Exactly, 15 days to the day when Americans will choose their leader; more truths about the chances of Donald Trump of the Republican Party and Hillary Clinton of the Democratic Party have been emerging.
The last debate between Clinton and Trump has gradually shown where the pendulum of victory may swing. While Trump called Clinton a ‘nasty woman’, Clinton also argued in the recent debate that Trump’s refusal to say whether he would accept election result is a subtle means of undermining the US democracy.
This year’s election determines the 45th President and 48th Vice President of the United States of America. The presidential election scheduled for Tuesday, November 8, this year will be the 58th quadrennial U.S. presidential election.
Series of presidential primary elections and caucuses took place between February and June this year, staggered among the 50 states, the District of Columbia and U.S. territories. This nominating process is also an indirect election, where voters cast ballots for a slate of delegates to a political party’s nominating convention, who in turn elect their party’s presidential nominee.
Businessman and reality television personality, Donald Trump, emerged as the Republican Party’s presidential nominee on July 19, 2016, after defeating U.S. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, Governor of Ohio, John Kasich; U.S. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida and other candidates in the Republican primary elections.
If elected, Trump would become the oldest president to take office. Former Secretary of State and U.S. Senator from New York, Hillary Clinton became the Democratic Party›s presidential nominee on July 26, 2016, after defeating U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont. Clinton is the first female presidential candidate nominated by a major political party.
Various third party and independent presidential candidates are also running in the election. Only one third party candidate, Libertarian Party nominee and former Governor of New Mexico, Gary Johnson, has ballot access in all 50 states. Green Party nominee and former physician, Jill Stein, has ballot access in enough states to win the Electoral College. Johnson and Stein (who also ran as their parties’ presidential nominees in the 2012 election) have appeared in major national polls. At least 24 other third-party candidates and independents will appear on the ballot in at least some states.
Just as the Republican presidential nominee, Donald Trump urges his supporters to be vigilant against widespread voter fraud and a rigged election outcome, The New Diplomat profiles the strengths and weaknesses of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton ahead of the November 8….
Fighter: Clinton, once again, has proved to be a formidable political fighter. She does not give in easily and can fight hard in adversity. During her encounters with Bernie Sanders and the congressional hearings into Benghazi, she proved that she could hold her own when confronted by political opponents who question every word that she uttered. Aside from the debates, she has proven to be a public official who can absorb blows and still maintain her standing in the polls and attract votes. Her blistering speech last week warning about the dangers the nation and the world would face if Trump had access to nuclear weapons painted her opponent in a devastating light goading him into an angry response that seemed only to confirm her warnings.
Coalition builder: With the voting results in many primary states, Clinton also demonstrated the ability to build broad electoral coalitions in different parts of the country, something that will be pivotal in the swing states during the general election. This has been the key to her success against Sanders, who often had trouble reaching beyond his core supporters of younger, educated and independent voters. Clinton’s appeal as a strong partisan leader has been a big attraction to different kinds of voters and she has been able to develop strong loyalties among groups such as African-American voters.
Crusader for Democratic causes: Clinton has shown that she can articulate and defend a robust Democratic domestic agenda even though she is often criticized by progressives for being too much in the centre. Over the course of the primaries, she has heard and seen the growing unrest in the Democratic electorate and the demand for a more progressive set of policies. She has been willing and capable of adapting by becoming more vocal on issues like the national minimum wage and a stronger healthcare system. While she needs to do much more work to convince many Democrats that she won’t turn away from her promises, she has done well.
She would be the first female president: This makes her candidacy truly historic. Although often dismissed as the “gender card,” the possibility that Americans could elect a female president would be one of the biggest landmarks in American political history. The decision would mark a huge step forward in a nation where women were not even allowed to vote until 1920 and where gender inequality and sexism remains part of the national culture.
Ties to Democratic power centres: Clinton has developed strong relations with Democratic elected officials and candidates whom she is helping in Senate and House races. This is an important asset. Often dismissed by her opponents as representing ties to the “establishment,” these connections will be instrumental to ensuring the best possible relations with Congress if Clinton is elected. Rather than shy away, she needs to make this part of her campaign case.
