As the two most unpopular presidential candidates prepare for their first face-off, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are haunted by ghosts of their own making. One is 'e-nailed', as a wag put it, and the other 'walled-in.'
The Democratic presidential nominee thought she was sitting pretty in the polls before her Republican rival started catching up thanks to her ever unfolding email saga.
The FBI had found her "extremely careless" in handling the nation's secrets as America's top diplomat by using an unsecured private email server in her basement.
Yet it had let her go scot-free as she told the agency 39 times that she either did not know or did not recall if she was ever told how to handle classified material.
And as the probe agency unearthed 15,000 more of her emails, an Indian-American judge asked the State Department to quickly release 30 of these related to the 2012 attack on a US mission in Benghazi, Libya.
Then emails of Huma Abedin, her long time aide of mixed Indian-Pakistani heritage, exposed what Republican rival Trump called a "pay-to-play" game of giving fat cat Clinton foundation donors fast track "access" to her.
And after declining to release all of Clinton's daily schedules before Election Day, the State Department abruptly agreed to turn them over by mid-October to the Associated Press (AP).
The news agency has previously reported that more than half of her non-official callers had donated $156 million to the family charity.
In the midst of it all, Abedin's disgraced husband Anthony Weiner was caught in a sexting scandal - sending raunchy photos and messages including one with his toddler son, to a woman supporter of Trump - for the third time in five years.
"Who knows what he learned and who he told," said Trump calling Hillary Clinton so "careless and negligent" in allowing Weiner to be so close to classified material.
But even as she railed against the influence of big money in politics, an unconcerned Clinton raised $143 million in August for Democrats and her campaign with $50,000 a plate fundraisers in celebrity homes.
Meanwhile, the Manhattan mogul blew hot and cold and hot again as he 'flip flopped' on his signature pledge to build a huge wall on the border with Mexico and boot out 11 million illegal immigrants, including an estimated 450,000 from India.
Then in a surprise bold move, Trump who has accused Mexican immigrants of "bringing drugs and crime" crossed the border for an hour long "tremendous" meeting with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto in Mexico City.
Acting very presidential on his first formal international foray, he told the media in soft tones that they had discussed trade and immigration and the wall but not who would pay for it. But as soon as he left, Nieto tweeted that Mexico wouldn't pay.
Hours later, addressing a rally of cheering supporters in Phoenix, Arizona, the billionaire again promised to build a "beautiful" "impenetrable" wall and make Mexico pay for it.
He also vowed to "break the cycle of amnesty and illegal immigration" saying those seeking legal status will have "one route only: return home and line up."
Though he did not commit to deporting every illegal immigrant, he outlined plans to create a "new special deportation task force" to track criminals and the most serious security threats saying, "Day one, my first hour in office, those people are gone."
Clinton, who has called for "comprehensive immigration reform with a path to full and equal citizenship" for the undocumented, dismissed Trump's Mexico trip as a "photo op."
And as the two rivals get ready for their first presidential debate on September 26, Clinton is said to be preparing like a seasoned lawyer with briefing books and rehearsals. But a Trump clone is hard to fund for mock debates.
Trump, on the other hand, would have none of it, according to the Washington Post. He simply meets with his advisers for Sunday chats at his New Jersey golf course testing zingers over cheeseburgers, hot dogs and sodas.
"Donald Trump is the unpredictable X-factor and Hillary Clinton is the scripted statist," - big government liberal -- Trump campaign manager Kellyane Conway was cited as saying.
But with a new poll showing most Americans viewing both Clinton (56 percent) and Trump (63 percent) unfavourably, the rival candidates are counting on those who usually sit out or are still sitting on the wall to make the difference in the battle of lessers.
(Arun Kumar can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)