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Politics & Government

3 Days To Go: Poll Results Show Tightening Race As Candidates Head To Swing States

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

You've been so caught up by the World Series, you've forgotten there's an election for president on Tuesday. I have. Senior editor - NPR senior editor Ron Elving joins us now. He's still recovering. Ron, thanks very much for being with us.

RON ELVING, BYLINE: My pleasure to be with you on this historic week, Scott.

SIMON: Exactly - the polls seem to be tightening. Now, how does that change the outlook in the Electoral College potentially and how the candidates are going to spend these last three days on the trail?

ELVING: Scott, the polls were getting closer a week ago when we spoke, yeah, even before all the renewed talk about Hillary Clinton's emails began. And as we said then, the return of those emails has shifted attention away from Trump and put Clinton to the test once again.

So instead of talking about her expanding the map and adding, say, Arizona or Georgia, we're putting some of her previously safe states, or states we thought were hers, back in play - New Hampshire, Nevada, maybe even some of what we've called the blue wall states like Wisconsin and Michigan and Pennsylvania. And so the candidates - both of them - have been working all five of those states I just mentioned hard this week and in addition to that, of course, the much traveled battlegrounds in Florida and North Carolina.

SIMON: Ron, so many people have said they've - there's never been a race remotely like this one. What moments stand out for you - to use the most overworked word perhaps of the season - as pivotal?

ELVING: The pivots really began with the primaries. The primary debates were important in both parties. They brought the issues of immigration and trade to the fore much more than we had expected. The South Carolina primary - big wins for the eventual nominees; then Indiana primary for Trump, California for Clinton.

The conventions, you know, were really a study in contrasts. And they helped Clinton and the Democrats build a case for what voters are inevitably going to see as a third term for Barack Obama. Then, of course, we had all the revelations about Trump - the avoidance of federal income tax, the business practices, the attitude towards women, people of color and, finally, the recurring issue of Clinton's email server, which just keeps getting brought back to trip her up.

SIMON: You've been good enough to say that when this campaign began you didn't think Donald Trump would last. Why did he confound so many smart people?

ELVING: So many things were surprising, Scott, including the willingness of hard-core partisans in both parties to overlook big, obvious problems for their candidates in the primaries and in the fall. And I've been amazed that, for example, the willingness of so many evangelical Christians, people who wanted to emphasize social issues, to embrace Donald Trump with all of his history and all of his attitudes.

SIMON: Hillary Clinton is ahead in the polls. But the last Washington-ABC News poll showed that she is less trusted than Donald Trump despite the fact that the news industry has documented many lies that he's told during this campaign. How has she run such a strong campaign despite the lack of trust?

ELVING: One could be cynical and say some of us don't expect to trust our politicians. But look, this is the presidency. And in weighing the balance of assets, her experience does matter to many. She projects determination. She has the support of a united party - unusually united - and a newly popular first couple campaigning for her. And finally, there is her historic appeal to women.

SIMON: Ron, ratings for news have been through the roof during this campaign. Will you miss it or may the campaign maybe not be over on Tuesday?

ELVING: It's been a national odyssey, a trip we all took as a country but not one that most of us enjoyed. Surely, it's one that most all of us would like to have end on Tuesday night. But miss it? Not in any normal way. But forget it? Not a chance.

SIMON: NPR's Ron Elving, thanks so much for being with us.

ELVING: Thank you, Scott.

SIMON: And NPR on this station will be live Tuesday night and the day after with national and local election results. You can listen live right here and watch the races important to you at npr.org. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.