The New York Times
It is easy in an election cycle that has seen the improbable rise of the preposterous presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump to center all discussion about the race on him: how poorly he’s doing, how outrageous this week’s comments were, how damning a new investigative report into his past has proved.
But doing so exposes a bias toward the sensational, underselling another rather remarkable story, at least for the month of June: Hillary Clinton ran an incredibly strong campaign last month.
First, let’s start with the obvious. As Gallup pointed out last week: “Trump and Clinton are currently among the worst-rated presidential candidates of the last seven decades.” But the article continued: “In the race to the bottom, however, Trump’s 42 percent highly unfavorable score easily outpaces Clinton’s 33 percent. Prior to now, 1964 Republican nominee Barry Goldwater had the highest negative score, with 26 percent rating him highly unfavorably in October 1964.”
A couple of weeks ago Gallup found that “Americans’ views of Donald Trump have drifted slightly more negative over the past month and a half, with his net favorable rating slipping to -33 for June 13-19 from -28 in the first week of May. Americans’ views of Hillary Clinton have remained significantly less negative than their views of Trump — and have been more stable, with her current -13 net favorable rating almost identical to her -14 from early May.”
Both Clinton and Trump are flawed and damaged candidates, but they aren’t equally flawed and damaged. And while Trump is digging his holes deeper, Clinton is remaining steady in some and climbing out of others.
Clinton began the month with a major foreign policy speech that CNN called an “evisceration of Donald Trump,” and she never let up. She delivered a stinging critique of Trump as dangerous in an economic policy speech in Ohio. In an article about the speech, The New York Times pointed out: “The barrage comes at a perilous moment for Mr. Trump, who fired his campaign manager on Monday and faces severe disadvantages in fund-raising and on-the-ground organization. One supporter introducing Mrs. Clinton said gleefully that the campaign had more staff members in Ohio than Mr. Trump had nationwide.”
How did Trump respond to this speech? He live-tweeted his objections.
When he did give a major speech in response, it was roundly condemned for the numerous falsehoods it contained. But this is nothing new for Trump. Of all the statements by Trump that have been examined by the fact-checking site PolitiFact, most have been rated false or “pants on fire.”
Trump simply can’t muster the discipline that is one of Clinton’s hallmarks. While giving a trade speech in New Hampshire last week, Trump departed from the subject to again go after Mexico. What is this man’s issue with Mexico, anyway?
As The Times observed: “Donald J. Trump was seven minutes into an address on Thursday on the loading dock of a shuttered lighting plant here in New Hampshire, reading from prepared remarks, when he turned his attention to Mexico. That country’s leaders are smarter than those in the United States, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee said. Then, as the sound of a plane overhead drowned out his voice, Mr. Trump went off his script. ‘In fact,’ Mr. Trump said, pointing his finger toward the sky, ‘that could be a Mexican plane up there. They’re getting ready to attack.’”
At times last month, Clinton and her campaign so outmatched Trump that the competition wasn’t even close.
And perhaps most intriguingly, in the wake of the terrorist attacks in Orlando and Turkey and the Brexit vote in England, Clinton turned what many had seen as a negative for her into a positive: Her cautious delivery, which can sometimes feel a bit guarded and robotic, began to sound steady, reassuring and presidential.
Trump, in contrast, stumbled terribly, because rather than rise in these moments of trauma and volatility, he sinks to being more, well, Trump. He made everything about him.
After the Orlando massacre, Trump tweeted: “Appreciate the congrats for being right on radical Islamic terrorism, I don’t want congrats, I want toughness & vigilance. We must be smart!”
Following the Brexit vote, MSNBC reported: “Asked about economic turmoil and the degree to which the Brexit results are undermining the value of the British pound,” Trump replied “that the market decline is good news — for him. ‘If the pound goes down, more people are coming to Turnberry, frankly,’ he said, referring to the location of his resort. ‘For traveling and for other things, I think it very well could turn out to be positive.’ ”
There’s no way to know if this will continue, especially in light of the ongoing F.B.I. investigation of her emails, but last month Clinton out-campaigned and outclassed Trump at every turn. It’s important that she is given her due.