WASHINGTON — Less than two weeks before Election Day, Hillary Clinton held a clear lead in the polls and it looked like her campaign was trying to run up the score — just as the race was about to turn upside down.
At 12:37 p.m. ET on Friday, Oct. 28 — with 12 days left in the election — the campaign blasted out an advisory to reporters announcing that the former secretary of state would be campaigning in reliably Republican Arizona, a move that suggested her team was gunning to compete in states well beyond the battlegrounds they needed for victory against GOP nominee Donald Trump.
They had every right to be confident.
The RealClearPolitics polling average from the day before showed Clinton leading Trump nationally by nearly six points (for perspective, Barack Obama beat Mitt Romney by four points in 2012). State polls had Clinton ahead in key battlegrounds like Pennsylvania and North Carolina. Even the data team doing analytics for the Trump campaign was telling reporters that, as of Oct. 27, they had just a 15 percent chance of winning.
All this was happening while early voting was taking place in states across the country.
In retrospect, however, the race was never as stable as it appeared. A contest featuring the two most unpopular candidates in modern presidential campaign history made the political terrain unstable — and more susceptible to sudden shifts.
And the ground began to move under the Clinton team’s feet just 20 minutes after its Arizona announcement, with a tweet from Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, who said the FBI was looking at Clinton’s emails — again.
“FBI Dir just informed me, ‘The FBI has learned of the existence of emails that appear to be pertinent to the investigation.’ Case reopened.”