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US election intrigue soars again with just days to go before polling day

November 02, 2016, 15:25 UTC+3 WASHINGTON

Soap opera-style emotions have reached the boiling point, while the likely outcome remains anyone’s guess

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© EPA/MARK RALSTON

WASHINGTON, November 2. /TASS/. With just several days to go before the presidential election day in the United States the race keeps taking ever more unexpected turns.

Soap opera-style emotions have reached the boiling point, while the likely outcome remains anyone’s guess.

Pundits and the media tend to agree the Democratic Party’s candidate Hillary Clinton still enjoys a slight advantage. Yet, declaring Clinton the winner is too early, though many came pretty close to this over the past few weeks. Her own election team and the related mass media went to great lengths to create an aura of invincibility around Clinton, while pouring oil onto the fire of scandals involving Trump whenever the slightest chance offered itself. Pretexts varied from his ostensibly benevolent attitude to Russia and its leadership to vulgar and cynical remarks about women he was careless enough to drop years ago.

Up to a certain point this tactic worked. After three rounds of election debates on TV (the last one on October 19), in which none of the candidates committed irreparable mistakes, Clinton, according to some opinion polls, had a double-digit advantage over Trump. Political pundits and prediction markets were unanimous there was nine-to-one probability the Democratic Party would retain control of the White House.

Some even hurried to express disappointment the election saga that had thrilled the nation for a whole year was about to have such a banal and early ending. By and large, though, the current presidential race - unprecedentedly dirty, ferocious and splitting society into irreconcilable camps - has already made the average American feel both disgust and alarm. Everybody appears to be looking forward to the day when it will be all over.

But all of a sudden, when it already seemed the election campaign was steaming towards a pre-settled finale and there was nothing left to do but to watch and wait, the plot took a sudden turn. FBI Director James Comey last Friday declared the Bureau was resuming investigation of the email scandal over Hillary Clinton’s unauthorized use of her PC for office correspondence. It all happened when Clinton held the position of the US Secretary of State.

In full conformity with the laws of a TV saga the newly discovered evidence that required reinvestigation had been obtained in the process of another probe - into the scandal involving the husband of Clinton’s close aide, Huma Abedin. The man, former US Congress member Anthony Weiner, was suspected of "sexting" - emailing indecent, explicit messages to several women, one of whom was under age. Abedin has parted with her husband, but not divorced him yet, though. As for her remaining relations with Clinton, they are so close the media sometimes call Huma Clinton’s "second daughter."

The investigators will now be examining the content of their email correspondence, which on the basis of Abedin’s sworn testimonies (potentially indictable) were regarded as lost. Clinton described the FBI’s decision that followed just days before the election as unprecedented, alarming and politicized. Media reports say the Democrats’ election team has declared a war on Comey, who previously earned words of praise for professionalism.

In the meantime, Trump, who kept saying in the course of the debates that his rival should have been kept away from the election race by all means for her violations of secrecy rules fraught with harm to US national security, voiced satisfaction the investigation had been resumed.

The outcome will be clear on the voting day, but the whole affair now looks more intriguing. Media commentators were quick to recall that the Republican candidate was steadily catching up with the race leader anyway. According to major national polls the candidates now go neck in neck and the struggle in a number of key states will get tougher.

If Trump eventually has to bite the dust, he will have to blame mostly himself. Local analysts say unprofessionalism in politics is his worst weakness. His loose tongue is only part of the problem. As the election race is approaching the finish line, the technical flaws of his election campaign get ever more obvious to specialists.

Firstly, there is no unity inside the Republican Party. The grassroots networks, whose task is to take care of voter turnout, are not strong enough. Money-raising leaves much to be desired and Trump is unable to fully compensate for the shortfall with his own resources. Lastly, Trump has proved not prepared for the debates well enough. Experts believe that as a result he missed several good opportunities to gain a firmer foothold.

Clinton, too, has quite a few problems to contend with. First and foremost, she is associated with the ruling elite, while most Americans are not quite happy about the current state of affairs in the country and wish change. According to the latest opinion poll on that score, a three-fourths majority said the United States was moving in the wrong direction.

Attitude to Russia is one of the main political controversies between the main presidential candidates. Clinton accuses Trump of favoring the Russian leadership and of betraying national interests. Trump naturally denies such insinuations and argues that cooperation with Moscow is desirable in rebuffing terrorist threats. Also, he warns that Clinton’s aggressiveness towards a nuclear power is fraught with the risk of triggering a third world war.

At a certain point Clinton replied in the affirmative when asked by TASS if Russia should beware of her possible rise to power. Now, as follows from a report by the New York Times, Clinton’s entourage is already discussing what combination of sanctions, diplomatic isolation and international condemnation might be employed against Moscow as an upgraded version of the deterrence strategy.

On the whole, the theme of Russia has taken center stage in the US election campaign to push economics - the traditional focus of attention in any election campaign - into the background. Clinton tends to blame everything, including her own mistakes, on "Moscow’s hand." The Russian leadership has warned more than once that this kind of approach will not remain without a consequence and that it cannot but harm Russian-US relations.

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