Monday Will Be the Campaign’s Next Big Inflection Point

Donald Trump has had a very good six-week stretch. His campaign, led by veteran “pollstress” Kellyanne Conway, has been very impressive and disciplined, and as a result, Trump has all-but-closed the gap to Hillary Clinton.

According to RealClearPolitics‘ polling average, Trump trailed Clinton by nearly eight points on August 9. This was right after the Democratic National Convention and after Trump’s public feud with the Khan family. Not a great moment. On the same day, FiveThirtyEight‘s polls-plus model gave Clinton an astonishing 78.9 percent chance of winning.

But since then, Trump has slowly — and consistently — gained ground. According to today’s RealClearPolitics polling average, Trump trails Clinton by slightly more than a point:

Screenshot via RealClearPolitics.com
Screenshot via RealClearPolitics.com

 

And FiveThirtyEight‘s polls-plus model gives Clinton just a 58.4 percent chance of winning:

Screenshot via FiveThirtyEight.com
Screenshot via FiveThirtyEight.com

 

Some on the right have speculated that the terrorist attacks in New York and Minnesota might work in Trump’s favor. I’m skeptical. The race appears to have hit a temporary lull. Trump has made real gains, which is impressive, but there are still a significant number of undecided voters who are waiting to make a decision. My guess is that hundreds of thousands of undecided voters will make their decision after watching next Monday’s debate on NBC, and that this will be the next big inflection point in the race.

A strong debate from Trump could propel him into his first real lead of the election cycle as undecided voters decide he is a better bet than Clinton. A weak debate could convince undecided voters of their sneaking suspicion — that perhaps he really is incapable of being president. And, as we know with Trump, there are no middling performances. He will either be really good or really bad.

I’m hoping for good, and we will find out on Monday. The stakes couldn’t be higher as we enter the home stretch.

Jon Schweppe is the Communications Director at American Principles Project.