Is the presidential race entering a new dimension?

The new normal is far from normal

There is a distinct clicking and burbling across the land just now, and you can be forgiven for mistaking the odd vibrations for the extra-dimensional monster from Netflix’s “Stranger Things.”

Instead, it just might be the noise a presidential campaign issues as it begins to shift course — which, in the case of Donald Trump vs. Hillary Clinton, is no less extraordinary than being stalked by an 8-foot ambulatory Venus flytrap in your living room.

A 6

After all, with a well-received Democratic National Convention and a series of Trump miscues combining to give Clinton an August bounce that acted like it was strapped to a Saturn V booster, this one already looked over.

Even before the dog days were over, most of the GOP, feeling more morose than at any time since the choice devolved to the improbable Donald and the unlikeable Ted Cruz, thought there was nothing left but to project how many seats they’d have to win in 2018 to take back the Senate. (Probably three, but possibly seven.)

But that was before the non-shakeup shakeup of the Trump campaign hierarchy (in which the addition of deposed Fox News chief Roger Ailes might prove to be the difference-making Svengali) led to a steady drumbeat of on-target messaging by the candidate.

And, by the way, guess who was the first major political figure to personally witness the devastation in Baton Rouge. C’mon, guess.

Hint No. 1: It wasn’t the future president who in 2008 scolded President Bush for steering clear of Katrina-ravaged New Orleans.

Hint No. 2: Neither was it the current Democrat nominee who, after complaining in 2008 about Bush’s flyover, issued a statement that said she’d get around to Baton Rouge when she gets around to it.

A 2

It was also before problematic new shoes began thudding around Herself: The Clinton Foundation declares it will no longer accept foreign donations if — if! — Hillary wins the presidency. Not only did this announcement effectively launch at least the perception of a three-month last-chance-to-get-your-bribes-in fire sale, it also triggered a salient observation from National Review Online’s Jim Geraghty:

“There’s no way to put new limits on the Clinton Foundation’s voracious donation system without admitting the old ones were ethically insufficient.”

Can I get a “Duh!”?

We’re already learning, because of persistent pressure from conservative watchdog Judicial Watch, just how problematic the old “limits” were. Some 15,000 fresh documents discovered by the FBI have been turned over to the State Department, and even though we won’t begin to see all of them until October, on the threshold of early voting — you have to give them credit; once again, by stonewalling and delay, the Clintons might be able to pay out the clock — we’re seeing what many suspected all along:

A cozy, mutual washing-of-backs relationship existed between the State Department under Clinton and big donors to the foundation bearing her family’s name.

Wait. Back up. There’s new stuff? How can there be new stuff when Hillary told us she’d long ago turned over all work-related email?

Listen, if you have to ask, you don’t get the Clintons.

Speaking of Judicial Watch, Hillary managed to wriggle out of an in-person deposition, but she still has to answer written questions about why she set up a private server. We can’t wait to see, having been publicly rebuffed, if she once again tries dragging predecessor Colin Powell, still one of the most trusted men in America, down into her smarmy swamp.

More? Of course more. These are the Clintons we’re talking about, and for them there never is an end to the pattern of corruption, conniving and double-dealing. Where one rabbit trail ends, another begins. As usual, they’re simply counting on the details to be too complicated to trigger a glazed-eyes reaction in a critical mass of voters.

So, Congress took possession of materials from the FBI’s investigation into the unprotected server that includes emails so sensitive Jason Chaffetz, chairman of the House Oversight Committee, can’t read them. What’ll you bet over at WikiLeaks Julian Assange already has?

A 7

And over the weekend we learned Huma Abedin, Clinton’s top campaign aide and her likely White House chief of staff, edited for a dozen years a radical Muslim magazine that actively opposed women’s rights and blamed U.S. policies for the attacks of 9/11.

Did the State Department know? An agency spokesman was cagy. She was “thoroughly vetted,” he said. Which means either the red flags went up, but nobody cared — because Hillary wanted her and had already lost Sidney Blumenthal — or they missed it. Neither choice provides much comfort.

And you wonder why Hilllary doesn’t do press conferences (none — zero — in 2016), and submits only to rigidly structured interviews.

All the while, Hillary has been hopscotching across New England and the Left Coast, attending fundraisers in the homes of the top hoity-toity percent where a five-figure donation is the price of admission.

But suppose Trump keeps laying the coherent predicate for conservative proposals that would strengthen the economy, expand job creation, boost wages, reach out to minorities, address rationally our immigration woes and strengthen the United States internationally?

I know. I hear myself. Suppose Donald Trump runs as Marco Rubio … only with a Mr. Hyde Twitter habit.

Still, given the campaigns’ current trajectories, would it be out of the question to emerge from Labor Day weekend, as the unpronounceable GOP chief Reince Priebus predicts, with the race in a dead heat?

Stranger things have happened. Stranger things, indeed.


Veteran journalist and center-right blogger Tom Jackson has worked for newspapers in Washington D.C., Sacramento, Calif., and Tampa, Fla., racking up state and national awards for writing, editing and design along the way. Tom also has been published in assorted sports magazines, and his work has been included in several annual “Best Sports Stories” collections. A University of Florida alumnus, St. Louis Cardinals fan and eager-if-haphazard golfer, Tom splits time between Tampa and Cashiers, N.C., with his wife, two children and a couple of yappy dogs.