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Joe Henderson: Latest Q-poll only proves volatility is norm in 2016

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If the latest Quinnipiac poll is to be believed, Donald Trump has jumped in front of Hillary Clinton in Florida.

The Q now has Trump ahead 42-39 over Clinton, and that’s just head to head. Throw in Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson and Jill Stein of the Green Party and the Donald goes up by five points.

Head to head is within the 3.1 percent plus-minus margin of error. And the Q poll, while always widely cited, has its share of critics over methodology.

So how should we interpret this latest bit of campaign news?  Is it the signal of a five-alarm problem for Clinton? Her path to the White House could become unpassable if she doesn’t win, with a nod to the late Tim Russert, Florida, Florida, Florida.

As with all things it requires context. After all, the same outfit had Clinton ahead of Trump in Florida by eight points on June 21.

The context, in this case, is the volatility of this election cycle. There are so many variables between now and November – hell, between now and lunchtime tomorrow – that polls provide little more than talking points until the next one comes out.

Clinton has just been down a rough patch of road. Her husband foolishly met with Attorney General Loretta Lynch while the investigation into Hillary’s email server misuse was ongoing. The perception that the fix was in was amplified when the FBI recommended that while Clinton was inept in using a private server for classified documents, she shouldn’t be prosecuted.

Also, and I think a lot of folks have been slow to catch on to this one, Trump’s message lately has been more restrained and less, well, stupid.  That coincides with the departure of volatile campaign manager Corey Lewandowski about three weeks ago.

Trump conceded as much when he fired Lewandowski, telling Fox News, “I think it’s time now for a different kind of a campaign.”

The GOP convention next week in Cleveland is sure to be among the most-watched of all time. It will be Trump’s chance to show he actually has characteristics of judgment and restraint.

He will keep up the attacks on Clinton’s trustworthiness, of course, because that is about the only issue that seems to resonate with voters. So the chance is there for Trump to both push the attack on his rival, but to do so in a way that doesn’t scare the crap out of voters.

I would also expect, barring something colossally stupid by Trump – always a risk – that the post-convention bounce for him could be substantial. But then Clinton will get her say at the Democratic convention, and they will remind the world of all the things Trump has said and done, and voters will again be thrown into the spin cycle.

Then the next Q poll will show a post-convention bounce for Clinton, and we’ll take two Advil tablets and hide under the covers until November arrives.

Joe Henderson has had a 45-year career in newspapers, including the last nearly 42 years at The Tampa Tribune. He covered a large variety of things, primarily in sports but also including hard news. The two intertwined in the decade-long search to bring Major League Baseball to the area. Henderson was also City Hall reporter for two years and covered all sides of the sales tax issue that ultimately led to the construction of Raymond James Stadium. He served as a full-time sports columnist for about 10 years before moving to the metro news columnist for the last 4 ½ years. Henderson has numerous local, state and national writing awards. He has been married to his wife, Elaine, for nearly 35 years and has two grown sons – Ben and Patrick.

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