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Politics & Government

Politics In The News: 18 Days To Go Before Election Day

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Let's assess the presidential campaign with two and a half weeks to go. NPR lead political editor Domenico Montanaro is on the line.

Hi, Domenico.

DOMENICO MONTANARO, BYLINE: Good morning.

INSKEEP: How big a hole is Donald Trump in?

MONTANARO: Well, it's certainly - this is not a close race right now. You know, Hillary Clinton's winning. If you look at the national polls, Clinton is up, on average, by high single digits, seven or more. And the the picture there - I mean, it's just not good for Trump nationally. It's not good for him in the battleground states either.

INSKEEP: You mentioned battleground states. Of course, this is decided by electoral votes. The battleground states are everything. What's happening in some of the key states?

MONTANARO: Well, you know, we always talk about suburban white women as this linchpin for Republican candidates. And that's where Donald Trump has really all but collapsed now. You know, think about places like Pennsylvania, Colorado and New Hampshire. In the last month, these scandals, the allegations of sexual misconduct - Trump's numbers with them have just dropped off big time.

And that's a big problem for him because, if you think about his path, it's always been narrow. And he's now at the point where he has to win all of the battleground states. Think about places like Florida, North Carolina, Ohio, Iowa and Nevada, and he still wouldn't have enough to win. Even he won all of those places, he'd have to pick off a state leaning Democratic right now. And in the past month for Hillary Clinton, that - her lead in those places has expanded in every one of them.

INSKEEP: OK. So his odds are not zero, but they are low. Now, I want to ask about something that maybe underlines the tone of this campaign, Domenico. There was this dinner in New York City last night, the Al Smith dinner. People...

MONTANARO: I'm very familiar with it.

INSKEEP: Of course. I mean, people who cover politics know it - white-tie dinner, all these rich and powerful people in New York City. And the presidential candidates are supposed to tell self-deprecating jokes there. Not all the jokes were terrible. Let's listen to one of the better ones by Donald Trump.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

DONALD TRUMP: I know Hillary met my campaign manager. And I got the chance to meet the people who are working so hard to get her elected. There they are, the heads of NBC...

(LAUGHTER)

TRUMP: ...CNN, CBS, ABC. There's The New York Times right over there and The Washington Post.

INSKEEP: OK. He got a laugh, but he also referred to Hillary Clinton as corrupt. There appeared to be no joke there. He was actually booed. Clinton was much better received, we should say but also pretty edgy. Let's listen to one of her jokes.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

HILLARY CLINTON: Whoever wins this election, the outcome will be historic. We'll either have the first female president or the first president who started a Twitter war with Cher.

(LAUGHTER)

INSKEEP: All right. I watched this on video, (laughter) Domenico, and it's uncomfortable viewing.

MONTANARO: You know, it's usually uncomfortable in some respect, but this was particularly uncomfortable. This is usually an event when the candidates can kind of put politics aside. You know, there's supposed to be raising money for kids (laughter). You know, they're supposed to poke fun at themselves, cheekily at each other.

But, you know, they're not really supposed to get real dirty. And you're supposed to sort of get this sense that politics is just a game, you know. Like, it is what it is. People have significant disagreements, but at the end of the day, they can come together and actually maybe even like each other a little bit. You did not get a sense at all last night that either of these two candidates like each other very much at all.

INSKEEP: Dinner is named after Al Smith who was called the happy warrior. Nobody seems very happy right now.

MONTANARO: No. And, you know, Al Smith was a former Democrat who ran for president. Yeah, these guys - not very happy. Clinton made a joke that I have something good to tell all of you, something you really want to hear because I'm good at telling people what they want to hear.

INSKEEP: (Laughter).

MONTANARO: And that is that this election will be over very soon.

(LAUGHTER)

INSKEEP: OK. Domenico, thanks.

MONTANARO: Thank you.

INSKEEP: That's NPR's Domenico Montanaro. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.