Less than two weeks before Election Day, Hillary Clinton's project held a clear lead in the polls. Republican Donald trump would ultimately win. How?


Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton walk far from their podiums at the conclusion that their first presidential controversy at Hofstra college on Sept. 26, 2016.Joe Raedle / swimming pool via Getty
WASHINGTON — much less than two weeks prior to Election Day, Hillary Clinton hosted a clear command in the polls and also it looked like her campaign was do the efforts to run up the score — simply as the race was about to revolve upside down.

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At 12:37 p.m. ET on Friday, Oct. 28 — with 12 days left in the election — the project blasted out an advisory to reporters announcing the the previous secretary that state would certainly be campaigning in reliably Republican Arizona, a move that said her team to be gunning to compete in states well beyond the battlegrounds they necessary for victory against GOP nominee Donald Trump.

They had actually every right to it is in confident.

The RealClearPolitics polling mean from the day before showed Clinton top Trump country by nearly six point out (for perspective, Barack Obama to win Mitt Romney by 4 points in 2012). State polls had Clinton front in key battlegrounds favor Pennsylvania and also North Carolina. Also the data team doing analytics because that the Trump campaign was telling reporters that, as of Oct. 27, they had actually just a 15 percent opportunity of winning.


All this was happening while beforehand voting was taking place in states throughout the country.

In retrospect, however, the race was never as steady as the appeared. A contest featuring the two most unpopular candidates in modern-day presidential campaign background made the politics terrain unstable — and an ext susceptible to sudden shifts.

And the ground started to move under the Clinton team feet simply 20 minute after its Arizona announcement, with a tweet from Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, the chairman of the house Oversight and Government revolutionary Committee, who said the FBI to be looking in ~ Clinton’s emails — again.

"FBI Dir just informed me, "The FBI has actually learned of the presence of emails that appear to it is in pertinent to the investigation." case reopened."

FBI Dir just notified me, "The FBI has learned of the visibility of emails that appear to be pertinent come the investigation." situation reopened

— Jason Chaffetz (

Clinton and her team were suddenly on defense, and also would remain there for the rest of the race. It to be a true October surprise.

In the nine months since the election, politics observers have pointed to assorted reasons why Hillary Clinton lost and also Donald trumped won: FBI manager James Comey’s intervention; Russia and also WikiLeaks; Clinton’s fail to project in Wisconsin; African-Americans that didn’t rotate out together strongly together they did for Obama; and also Trump’s solid performance amongst working-class white voters in the Rust Belt.

But the real tale that 2016 is exactly how the final 12 days of the election turned a gyeongju that appeared out of reach on Oct. 27 right into an upset made decision by a complete of 80,000 votes in three states. Come tell that story, NBC News interviewed nearly a dozen peak Clinton and also Trump operatives for your insight and perspective. Both sides agreed that the underlying volatility that the race, merged with the method the final days unfolded, developed a most unexpected result.

"Unlike 2012 or 2008, there to be a ton of instability in this race," stated Navin Nayak, the Clinton campaign’s director of opinion research. "If you to be the person dominating the news, friend went down."

Indeed, Clinton’s lead had actually expanded throughout rough news cycles about Trump (the khan family, the debates, the notorious "Access Hollywood" tape), and also it shrank throughout rough news cycles around her (the Clinton Foundation, the 9/11 fainting spell, Comey’s Oct. 28 letter).

"I’ve constantly said, "God is looking out for us" when Election Day to be so much later on than usual — Nov. 8th, no Nov. 4th, no Nov. 3rd," said Kellyanne Conway, who offered as Trump’s campaign manager and now works in his administration. "It really helped to have that week."

Even the Clinton camp’s Arizona announcement that Friday was an ext about running out the clock — by providing a hungry press corps something come cover — than a genuine effort to run up the score, according to lot of Clinton campaign officials interviewed because that this article.

They knew the race was far from over.

"We were vulnerable to one October surprise," said Brian Fallon, the Clinton campaign’s nationwide press secretary. "We to be living high ~ above the hog that the "Access Hollywood" tape," he added in recommendation to their lead in the polls.

Here’s a look at at exactly how the last 12 days adjusted the race:

Oct. 28: "The biggest political scandal due to the fact that Watergate"

RealClearPolitics nationwide polling average: Clinton +4.6 percent/FiveThirtyEight forecast: Clinton 81.5 percent opportunity to win

The an initial 27 job of October couldn’t have actually gone far better for Clinton — or worse for Trump.

