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Hillary Clinton’s big lead: Going, going . . . gone?

Hillary Clinton speaks to members of the media

Hillary Clinton speaks to members of the media aboard her campaign plane on Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2016, while traveling from White Plains to Tampa. Photo Credit: Getty Images / Justin Sullivan

Landslide slip-slides away

Two major new polls eye the presidential race from distinct angles, but together they lead to one probable conclusion: Hillary Clinton’s once-sizable lead over Donald Trump has shrunk to slim or none.

A CNN/ORC national poll Tuesday found Trump ahead of Clinton by 2 points — 45% to 43% — among likely voters. Among registered voters, Clinton led 44% to 41%. Why the difference? Higher enthusiasm among Trump supporters, meaning a bigger chance they will actually vote.

But Clinton still held an advantage in a Washington Post-SurveyMonkey poll that sampled enough voters to size up the contest in each of the 50 states.

It found Clinton up by 4 points or more in 20 states plus the District of Columbia, giving her 244 of the 270 electoral votes needed to win. Trump led by at least 4 points in 20 states too, but those add up to just 126 electoral votes.

Another difference to consider: The Post data is older, compiled Aug. 9-Sept. 1. CNN’s poll was conducted Sept. 1-4.

What’s her problem?

An analysis on Politico offers several theories for why Clinton’s lead has withered.

Among them:

  • Trump’s newest handlers have smoothed out his style just enough to make him seem “somewhat less terrifying.”
  • While attacking Trump incessantly, Clinton has done little to improve her own image with voters.
  • The persistent stories suggesting overlapping interests with the Clinton foundation while she was secretary of state have taken a toll.

The take-away: Foundation fight

Clinton counterattacked against Trump’s savaging of her family’s foundation by pointing to a “questionable” contribution by the Donald J. Trump Foundation, writes Newsday’s Dan Janison.

Trump earlier this year paid a $2,500 fine over an illegal $25,000 donation by his charity to a campaign group backing Pam Bondi, Florida’s attorney general. The donation arrived days after her office said it was considering a probe into Trump University. Bondi later decided not to investigate.

Trump: No one cares about my taxes

Trump said in an ABC News interview that “I think people don’t care” about his failure to release his income tax returns.

Voters should, Clinton said.

Trump “clearly has something to hide,” she told reporters on her plane. “We don’t know exactly what it is, but we’re getting better guesses about what it probably is.”

Sparring on national security

Clinton, in Tampa, accused Trump of insulting America’s veterans and pressing dangerous military plans around the globe, as she sought to undercut his appeal to service families in Southern voting battlegrounds.

Trump, speaking in Virginia Beach, declared “our country is going to hell” because of policies Clinton would make even worse. His campaign announced 88 retired generals and military officials are backing Trump.

Looking the part

Trump wouldn’t explain what he meant when he said of Clinton in an ABC News interview: “I just don’t think she has a presidential look, and you need a presidential look.”

Clinton supporters said it was a new example of Trump disrespecting women. Emily’s List, a PAC that supporters Democratic female candidates who support abortion rights, sent out an email to supporters saying that Trump’s comments are “ ‘gender card’ politics, plain and simple.”

What else is happening

  • Clinton said debating Trump will be “difficult” and “challenging.” Elaborating, perhaps with tongue slightly in cheek, she said: “Donald Trump is a self-proclaimed great debater who won every one of the Republican debates.”
  • The Washington Post’s examination of Bill Clinton’s $17.6 million, five-year gig as honorary chancellor of a for-profit university suggests it was more a cashing-in of his post-presidential celebrity than his wife’s State Department job — but there was some blurring of the lines.
  • After months giving virtually no access, Clinton has fielded questions from reporters covering her for two days in a row — a shift that apparently comes amid the realization that it helps her compete with Trump in driving the news, according to Politico.
  • Vice President Joe Biden had some advice for Clinton in a CNN interview on gaining voters’ trust: “Open up. Let them see your heart a little more.”
  • Trump and Clinton separately will take questions Wednesday at a forum on national security, military affairs and veterans issues hosted by NBC News with an audience composed mainly of military veterans and active service members. The event airs on NBC and MSNBC at 8 p.m.
  • While Trump as a candidate doesn’t discuss his old claim that President Barack Obama wasn’t born in the United States, he has never disowned it. Supporter Ben Carson says he should.
  • Moments after calling Clinton’s Monday coughing fit “a little disturbing,” Newt Gingrich started coughing on Sean Hannity’s radio show.

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