The Slatest

Another Tight Hillary-Trump Poll Came Out. Here’s What She’s Doing About It.

Hillary Clinton in Louisville, Kentucky, on Tuesday.

Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg/Getty Images

A new Reuters head-to-head national general-election poll of likely voters puts Hillary Clinton’s lead over Donald Trump at a mere one point—41 percent to 40 percent with 19 percent of respondents undecided. It’s not the only recent poll that has showed a close race, and Clinton’s lead over Trump in RealClearPolitics’ running average has shrunk a bit (she currently leads 47.3–40.9). We are legally required to mention here that it’s still too early to ascribe that much predictive power to general-election polls, and Trump might be reaping an advantage that’s only temporary from having fully wrapped up the nomination before Clinton’s final rival has dropped out. Some Bernie Sanders supporters who are going to come around to Hillary once she’s the official Democratic nominee might still be telling pollsters they’re undecided, given Clinton and Trump as their only choices. 

And yet! The race does not currently appear to be a blowout, and that itself is news. While Trump will have a lot of difficulty coming out ahead in November for demographic reasons, that doesn’t mean there aren’t voters that Clinton still needs to win over. On that subject, there’s a pretty interesting piece in the Washington Post today by Greg Sargent about what Clinton operatives are hearing from focus groups of undecided voters. To put it bluntly, most people in the focus groups are already convinced that Trump is an asshole—but they’re still willing to believe he’s their asshole, specifically when it comes to taxes and the economy. The Clinton team’s biggest takeaway from its research, Sargent reports, is that undecided voters don’t realize the extent to which Trump’s stated proposals would benefit rich people like him. From WaPo:

While those swing voters are willing to see Trump as a risky, divisive figure, they are not yet prepared to believe the Dem argument that Trump’s policy proposals would benefit the rich, a senior Democratic strategist who has been directly involved in extensive focus groups tells me … “Focus groups right now show voters are willing to believe that Trump is risky and divisive, but not yet ready to believe that Trump would cut taxes on the rich,” the strategist told me.

Objectively speaking, Trump is proposing giant, budget-destroying tax cuts for the rich. He’s also opened himself up to attack by refusing to release his own tax returns, possibly because they show that he pays less percentage-wise in taxes than the average citizen because of loopholes and capital gains. So there would seem to be an opening for Clinton here. And hey, what do you know, Wednesday she spent a bunch of time at an appearance in New Jersey calling on Trump to release his tax returns and describing his economic plan as a document “written by a billionaire for billionaires.” Said Clinton at Camden County College, per ABC: “He literally wants to spend more on the top one-tenth of one percent of earners than the bottom 60 percent of earners in our country combined.” CNN quotes a different sound bite: “[Trump would] spend $3 trillion—that is with a T—$3 trillion on tax cuts for people like him who make over a million dollars.”

Expect to hear a lot more on those subjects from Clinton in the coming months—and expect her to also make the related case that Trump’s business career is built on the same kind of exploitative scammery that he claims he’s running for president to crack down on. Clinton has other goals besides swaying swing voters on pocketbook issues: For one, as Sargent points out, she has to make sure that people know what her own economic plan is. She also has to make sure loyal Democrats turn out to vote, which will probably involve a lot of reminding everyone of the things Trump has said that are sexist and racist and xenophobic. But if Clinton can convince undecided voters that Trump isn’t really on their side when it comes to economic matters, it would go a long way toward ensuring that November ends up as a landslide.

Read more Slate coverage of the 2016 campaign.