US Republican nominee Donald Trump has been remarkably restrained on the campaign trail lately, happily tethered to the teleprompter, mostly not veering off script. And there have been no insults or boasts tweeted out late in the night or early morning.
Has Trump sobered up, spotting a real path to the White House that had seemed obscured by a tape of him boasting about forcing himself upon women, followed by women actually stepping forward with allegations of sexual assault?
Trump has caught up with Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in some polls, and trails her only by 2.2 points in the RealClearPolitics average of national polls, with 33.4% chance of winning in the FiveThirtyEight forecast, shooting up from around 9% a few days ago.
“We are going to win the White House. Going to win it. It’s feeling like it already, isn't it?” Trump said at rally in Pensacola in Florida on Wednesday night.
He continued, “Just — we got to be nice and cool. Nice and cool. Alright? Stay on point, Donald. Stay on point. No sidetracks, Donald. Nice and easy. Niceee …”
And nice and easy he has been.
Earlier in the day, he refused to respond to former beauty queen Alicia Machado, who attacked him aggressively at a rally introducing Clinton. The two of them have had a few angry exchanges before, starting with the first presidential debate.
Trump has focussed on attacking Clinton on her emails, which were back into the limelight because of fresh FBI investigations announced last week by its director James Comey, WikiLeaks revelations and Clinton Foundation.
His advisers, allies and Republicans are happiest when he is focused on the task in hand — Clinton — and not when he forces himself centrestage as he has in the past, allowing his opponent to escape scrutiny or criticism.
As the race for the White House entered the final week on Tuesday, election rhetoric has been dominated by Clinton’s emails and whether the FBI director overstepped his brief and inserted the agency into the election with his announcement.
Democrats, for one, thinks so. President Barack Obama weighed in at an interview to a news site on Wednesday, saying, “We don’t operate on incomplete information. We don’t operate on leaks. We operate based on concrete decisions that are made.”
Without naming Comey, the president went on to indicate he thought the director, a lifelong Republican he picked to head the agency in 2015, had violated investigative guidelines by alerting the US Congress to an unfinished investigation.
The email has clearly put the Clinton campaign on the defensive, forcing it to abandon plans to use the final days of the race to put out a positive message of unity and working together. The campaign is continuing instead with attacking Trump.
An ad released by the Clinton campaign on Thursday recalled in Trump’s own voice all the offensive remarks he had made about women, veterans, Hispanics, the physically challenged, and about nuclear weapons and wars.
It ended with a caption saying, “We are not him.”
And Clinton surrogates, such as President Obama, vice-president Joe Biden and others such as Bernie Sanders, are brainstorming the battleground states with the same key message: Trump is not qualified to be president.
Trump is making the same case about Clinton, that she is not fit to be president, without sounding offensive or by insulting anyone. He is being nice and cool, in his own words, and for once, keeping himself away from the crosshairs.