Nate Silver has some cunning or cutthroat, depending on how you look at it, advice for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton in the wake of news that FBI Director James Comey sent a letter to Congress suggesting new emails related to the investigation in Clinton’s use of a private email server may have been discovered. According to a new post on Silver’s FiveThirtyEight website, the former sports statistician-turned-political-pollster thinks Clinton should “Drop an opposition research bomb on Trump.”
To be fair, that’s only one of four strategies that Silver, who serves as editor at FiveThirtyEight, offers for dealing with the Comey letter. He also recommends that Clinton “Demand more details from Comey,” that she “Rile up Democratic partisans by attacking Comey and other targets” or that she simply “Let it go.”
Silver admits that he himself is uncertain what path Clinton should take, as Comey’s letter to Congress remains somewhat of a mystery.
“The thing about Friday’s news is that it left a lot of questions unanswered. Comey’s letter to Congress was cryptic, and his motivations for sending it were uncertain. There are conflicting reports about whether the emails include messages to or from Clinton, how many emails there are, whether they’re new or something the FBI has looked at already, and whether the FBI requires a court order to investigate them in more detail. Even the reporting that the investigation pertains to devices owned by ex-Congressman Anthony Weiner and his wife, Clinton aide Huma Abedin, is based on anonymous sourcing. There’s a lot we don’t know.”
Comey’s letter has indeed sparked considerable, and heated, debate. Republicans lauded it as further evidence of Clinton corruption. Democrats accused Comey of toying with the presidential elections by sending the letter so close to Election Day.
— John Lundin (@johnlundin) October 30, 2016
“Attorney General Loretta Lynch and Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates disagreed with FBI Director James Comey’s decision to notify Congress about his bureau’s review of emails potentially related to Hillary Clinton’s personal server,” CNN reported Sunday.
“There was no direct confrontation between Lynch or Yates and Comey. Instead, the disagreements were conveyed to Comey by Justice Department staff, who advised the FBI chief his letter would be against department policy to not comment on investigations close to an election.”
— Jared Beck (@JaredBeck) October 26, 2016
Silver thinks it may be too close to Election Day to really be able to sort out the effects of the announcement before voters head to the polls next Tuesday. In his experience, it usually takes about a week to start to see the signs of how a major news development may influence an election. By then, it would be too late for Clinton to respond, of course. That is, if the new FBI story is having any impact on the race to begin with.
Nate Silver speculates, based on rumors that have circulated, that the Clinton camp may be sitting on one or two pieces of opposition research that could be damning to Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. If that is the case, the Clinton team has been reserving them for the moment when they would need them the most. That moment may very well be now.
“[I]f the polls do tighten, the usually risk-averse Clinton campaign may become more willing to push a story that has some risk of backfiring (say, a serious accusation against Trump that isn’t backed up by more than one source),” writes Silver.
“News organizations and their potential sources may also become more willing to run with these stories if the election becomes closer, taking on more legal and reputational risk, whereas they’d bypass them if Clinton seemed to have the election in the bag.”
If the Clinton team wants to take Nate Silver’s advice, they’ll need to do it ASAP. Besides, if nothing else, dropping one last opposition research bomb on Trump right before the election would be entertaining if nothing else.
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