Hillary Clinton has stumbled, verbally and physically, in the past few days. Her abuse of Trump supporters, or "half" of them, as a "basket of deplorables", was a lapse of political judgment that forced her to make an abject apology. Then yesterday illness struck at a 9/11 anniversary event in New York and she seemed to collapse as aids helped her into her car. Her verbal gaffe might pale by comparison with Donald Trump's frequent remarks on a scale of offence, but people expect better of Clinton.
Her uncharacteristic loss of self-control, coupled with the physical evidence yesterday, suggests the stress of the campaign is becoming too much. She is seeing her substantial post-conventions poll lead dwindle to nothing despite Trump's continuing troubles. Just a week or so ago his rhetoric was becoming so excessive it sounded like he was no longer campaigning seriously. But yesterday he restrained himself from making any immediate comment on his rival's health, a subject he raised weeks ago and was scorned for it.
Clinton will turn 69 next month, Trump is 70. Both are old to be running for President. The state of their health is a legitimate consideration for American voters. Trump has provided a medical report which sounds more like his language than any doctor's but Clinton has now given the voters more cause to wonder.
She needs to be completely candid on the subject in the days ahead and give Americans no further reason to wonder whether she can handle the stress. Gruelling as America's presidential campaigns always are, they are testing candidates for an office that carries immense and terrible responsibilities. Incumbents age visibly in a short time.
For one of the candidates this year the campaign is more than the usually demanding. Clinton shares the view of many in America, including many in the Republican Party, that its nomination has been captured by a candidate who is temperamentally unfit to be President. Trump has never held an elective office. He appears to have no sense of the dignity and the demands of the presidency. She is campaigning not just to preserve and advance a set of policies or for a party, but for Americans' pride in the image their country presents to the world.
That just makes her mistake worse. Her campaign ought to be a complete contrast to Trump's in style and substance. The former First Lady should have heeded the words of a successor, Michelle Obama, at the Democratic Convention: "When they take the low road, we take the high road." Clinton had a 10-point poll lead after that convention and her speeches thereafter should have exuded calm and high-minded purpose. But she seems incapable of speaking in the steady, well modulated voice she needs to project her competence and experience.
She is not a personality Americans have taken to their hearts. She appeared to have made more enemies than the average politician before she became a politician in her own right. Americans who prefer her to Trump do not think highly of the choice they have been given this year. She is not making it easier for them.