Clinton bested her Republican rival in all 3 presidential debates, follow to snap polls. The "Access Hollywood" tape, in i m sorry Trump was captured boasting the he can do noþeles to females (like "grab "em through the p***y"), had his campaign in damage-control mode. And it seemed that a different woman every day to be accusing trumped of unreasonable behavior.

By mid-October, Clinton’s lead in the RealClearPolitics median of nationwide polls had jumped to 7 points — the exact same as Obama’s winning margin against John McCain in 2008. And also an NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist poll of Pennsylvania confirmed Clinton front of trump by dual digits in the all-important state.

But that great run because that Clinton finished on Friday, Oct. 28, together her 7-point benefit in the RealClear median shrank below 5 points.

Comey educated Congress that his agency had discovered emails in one unrelated instance — a probe into former Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-N.Y., then-husband come Clinton aide Huma Abedin — which appeared "pertinent" to the investigation right into Clinton’s personal email server. And also he stated the FBI was reviewing them.

Strikingly, Comey’s notice was vague.

"Although the FBI cannot yet assess whether or not this material may be significant, and also I can not predict exactly how long it will certainly take us to complete this extr work, I believe it is important to update your Committees around our initiatives in light of my previous testimony," Comey stated in his letter.

Supporters the Republican presidential candidate Donald trumped cheer during a project rally, Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2016, in Pensacola, Fla.Evan Vucci / AP

Trump seized ~ above the development, which he supplied to resurrect the months-long dispute over Clinton’s emails and also private server.

"They room reopening the situation into she criminal and also illegal conduct that intimidates the defense of the United says of America," Trump claimed on the campaign trail in brand-new Hampshire much less than an hour after the news broke. "Hillary Clinton"s corruption is on a scale we have actually never seen before. We need to not let she take she criminal scheme right into the Oval Office."

"The examination is the greatest political scandal due to the fact that Watergate, and also it's everybody's hope the justice in ~ last can be delivered. The FBI would never have actually reopened this case currently unless it to be a most egregious criminal offense" — candidate Donald trump card in Iowa.

He would certainly repeat the thrust the this message against Clinton over the following 11 days, and also his supporters would certainly respond through "lock her up" chants. "She"ll be under investigation for years. She"ll be v trials. Our country, we need to get back to work," Trump said on Nov. 4 in brand-new Hampshire.

"If she to be to win this election, it would certainly create an extraordinary constitutional crisis. In the situation, we could really well have actually a sitting president under felony indictment and also ultimately a criminal trial," he stated the next day in Nevada.

That ended up being Trump’s closing dispute — Watergate, unlimited investigations, criminal activities and an inability to govern.

Of course, what voters didn’t recognize until ~ the election: The FBI, for months, had been investigate the trumped campaign’s ties through Russia.

Oct. 31: "FBI searches emails!"

RealClearPolitics national polling average: Clinton +3.1 percent/FiveThirtyEight forecast: Clinton 75.2 percent possibility to win

On October 31, 3 days ~ the FBI director’s letter come Congress, Comey continued to dominate headlines and evening newscasts.

"Clinton works to save Trump and also Emails at Bay," said The brand-new York Times"Get all set for four more years that Clinton scandals," was the headline because that conservative columnist Marc Thiessen in The Washington Post"Is brand-new scandal as with the old scandals? Controversies haven"t swayed voters lot in the Clinton-Trump race. Email inquiry is the latest test," The Los Angeles times said"Email testimonial Underway," was the lead story ~ above NBC’s "Nightly News""FBI Searches Emails," to be the optimal news the night ~ above ABC"FBI Investigation," stated CBS

Nearly half of the lead story on the three broadcast network"s evening newscasts indigenous Oct. 28 come Nov. 7 were about Clinton’s emails.

Nine month after the election, height officials who worked for both the Clinton and also Trump campaigns think Comey’s treatment — and its after-effects — affected the race.

Multiple trumped aides claimed they got ground ~ above Clinton after the 3rd presidential dispute when the GOP nominee focused on abortion and also the supreme Court, bringing conservative voters ago into the fold. They likewise said lock benefited native news stories about rising Obamacare premiums and also a sharper campaign message from Trump himself.

