This is turning out to be the presidential race many wish had not occurred. The most talked about issue seems to be the unfavorable ratings of the two principal candidates rather than which one can do the most to better the human condition.

Neither Hillary Clinton nor Donald Trump can take much comfort from the non-stop reportage of the unhappiness with their candidacies that has become its own story line notwithstanding efforts in both camps to move the needle.

Since Trump began his quixotic venture having been largely dismissed as a viable threat his staying power has only magnified the impression that we are witnessing a transformative election.

Transformation Trump-style may have very short-term appeal if the con job he is peddling with considerable success mutates from glossy real estate holdings into occupancy of the most important residence in the free world.

That does not augur well for the Democrats, dissatisfied Independents and a hefty segment of Republicans as well who have equal reason to fear a Republic of Trump.

It also threatens average working people, disheartened millennials, immigrants, the poor, minority groups, enterprising women, the disabled and the leaders of many of our allied nations who put great stock in who we choose to lead us.

In a trip to Scandinavia this past month where our group was addressed by former members of Parliament in Sweden, Norway and Denmark, and other political experts, the question asked most frequently was, “how can this be happening in America?”

Brexit, European Union turmoil, the refugee crisis, financial woes, predatory moves by Russia, even the danger of rising oceans takes second seat to what’s happening across the Atlantic.

Yet, short of a dramatic pendulum swing in the next few weeks in voter perceptions which is a key ingredient in every political contest when there is no incumbent running and no overwhelming favorite, this race will go down to the wire as too close to call.

So are there factors which could alter that outlook in the closing days of the race?

One has to do with the personalities of the two combatants where there may not be much room for change.

A second and related factor will be the degree to which Clinton and Trump can reduce the immense distrust important voter segments harbor for both candidates which has exceeded record levels.

There is little mystery in how Clinton could end up the winner.  She must reconstruct the same coalition of supporters that propelled Barack Obama to victory both in in 2008 and 2012. Not so easily done.

The problem is several-fold: That coalition has fragmented because of what might be dubbed YGXIT—the abandonment of the traditional Democratic Party by the newly-empowered youth generation—the so-called Millennials born between the late 1970s and l990—whose millions of votes or their failure to show up could be decisive.

Obama carried 67 percent and 60 percent of the youth votes respectively in his two races. According to the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll, Clinton is winning this group by only 44 percent with 20 percent supporting Trump.

But that misses the point. She is not Obama and channeling his unique set of talents is not within her capability.

Nor can an illustrious array of surrogates who have now been dispatched to the campaign trail be able to alter the electoral math without help.

These include Obama, himself; Bill Clinton, her still popular and presidentially trained husband; First Lady, Michelle Obama; Vice President Joe Biden, and her vanquished but still relevant primary opponent, Bernie Sanders.

Even with their efforts, Clinton may need to win this pretty much on her own.

Ironically the advantages which served the current president’s spectacular rise are having a converse effect for Clinton.

Obama, despite his identity as the first black man in history to make a serious run at the presidency, managed to overcome other doubts about his qualifications in part because his scant public record, first as an Illinois state legislator and then briefly as a U.S. Senator offered little fodder for attack.

Without any glaring vulnerabilities or noticeable faults his unfamiliarity to the general public and his freshness turned out to be a source of great strength.

Clinton, a seasoned politician with vast governmental experience who has been at the center of controversy for decades and lacks such insulation is being put through a crucible to which arguably no presidential candidate in modern times—and certainly no man—-has been subjected. And it may be taking its toll.

Trump whose record of public service is non-existent continues to flourish in the garish limelight that has been afforded him by the TV nets, the voracious social media and the influential conservative cable news channels whose bank accounts swell every time he goes before the cameras.

Trump, who would be laughed off most high school quiz shows given his contempt for the truth, cannot be tripped up by facts because he considers them meaningless.

This is not an imagery coveted by aspirants to much lesser offices let alone the Oval one. Trump revels in it and the media has been overly cooperative to this media-savvy candidate.

Clinton is realizing that she has her own imagery problems as was evident in her talk before Temple University students the other day when she said, “Even if you’re totally opposed to Donald Trump, you may still have some questions about me,” she said. “I get that. And I want to do my best to answer those questions.”

While Clinton was alluding to the chasm between her stated views and generally progressive legislative record with those of the new age voters who are demanding more, her speaking style which can be strident, preaching, off-putting  and sometimes haughty is troubling even for her supporters.

What if anything can be done to tame those impulses in the short time remaining before November?

Imagery alterations (nothing novel in politics) even require more than quick touch-ups and they may not fully obscure all the blemishes accumulated over half a lifetime in the public eye.

However they pale in comparison to what seems to be a severe personality disorder in her outlandish opponent which could render him not merely unfit but a profoundly dangerous choice to lead the nation.

The distrust factor is more complicated and perhaps less remediable because it involves actions, statements and events that cannot be rescinded which is just fine with Trump.

Mud wrestling with the press or some other target of his wrath is a good day for Trump who is seemingly immunized from attack by his followers for his outrageous declarations and blatant misstatements and would have it no other way.

Clinton on the other hand has found herself repeatedly in the confessional chair being forced to atone for alleged lies about email server abuses that continue to dog her albeit with no evidence of national security breaches according to the FBI; and for allegedly favorable treatment accorded Clinton Foundation donors — a routine practice with members of Congress.

Since these allegations show no signs of going away her best gambit would seem to be redirecting the conversation with positive messages that will rally her base, sway the doubters still sitting on the sidelines and maintain her dwindling lead in the crucial battleground states.

She must resist the intense urge to bring Trump down to size by belittling his followers with misguided comments about his “bucket of deplorables,” and instead focus on raising her own stature among those essential for victory and by exposing his utter unfitness for the job.

The upcoming debate will give her an opportunity to do so before a now fully engaged national audience looking for presidential readiness and if she can exercise the necessary forbearance to stay out of the swamp where Trump will most certainly try to take her.