- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Analysts say the Clinton campaign risks breeding complacency among voters with its assumption of winning the White House Nov. 8, potentially depressing turnout and spoiling potential victories for Democrats down the ballot.

Publicly, Hillary Clinton is warning voters to keep fighting against Republican Donald Trump, but the former first lady’s light schedule and effort to run out the clock could backfire.

“This is not a race where Clinton wants to take her foot off the accelerator,” said Brandon Rottinghaus, a political science professor at the University of Houston who studies presidential politics. “Down-ballot Democrats are also leaning on the Clinton campaign for help in getting out the vote and picking up seats for Democrats.

“Letting up on the gas might make these candidates more vulnerable without cover from a national message. Overconfidence may yield to lack of focus from campaign staff, fewer volunteers and, most damaging, depressed voter turnout [among those] who are convinced that she will win.”

Behind the scenes, the Clinton campaign largely has moved beyond Mr. Trump and is rallying forces and millions of dollars for Democrats in key House and Senate race. Mrs. Clinton’s campaign speeches increasingly are as much about electing other Democrats — such as Tuesday’s pitch for Rep. Patrick Murphy, running to unseat Republican Sen. Marco Rubio in Florida — as they are about her own race.

This week Mrs. Clinton reportedly began calling GOP lawmakers on Capitol Hill in an effort to build bridges for her would-be administration. The campaign in recent days also has focused more attention on putting together a transition team that would get to work immediately after the election.

For Mrs. Clinton there’s reason to be confident. She leads Mr. Trump by 5 percentage points, according to the most recent Real Clear Politics average of all polls. Other surveys have given her a larger lead, and she’s also ahead in many key states such as Florida.

But the campaign must proceed cautiously over the final weeks of the presidential race or risk lulling Democrats into a false sense of security, specialists say.

“We still have a lot of work to do. I feel good, but boy, I am not taking anything for granted,” Mrs. Clinton said Tuesday in Florida. “I am going to work as hard as I can between now and the election two weeks from today. Pay no attention to the polls. Don’t get complacent, because we have got to turn people out.”

Clinton supporters are trying to walk a fine line between projecting supreme confidence and also rallying Democrats to get out and vote. President Obama, for example, has been stumping for down-ballot Democrats and spearheading a massive get-out-the-vote effort.

But at the same time, he’s virtually guaranteed that Mr. Trump will lose.

“At least I’ll go down as a president,” Mr. Obama deadpanned Monday on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” after reading a Trump tweet that referred to him as the worst president in history.

Other Clinton backers say the campaign’s infrastructure — which, by all accounts, dwarfs that of Mr. Trump — gives the former secretary of state the cushion to be confident.

“They are doing everything they need to do to win, including a massive advertising campaign, a ground game Trump can only dream of and scores of surrogates in key states,” said Clinton supporter Jim Manley, director of the communications practice at QGA Public Affairs and a former spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid.

The growing perception that a Clinton win is inevitable also is fueled by Mr. Trump himself, some analysts say, pointing to the businessman’s familiar refrain that the entire election is “rigged” against him. There’s also speculation that Mr. Trump already is eyeing his own post-election future, including a rumored Trump TV network.

“Right now Trump needs outside help, the proverbial October surprise. I don’t think there is anything he can do or say that will help him much,” said G. Terry Madonna, director of the Center for Politics and Public Affairs at Pennsylvania’s Franklin & Marshall College. “Except for his first 100-day speech [in Gettysburg over the weekend], he actually sounds like he could lose given his rhetoric about [a] rigged election.”

• Ben Wolfgang can be reached at bwolfgang@washingtontimes.com.

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