Comey, castle said, included to a snowball that was already moving under the mountainside.

"It definitely had one effect," claimed Matt Oczkowski, who directed Trump’s analysis team. "Comey brought these voters out that the woodwork. Human being had a reason to vote against Clinton."

Conway, Trump’s campaign manager, had a slightly various take.

"The Comey letter may have actually been mildly helpful, but it walk not result in 306 electoral votes," she said. "That was baked in the cake previously on."

"We experienced was stuck in neutral, her floor and also ceiling to be dangerously close with each other in these an essential states" — then-Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway.

But the Clinton camp to trust Comey’s intervention was much more significant.

"In the last 2 weeks, it to be the just jolt to the system that occurred," said Oren Shur, the Clinton campaign’s director of payment media. "We well-known at the time that it to be impactful. Us didn’t identify at the time that it to be determinative."

Elections number-cruncher Nate silver- of the website FiveThirtyEight agrees.

"At a maximum, it might have change the race by 3 or 4 percentage points towards Donald Trump, swinging Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Florida come him," silver wrote. "At a minimum, its impact might have been just a percentage point or so. Still, due to the fact that Clinton lost Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin by less than 1 point, the letter was probably enough to readjust the result of the Electoral College."

The new York Times’ Nate Cohn has actually been more skeptical the Comey’s announcement expense Clinton the election, stating that she poll numbers had actually been declining prior to Oct. 28: "t’s now clear the Mrs. Clinton to be weaker heading into Oct. 28 보다 was understood at the time. Several other polls were carried out over the same duration that proved Mr. Trump card gaining easily on Mrs. Clinton in the days front of the Comey letter."

In May, the American Association because that Public Opinion research concluded the the proof Comey tipped the choice to trumped is, at best, mixed. "he Comey letter had actually an immediate, negative impact because that Clinton ~ above the bespeak of 2 percentage points. The apparent affect did not last, as assistance for Clinton tended to mite up in the days just prior to the election," the combination wrote.

But the means Clinton and her top project officials check out it, a various president would certainly be sitting in the Oval Office had the race finished two main earlier.

"If the election had actually been top top Oct. 27, I would be your president," Clinton said last spring.

Nov. 2: "Stay top top point, Donald. Stay on point"

RealClearPolitics nationwide polling average: Clinton +1.7 percent/FiveThirtyEight forecast: Clinton 67.7 percent chance to win

Comey no the only surprise that the last two main of the campaign. The various other was how Trump, uncharacteristically, remained on message.

He was no much longer attacking former Miss cosmos Alicia Machado, criticizing a Mexican-American judge, or asking: "Russia, if you"re listening, ns hope you"re may be to find the 30,000 emails that space missing" — which he had said in what turned out to it is in his final news conference that the campaign, ~ above July 27.

"He was remarkably disciplined under the residence stretch. You could tell there was a light that went ~ above — that we’re going to victory this thing" — a top Trump campaign communications official.

"We are going to victory the White House, gonna success it," Trump said in Pensacola, Florida, on Nov. 2. "Just —we"ve gotta it is in nice and also cool, nice and also cool. Right? stay on point, Donald, stay on point. No sidetracks, Donald. Nice and also easy."

Indeed, trump card fired off 138 tweets and retweets in the final 12 job of the contest, and also none were controversial — which allowed his project to save the focus on Clinton, and also away indigenous its candidate.

Meanwhile, top top the exact same day trump card was informing himself come "stay ~ above point" in Florida, Clinton make that project stop in Arizona.

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton the town hall the World series baseball game in between the Chicago Cub and also the Cleveland ind after she final campaign rally of the day in ~ Arizona State university in Tempe, Ariz., Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2016.Andrew Harnik / AP

"This state is in play for the an initial time in years. Arizona has actually only voted because that a Democrat because that president once because 1948, and that to be my husband in 1996," she told 15,000 voters in Tempe.

In fact, lot of Clinton project officials claimed in post-election interviews the the Arizona pilgrimage was to plan to regain a sense of inert after the final conflict on Oct. 19, no as a genuine play to victory the state.

Clinton project officials were likewise thinking around proposing a fourth presidential debate, and also they had even floated the news the Clinton to be considering Vice chairman Joe Biden together her secretary the state — anything to change the subject.

