Everything's coming up Donald, apparently. Market analysts at Citigroup have begun to increase Donald Trump's chances of winning the presidency, as Hillary Clinton's Democratic National Convention bounce seems to be fading away. Over the last two weeks, Trump's poll numbers improved substantially, placing him slightly ahead of or within striking distance of Clinton in many major polls. The Real Clear Politics polling average puts Trump behind Clinton by less than one percent.
Of course, a polling lead at this point in the election is not necessarily desirable. Voters who believe their candidate is the underdog — and thus, that he or she truly needs voters' support — may be more likely to donate, volunteer, and turn out at the polls. The Clinton campaign may very well realize this, since it has already sent out fundraising emails focused on Trump's poll numbers:
In the last week or so, a new polling trend has emerged: Trump’s path to the presidency is no longer a pipe dream -- it is clear and it is real. Trump has more and more ways he can get to 270 electoral votes -- that should give all of us pause.
However, the truth is that neither campaign should get too comfortable with this latest batch of numbers. Next Monday is the first presidential debate, and polls will likely fluctuate wildly over the next several weeks as the debates occur.
In 2012, for example, Mitt Romney's performance in the first presidential debate was widely lauded, and President Obama's widely criticized. According to a Gallup poll, 72 percent of viewers thought Romney won the debate, and polls tightened correspondingly. Of course, Obama's performances in later debates were considered to be stronger, and Romney ultimately lost the election, despite all the hype surrounding that one apparent victory.
Granted, if one candidate has a particularly strong showing throughout each of the presidential debates, that likely would have a meaningful impact on the race. If Trump were to consistently convince people of his ability to act "presidential," for example, on-the-fence voters might be persuaded in the long term.
Generally, though, each debate only seems like a game-changer until the next debate. The election is much more likely to be truly affected by the consistent demonstration of qualities like confidence and knowledge, or by smaller gaffes that seem to illustrate existing frustrations with a candidate.
During the second 2012 debate, for example, Romney made a comment about having "binders full of women" on the issue of hiring women for his prospective Cabinet. The remark struck some viewers as tone-deaf to women's issues, and sparked the creation of a feminist Facebook page that still posts about politics for its 300,000 followers. A Clinton or Trump gaffe of that magnitude during one of the debates could certainly launch a ripple effect that would be felt on Nov. 8.
I imagine that each of the three debates will play a role in shaking up whatever the current presidential polls say. So even though Trump may be riding high now and Clinton may be trying to paint herself as the underdog, they both should be prepared for a bumpy ride.