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Presidential race tightens

CNN poll gives Trump a marginal lead over Hillary among likely voters

The U.S presidential race appears set to go down to the wire as Republican candidate Donald Trump has managed to close in on his Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton over the last month, two polls released on Tuesday show.

In a CNN poll, Mr. Trump is leading Ms. Clinton by two percentage points among likely voters, while she still has an edge among all registered voters. Both are within the margin of error. In a state-wise poll released by the Washington Post, 20 states are solidly behind or leaning towards each side. Ten states are too close to call, but Ms. Clinton has a clear edge in terms of Electoral College votes – the key determining factor of the outcome. Ms. Clinton is estimated to capture 244 Electoral College votes, against the halfway mark of 270. Mr. Trump could expect 126, while 168 were counted as tossup.

Exercises that aggregate multiple opinion polls also show the race tightening. The RealClear national polling average earlier this week indicated Ms. Clinton leading by 4.1 percent, about half as much as her lead in early August.

One finding common across all surveys is that a majority of voters dislike both candidates, in an unprecedented scenario. In the fluid public opinion, several conventionally Republican states such as Arizona, Georgia and Texas appear willing to swing to the Democrats this time, while their support may be eroding in strongholds of Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan.

While the assumption that the less educated white voters sustain Mr. Trump is borne out by the polls, his appeal is not limited to that segment. Independent voters are overwhelmingly in support of Mr. Trump, unlike in the case of Mitt Romney in 2012. Women are largely with Ms. Clinton overall, but Mr. Trump has a lead among married women, according to the CNN poll. Mr. Trump leads Ms. Clinton on two key issues that dominate the ongoing campaign – terrorism and economy. Voters prefer Ms. Clinton on immigration policy, 49-47, and her solid lead is on foreign policy. Voters are less enthusiastic than they were in 2008 and 2012, but Trump supporters are more enthusiastic than Clinton supporters.

Temperament is Mr. Trump’s Achilles’ heel; for Ms. Clinton, it is trustworthiness, according to the polls. Admitting that Ms. Clinton will have to deal with the perception of being dishonest, Vice President Joe Biden said on Monday: The truth is Hillary knows it’s a problem and she’s trying to figure out how to remedy it. My advice to her: The best way to remedy it is to talk about what you care about and talk about it with some passion and people will see through it.”

The first presidential debate on 26 could be the inflection point in the campaign. While Ms. Clinton’s grasp of policy and patience for detail are far superior to Mr. Trump, it is unclear as to how their face off will play out. Mr. Trump has come this far, avoiding any threadbare debate on policy issues and resorting to hyperboles and generalisations.

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