"What had came to me greatly after the third debate to be being in ~ sea. No moorings, no bearings, nothing to anchor yourself. The hazard zone for united state was always when there was nothing rather going on in the race," stated Jennifer Palmieri, the Clinton campaign"s communications director.

"Can the actual choice come fast enough?" Palmieri stated in summing up she feelings about the campaign’s final two weeks.

Nov. 3: A sigh the relief, or were the polls wrong?

RealClearPolitics national polling average: Clinton +1.3 percent/FiveThirtyEight forecast: Clinton 66.2 percent come win

The same day Clinton traveled to Arizona and Trump was urging himself to "stay top top point," nail-biting Democrats acquired some great news native public polls in key battlegrounds take away during and after Comey’s seismic announcement.

A trio that polls had actually Clinton increase 4-5 clues in Pennsylvania. She also was narrowly ahead in Florida and also North Carolina, return those surveys were fine within the margin the error. The gold-standard poll in Wisconsin proved Clinton leading Trump by 6 clues in the state.

As NBC’s very first Read break up on Nov. 3, "Team Clinton breathes sigh the relief, but they"re no in the clear yet."

Clinton would go top top to lose all four of those states on election Day.

The national polls, the turned out, were reasonably accurate: The final RealClearPolitics average had actually Clinton front by 3 points. And also she finished up winning the national popular vote by 2 points, 48 percent to 46 percent, or virtually 3 million votes.

But the state polls were a various story, and also it wasn’t just the publicly data. Clinton’s internal polling had actually her increase by about 6 clues in Wisconsin at the finish of the election. Interior Trump numbers likewise showed Clinton ahead in the state, although by a smaller margin.

And the Republican nationwide Committee to be sharing numbers v reporters that had Clinton top in Florida.

"Everyone’s data was wrong — in the very same direction — and also that created a typical wisdom that was off," said Nayak that the Clinton campaign.

Nov. 4: "Boy, i love reading WikiLeaks"

RealClearPolitics nationwide polling average: Clinton +1.6 pecent/FiveThirtyEight forecast: Clinton 64.5 percent opportunity to win

Another significant plot in the presidential gyeongju was Russia’s alleged treatment in the contest — a story that continues to open today.

Less attention, however, has actually been payment to exactly how Trump and his team seized on that Russian meddling, which the U.S. Intelligence neighborhood says contained the hacking of Clinton campaign chair man Podesta’s emails — and their release via WikiLeaks.


The revelations from Podesta"s emails — including excerpts the Clinton’s paid speech to Goldman Sachs, advisers’ candid criticisms of their candidate and a memo ~ above "Bill Clinton Inc." — all fueled an unfavorable headlines. And also Trump pounced:

Oct. 31 in Warren, Mich.: "Did you see where, ~ above WikiLeaks, it was announced that they were paying protesters to be violent, $1,500?... Did friend see an additional one, an additional one came in today? This WikiLeaks is prefer a sweetheart trove"Nov. 2 in Orlando, Fla.: "WikiLeaks simply came out with a brand-new one, just a little a if ago, it"s simply been presented that a rigged mechanism with much more collusion, probably illegal, in between the room of Justice, the Clinton campaign and the State Department"Nov. 4 in Wilmington, Ohio: "Boy, ns love analysis those WikiLeaks"

NBC News count 145 mentions that WikiLeaks by trumped in the last month of the race.

Beyond the headlines and also attacks indigenous the stump that they produced, the WikiLeaks revelations pains Clinton due to the fact that voters can not tell the difference in between them and the longstanding controversy surrounding Clinton’s own emails, according to top project officials.

"People conflated WikiLeaks v Hillary’s emails," said Palmieri, Clinton’s communications director.

"Benghazi, Comey, WikiLeaks all sounded choose the very same thing come voters," included Robby Mook, the project manager.

(Both Russia and WikiLeaks have actually denied that Russia was behind the 2016 hacks and also email revelations.)

Nov. 6: "It"s a completely rigged system"

RealClearPolitics nationwide polling average: Clinton +1.8 percent/FiveThirtyEight forecast: Clinton 64.9 percent chance to win

Comey no finished make news in the last two main of the election. And also once again, it to be Chaffetz who broke it first.

"FBI Dir just notified us "Based on our review, we have actually not readjusted our conclusions that us expressed in July with respect to Sec Clinton,"" Chaffetz tweeted about the second letter Comey had actually sent come Congress.

