4 Features of the Presidential Election and What They Might Mean

Editors' pick: Originally published Nov. 3.

To say the least, it has been an interesting presidential campaign.

With six days before most voters make their choices for president, the race has taken a final, unexpected twist as Republican nominee Donald Trump narrowed Democratic rival Hillary Clinton's once seemingly insurmountable lead. 

Election guru Nate Silver gives Trump a 25%-30% chance of winning. That's about double what Trump's chances were last month following the debates, for which his performance was panned, and the release of a videotape in which he bragged about forcing himself sexually on women.

Yet the campaign starting with the primary season has been filled with more surprises than perhaps any election in history. Trump's competitiveness -- and the performance of self-described socialist Bernie Sanders, the senator from Vermont -- have been the biggest surprises, of all. Neither seemed to have the widespread support to make an effective run for president, and Trump has defied most wisdom in how he has run his campaign, clashing even with members of his own party.

Clinton has run a more conventional campaign but has struggled to escape the taint of an ongoing investigation into her use of a private server while she was secretary of state under President Obama. 

World stock markets have been jittery about the race's outcome, probably more so if the unpredictable Trump wins. The markets did not cotton to Brexit or the continued existentialist musings of Federal Reserve bankers on a possible rate hike. 

Below are four characteristics of the election. 

Controversies Are Ongoing

The 2016 presidential race between Clinton and Trump has focused more on controversies than substance. Trump's list of ill-advised remarks, revelations about his past behavior socially and in business, and the behavior of a number of his followers is lengthy. 

Earlier this week, a video showed one of Trump's supporters at a rally shouting an anti-Semitic slur, and The New York Times ran two stories about his efforts to avoid paying taxes and get around New York construction ordinances. Earlier in the campaign, Trump mocked a disabled reporter and insulted an Iraq war hero. 

Meanwhile, Clinton has had to address FBI director James Comey's announcement that the FBI had found new emails that might be related to a previously closed investigation into her use of a private email server. In July, he determined that there was not enough evidence to file criminal charges. But during a separate inquiry into a possible inappropriate relationship between former Congressman Anthony Weiner and an underage minor, FBI agents found emails that may indicate that Clinton compromised national security.  

The Polls Disagree

Most polls since the primaries ended have shown Clinton with a lead nationally and in most key battleground states. Yet there have been outliers, including a tracking poll by the Los Angeles Times/USC that has shown Trump tied or in the lead for much of the past few weeks. 

According to the political website RealClearPolitics, Clinton remains three to five points ahead in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin, but she trails in Florida and is tied in North Carolina after leading their since the debates. An ABC News/Washington Post poll gave Trump an 8-point lead in honesty. 

But the back and forth in polling seems unique to this campaign. Clinton held a sizable lead following the Democratic convention this summer only to have Trump rebound in September.

Undecided Voters Remain Key

Some pundits have said that Trump's recent surge is the result of Republican voters deciding to support their party, despite their distaste for his personal deportment and incendiary statements. 

That may put the onus on the 8% of voters who have not yet decided. 

According to the Wall Street Journal/NBC News national polling, 30% of the undecideds call themselves Republicans, compared with 21% who call themselves Democrats. That could be good news for Trump, although early voting in some states seems to favor Clinton. 

The Rise of Millennial Voters

Millennials have been a big focus of candidates this year. Clinton has struggled at times to connect with younger voters. But a recent USA TODAY/Rock the Vote Poll shows that even though the millennials are backing Clinton over Trump by more than 3-1.

Still, some millennials may be turned off by the latest server-related news. 

Explaining the importance of the millennial turnout in next week's election, President Obama told comedian Samantha Bee on her show Full Frontal, "Young people have a bigger stake in this election than anybody."

This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held no positions in the stocks mentioned.

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