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Washington Matters

E-Mail Blowup Unlikely to Derail Clinton

With millions of ballots already cast, news of renewed FBI interest in Hillary Clinton's e-mails may be too late to change the outcome.

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Before Friday’s FBI bombshell about newly found Hillary Clinton e-mails, a fractured America was poised to elect Clinton over Donald Trump. Will that change? It’s too soon to tell, but the race will certainly tighten.

Here’s what we know: The FBI is reopening its investigation to determine whether a new batch of e-mails discovered in an unrelated case contains classified information.

Since it seems unlikely that findings of the probe will be revealed before election day, the big question is how the announcement will sway undecided voters, who make up 6% or so of likely voters in most polls. Even less clear: How do they react? Do they back Trump? Do they go for Gary Johnson or Jill Stein? Do they stay home?

If most of them gravitate to Trump, the race could end up dead even. That’s a big if, especially if no major wrongdoing is hinted at in the preliminary stages.

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But even in a maximum-damage scenario for Clinton, Trump may come up short, as millions of ballots have already been cast, favoring Clinton in many toss-up states.

How we saw it before the email news: Clinton will win with at least 294 electoral votes (270 needed). Trump should get at least 180, with 64 up for grabs in Florida, Ohio, Iowa and Arizona. (See map below.) To win, Trump would need all four toss-ups and at least two states now with Clinton. That’s a lot of ground to make up in 11 days, with or without the new disclosures. Trump’s been his own worst enemy, bashing immigrants and women.

That allowed Clinton to overcome her earlier campaign missteps and build a cushion among those groups that stood up to Trump’s sizable advantage among white men. With the latest news, Clinton won’t top Barack Obama’s 2008 electoral total. By the way, at this point in 2012, Obama led Mitt Romney by just one point.

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