It makes sense not to issue presidential pardons and commutations before Election Day - it could hurt your party’s candidate (Clinton could have hurt Gore in 2000, Obama could have hurt Hillary in 2016,) but once Election Day is over, why not get busy with the pen right away?
Why did Clinton and Obama wait until the last 24 hours of their presidency to start doing so?
It won’t hurt the president’s party’s candidate in the election because the election is over months before the outgoing president leaves office. Presidents can avoid dealing with the controversy about some pardons by waiting until the end of their term. What the president does on his last day in office is rarely even noticed because all the news is about the inauguration of the new president.
Some notice for the large number of pardons on one day, but most of the noise was about the controversial pardon of a guy named Marc Rich, although there were others that got notice. A number of his earlier pardons also drew attention because they involved family relationships and friends. On top of that he already had a reputation as big pardoner compared to Bush who came before him, although not all that many compared to Reagan and Carter. There must have been a lot of anticipation by the media that there would be additional pardons before he left office and with that large number the media had a feeding frenzy. If he had stretched those pardons out over 70 days it would have been a news item every one of those 70 days, even for non-controversial pardons. I don’t know if it was the best approach for him, but I’ll bet he crunched all the numbers before making the decision to go that route.
I doubt it. A Presidential pardon is almost always newsworthy.
There’s a fixed amount of news bandwidth in papers/news channels/website front pages. Being a part of that for 70 days in a row is a lot more coverage than whatever blitz might happen for one day. This is basic political media management. When you have bad/unpopular things to do, do 'em all at once. Don’t let them drag out.
Why do you think Trump pardoned Arpaio right before a hurricane hit Houston? Because the news will be focused elsewhere, and by the time Houston is no longer exciting news, the pardon will be “old news”.