Part that a Nov. 6, 2016, letter indigenous FBI manager James Comey to Congress.Jon Elswick / AP

In various other words, the FBI’s investigation into those extr emails didn’t uncover something new. Nearly every one of them were duplicates the emails the company had already seen.

Trump railed against Comey"s 2nd letter, and also he supplied it come re-litigate the conflict over Clinton"s emails, telling voters the was now up come them "to deliver justice" on election Day since no one else would.

"Right now, she is being safeguarded by a rigged system. It"s a totally rigged system," Trump claimed in Michigan.

"Hillary Clinton is guilty. She to know it. The FBI to know it. The people know it. And now it"s approximately the American world to supply justice in ~ the ballot box on Nov. 8th," trump card added.

For the Clinton campaign, Comey’s 2nd letter showed up to be great news — the looked choose Clinton remained in the clear of any wrongdoing.


NOV. 6: Trump calls on voter to 'Deliver Justice' after Comey's second Letter

Aug. 18, 201701:05
But month later, height officials believe the second letter only revived the email story 2 days before the election.

"At best, that hurt as much as that helped," said the Clinton campaign’s Shur. "It just brought it every up again," Palmieri added.

On may 3, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., asked Comey at a Senate listening why he made the Oct. 28 notice in the an initial place, especially given present Justice department guidelines versus interfering in upcoming elections.

Comey replied that he challenged two options: One, speak around the newly found emails. Or two, conceal them.

"Speak would certainly be really bad. There"s an choice in 11 days. Lordy, that would certainly be really bad," that told Feinstein. "Concealing in my see would it is in catastrophic, not simply to the FBI, however well beyond. And also honestly, as between really bad and also catastrophic, I stated to mine team we"ve gotto walk right into the civilization of yes, really bad. I"ve got to tell Congress that we"re restarting this."

He added, "It makes me mildly nauseous to think the we could have had some influence on the election. But honestly, the wouldn"t readjust the decision."

Comey was fired six days after the testimony.

Nov. 8: election Day

RealClearPolitics nationwide polling average: Clinton +3.2 percent/FiveThirtyEight forecast: Clinton 71.4 percent opportunity to win

Despite the jarring events of the last two weeks, all indicators still pointed to a Clinton victory. The early-vote number from Florida and also Nevada looked an excellent for the campaign. And the last national polls — native NBC News/Wall Street Journal, ABC/Washington Post, CBS and Bloomberg — boosted Clinton’s lead in the RealClear average above three points.

But trumped clobbered Clinton in the poll on November 8, specifically in an essential battleground states, as contrasted with the beforehand voting.

Take Florida, because that example: nearly 70 percent the votes were actors in the state before Election Day, and Clinton appreciated an estimated 4-point lead end Trump — around 240,000 votes.

Voters line approximately vote early at the supervisor of elections office on October 24, 2016 in Bradenton, Florida.Joe Raedle / Getty Images

" won choice Day by 13 points," said democratic strategist Steve Schale, who closely examined Florida’s early-vote numbers.

According come the exit poll data, Trump winner those who claimed they made decision their vote in the critical week by 11 clues in Michigan, 17 clues in Pennsylvania and Florida, and a lining 29 clues in Wisconsin. (By contrast, Clinton winner the so late deciders in Virginia — a state she lugged by 5 points.)

From the Trump team perspective, the last 12 days of the campaign allowed them to traction off maybe the best political upset in American history.

The Trump analytics data that showed him with only a 15 percent possibility of to win on Oct. 27 was up to a 35 percent chance by election Day — and that to be assuming Trump wasn’t going to victory Florida.

"We still no think he was going to it is in the definitive winner," said Oczkowski. "But 35 percent is in ~ striking distance."

But for the Clinton campaign, the last 12 days — Comey, WikiLeaks, a much more disciplined Trump and also drubbing in an essential battlegrounds on choice Day — represented their worst two-week stretch that the general election.

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"Campaigns have been told because that years to suppose the unexpected. But in this choice we needed to suppose the unbelievable, and we didn"t," claimed Jesse Ferguson, the Clinton campaign’s deputy national press secretary and an elderly spokesperson.

"A the majority of things came together to develop what happened," Mook, Clinton’s campaign manager, called NBC News. "We had actually a bunch of black color swans that converged top top us."