust stakes, it was not a great few days. A lingering suspicion that not all has been revealed and there are health issues that would affect her presidency may prompt some undecided voters to look elsewhere, including to the two independents, the Libertarian Party's Gary Johnson or the Greens'- Jill Stein. Any would-have-been Democratic vote that shifts helps Trump.

2. It's bad for Clinton and bad for Trump

The worst case scenario for Clinton is, after waiting eight long years for another go, her health is so poor she has to pull out of the race. Most agree this remains an extremely unlikely scenario but, should it occur, the Democratic National Committee would appoint a new candidate. Commentators suggest the most likely replacement would be Vice President Joe Biden, with Clinton's rival for the nomination Bernie Sanders  an outside chance.  Given Clinton's low popularity, both could conceivably get a larger share of the undecided vote.

It's good for Clinton and bad for Trump

In this scenario Clinton does manage to rest and recover, and impresses with her determination and resilience.

4. Nothing changes much

The weekend's events have caused Slate to add half-a-horseman to its Trump Apocalypse Watch (description: 'a subjective daily estimate, using a scale of one to four horsemen, of how likely it is Donald Trump will be elected president, thus ensuring an apocalypse in which we will all die'). [fold]

The current status is now one and half horsemen, as Jeremy Stahl writes.

While a bout of pneumonia two months before an election won’t fell the former secretary of state’s presidential campaign, the negative news cycle and video footage of her appearing to be in poor health can only help Trump. That’s not to mention the toll of cancelling two days worth of campaign events and fundraisers. There’s also completely dumb, ridiculous, and unfounded speculation that she might drop out of the race, which can’t be good for Team Clinton even if it is idiotic. Finally, the Republican presidential candidate was surprisingly on message in his comments about Clinton’s illness. The danger level is being raised, and is beginning to near the dreaded two horsemen mark.

And that is probably a good a measure as we are likely get. As anyone who has been following the popular voting polls can tell you, these have changed dramatically over the last few months, so dramatically we are now back where we were, with Clinton ahead by three to five points. Nate Silver summarises it thus: 'Overall, her current lead of 4 percentage points is close to or slightly below where the race has been on average throughout the campaign'.

So it seems reasonable to assume this is a probably a pretty accurate reflection of where opinion lies, once you remove all the static created by news of the day, memorably referred to as the popcorn moments by pollster Lee Miringoff, in this Politico yarn:

These popcorn moments, Miringoff said, distract from polling that’s overall been steady to the point of being boring, complete with the post-convention bounces and post-Labor Day tightening. “The poll numbers have been much more typical than the headlines,” he said.

We should know pretty soon if this week's digression into the ins and outs of lung infections is simply another popcorn moment.
Photo by Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty Images

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