FBI clearing Clinton won’t change things very much: Academic

Stakes are high as US election looms

Sunday night's decision by the FBI to take no action against Hillary Clinton over newly uncovered emails is unlikely to change the state of play ahead of Tuesday's U.S. presidential election, according to an academic specialist.

Peter Trubowitz, director of the United States Center at the London School of Economics (LSE), told CNBC Monday that the main impact was most likely on those with one foot already in the Republican camp.

"What the FBI investigation did was it gave Republicans who were on the fence and who had real misgivings about Donald Trump an opportunity to rethink their position," he said.

"It's not that undecided voters suddenly broke because of the FBI investigation, it's that it increased a sense of enthusiasm among Republicans for Trump - or to put it another way, they just couldn't sit it out," he continued, highlighting that it was the college-educated white voters whom Donald Trump has had more problems attracting that were most likely to have been in this category.

In Trubowitz's view, Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton is the clear favorite to be the next in the White House, however, it's not over yet.

"About 12 percent of voters are either going to vote for a third party candidate or are still undecided. So there is a group out there that could be conceivably moved," he said.

"It's hers to lose but she could lose it," he summarized,pointing to the latest polls that give Clinton around a 3 to 5 percent lead.

Silver ‘tilting’ towards Clinton

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton reacts before boarding her campaign plane at Miami international airport in Miami, Florida, U.S., October 26, 2016.
Carlos Barria | Reuters

Among the pollsters, the LSE academic did acknowledge that while U.S. statistician Nate Silver was "tilting" in Clinton's direction, he was "an outlier" compared to his peers who see the likelihood of a Democratic victory in starker terms.

According to the latest views from FiveThirtyEight, the statistics-driven website of which Silver is the editor-in-chief, the reopening and reclosing of the FBI investigation over the past week has indeed affected polls.

According to the website, "While Clinton's chances were slightly declining already after she came off her post-debate peak, the rate of decline began to accelerate a couple of days after Comey."

Silver described the statistical patterns as indicating the fall in polls for Clinton was more consistent with a "shock" than a gradual decline.

Turning to the cold, hard numbers, Silver says that Clinton's probability of winning has dropped from 81 percent at the time Comey told Congress on October 28 he was reviewing additional emails, to 65 percent Sunday when the decision was made by the FBI to close the inquiry again.

Silver added, however, a bounce for Clinton in the past 24 hours since the FBI decided not to press charges has already been recorded in some quarters as now "betting markets show Clinton's probability of winning the election improving by about 3 percentage points on the news."

If Clinton carries Florida, she’ll be president: Expert

At this point, while the LSE's Trubowitz says a black swan event could throw the election off-course, the key for both sides now is to convince unenthusiastic supporters to make the trip to the ballot box.

According to the LSE director, "Advertising right now is about getting their base out to vote … Those ads are so incredibly negative, on both sides. Those ads are not designed to persuade people in the middle, undecided, but to get their base out."

"That's what it's all about right now, it's all about turnout," he added.

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