Saturday, October 29, 2016

It's still October. Surprise! How big is the FBI thing?

So, Anthony Weiner is back and causing trouble for Hillary Clinton.  Yeah.  Nobody needs to make any jokes here.  I promise I won't.  I will restrain myself.

I've been saying for a while that Clinton will win without something like a terrorist attack, and a few days ago, I suggested that even that might not save Trump.  Is the reopening of the FBI investigation big enough to get Trump back into the fight?

This gives Trump a bit of a chance.  Not a good one, but a chance.  Let's take this one step at a time.

The basic reason that this is probably a small thing is that there is no new information here.  We know nothing about Clinton that we didn't know before.  She did something massively stupid by using a private email server, paradoxically putting national security at risk out of a privacy fetish.  The FBI just found yet another computer that may have had confidential information.  But, that wasn't actually Clinton's.  It was Abedin's.  (Note to those worried about the security of classified information:  there are always softer targets anyway.  Damn, did I just break my promise?).  Regardless, with no new revelations, the only real effect is the length of time this stays in the news, and it is difficult to keep the story in the news without, ya' know, news.  And this is where Anthony Weiner helps Clinton.  If he becomes the story, then Clinton isn't the story.  Since there is nothing new about her, though, what is there to say?

And here we will see a tension among journalists.  Do they cover the salaciousness of Anthony Weiner, and the dissolution of his marriage with Huma Abedin?  There is little of national public policy interest there, but there is a story.  A really, really disgusting one.  Or, do they continue to talk about the Clinton email issues, even though there is no actual news, and we know nothing whatsoever about what was in Abedin's emails to Clinton.  And Comey didn't say.  How much do journalists require actual news for their news stories rather than raw speculation?  This is always a problem with breaking news.

Regardless, among voters, who is going to be persuaded by a story with no revelations?  Had Comey said that Clinton had mishandled some specific piece of classified information that hadn't been addressed in the initial investigation, and that there were more serious issues with that piece of classified information, some voters might reassess, but as is, this is about media cycles.

We are ten days out from the election.  Clinton does not want to be talking about this.  Again.  However, from a mathematical standpoint, can this eat away at a four-to-five point lead in the national polls in ten days?  Can it take away Clinton's 5 point lead in New Hampshire?  In ten days?  With no actual revelation of specific, new wrongdoing?  Prrrrrobably not.

Then again, this year is just nuts, and we always have to leave open the possibility of something even crazier happening.  And I might as well end with this...


  1. My concern is that amongst voters who are not following politics closely, they will not know that there is no new information. The only thing they hear is that the FBI is reopening an investigation into Hillary's emails because new emails have been found. That sounds damning. And if you stop at the headlines, it is damning.

    1. Damning to whom? You posit the existence of a voter whose assessment of Clinton's criminality is based on the FBI's assessment rather than partisanship or other pre-existing beliefs. That is not what political science research would show.