THOMAS TASCHINGER: New FBI probe makes crazy election tight again

October 30, 2016 GMT

For a long time I didn’t understand how any presidential voter could still be undecided about the two top characters, I mean candidates. Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are as unlike as a giraffe and a geranium. Yet now I realize why some voters still don’t know who to pick. They realize that every few days another scandal or twist explodes across our front pages and television screens, and they’re back to that familiar dilemma: Which one do I dislike the least?

It was Hillary’s turn last week to breathe new life into a campaign that looked as it if were solidifying in her favor. The FBI said it’s reviewing a new batch of e-mails involving Clinton while she was secretary of state. As if that bombshell isn’t big enough, these new e-mails were reportedly on a device used by her aide Huma Adedin and sleazy ex-husband Anthony Weiner.

Shazam! That’s throwing raw meat to every journalist, blogger and talk-show host from Long Island to Long Beach. Huma Abedin is a favorite of conspiracy theorists who think she’s an ISIS sleeper agent. Anthony Weiner, with his icky selfies, just might be the most repulsive political figure since former House Speaker Dennis Hastert. This October surprise will dominate the remaining news coverage of the campaign, which was already building to a feverish climax.

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Trump and many Republicans, who thought FBI Director James Comey was a courageous truth-seeker when he supervised the initial email investigation, but then called him a cowardly sell-out when he declined to recommend an indictment, now think he’s a standup guy again. Amazing how Comey can change so often and so quickly.

The key question will be whether any of those emails is released (or leaked) in the final days, especially if they are controversial. If we get a hot one, there won’t be enough hours in the days for one side to condemn it and the other to explain it. Yet if the whole thing stays on the back burner, under investigation, it might cool off.

But the story did give a lifeline to Trump when he was in danger of going under. He appeared to be on the verge of losing enough swing states to guarantee the election to Hillary, maybe by a landslide. Now the playing field has tilted back in his favor, with states like Florida and North Carolina leaning from blue to purple or even red. Trump absolutely must have states like that (and Ohio) to have any mathematical chance of wining in the Electoral College.

Yet that remains Clinton’s ace in the hole. She can lose a state or two here or there and still get at least 270 electoral votes. Trump can’t afford many surprises on Election Night, if any. In Florida, 2.1 million people already voted early before the new FBI story broke, and Democrats insist they dominated. If they did, The Donald and Roger Ailes can start planning their new TV network.

In nine days we’ll finally know how this scandal affected the outcome - well, unless another scandal supplants it.

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Thomas Taschinger, TTaschinger@BeaumontEnterprise.com, is the editorial page editor of The Beaumont Enterprise. Follow him on Twitter at @PoliticalTom