Can she be trusted? The most essential problem Clinton faces has to do with trust. Some of the problems have to do with the legacy of her husband, who some Democrats felt betrayed them in the 1990s on issues like NAFTA and welfare reform. Yet Clinton has contributed to her low ranking for trustworthiness with the unusual way she handled her email as Secretary of State, by setting up a private computer server outside the official system.
Hiding stuff: For all her savvy, Clinton has shown a tendency to hide information rather than take the risk of being more open. This was evident in the way she handled the email controversy by giving a variety of different explanations and in her refusal to show Americans what she said in the infamous Goldman Sachs speeches. The perception of covering up the facts, even more than the alleged wrongdoing, has continued to create ongoing controversy and questions. Moreover, the FBI investigation into Clinton’s handling of email is ongoing and it could adversely affect her reputation, even if the probe ends without charges being filed.
Hillary Clinton, hawk or dove?
Where’s the vision? A key weakness comes down to what former President George H.W. Bush once called the “vision thing.” To be sure, the vision thing is often exaggerated. Candidates can sometimes avoid grandiose mission statements and do quite well. But at some level, the winners in American history have inspired people to get behind their visions. This was certainly the case with Barack Obama, who drew millions into a campaign that promised to fundamentally change the course of policy and politics that had been undertaken by President George W. Bush, and with President Ronald Reagan when he called for a new era after the broken promises of the 1960s and 1970s. Trump has benefited from a concise slogan -, Make America Great Again – while Clinton has struggled to come up with an enduring rationale for her candidacy.
Not a natural campaigner: Clinton has struggled to match the enthusiasm Trump has evoked on the campaign trail and has even admitted that campaigning is not her strength, in contrast to Bill Clinton.
Master of the media: If there is one strength that stands him out among others, it has to do with the media. Despite the current talks about how he mishandled women in the past, blasting reporters in a recent press conference, Trump has proven that he has a crafty feel for the way the modern news media and social media work, and has the capacity to shape and direct conversations in the direction that he wants. He has a creepy ability to make statements that will dominate news discussion for days and has a feel for the arguments that will capture attention. Though he recently apologized that his reaction to women he had come in contact with doesn’t represent his person.
Turning flip-flops into a positive: He has also learned to use the flip-flop to his advantage. Whereas many politicians, like Massachusetts; John Kerry in 2004, have been greatly damaged by taking different sides of the same position, Trump often gets away with it. He says many different things, providing a little bit for many to agree with. He refuses to get pinned down when questioned about these inconsistencies. He has argued that flexibility is a positive, particularly in a president who needs to negotiate with Congress and leaders overseas.
Willing to break the mold: Trump fearlessly advocates unorthodox views. In an era when many politicians, including Clinton, instinctively back away from any statement that defies the standard party line, Trump seems willing to do so with reckless panache and it has so far worked for him. He has made a number of arguments, such as staunchly defending Social Security and offering words of praise to Planned Parenthood, that would have doomed most Republican presidential contenders in years past. Given that voters think so little of the status quo, he has found more leeway by just being different from the politicians they heard in earlier years.
Speaks to alienated voters: He knows how to speak to the anger in the electorate. Like others who have come before him, for example, George Wallace in 1968, he has a strong feel for the anger in the electorate and knows how to tap into this and is not shy about doing so. He is willing to say the things that some voters want to hear, even if there are potential risks in doing so, and he can connect with that anger in a way that has proven difficult for others. He doesn’t seem to have any boundaries as to what kinds of rhetoric he is willing to use, as has been evident with his words about immigrants.
Being an outsider at a moment people detest ‘The System’: This is one way Trump can use his inexperience and distance from Washington to his advantage. At a moment when many voters don’t trust anything in Washington, he can claim that he is not part of this city.
*Flirting with extremism: Repeatedly, Trump has made statements that demonstrate his willingness to court dangerous extremists in the electorate. He played word games when Jake Tapper questioned him about condemning the KKK. He has made statements about immigrants, women, and Muslims that play directly to some of the most nativist, sexist and xenophobic parts of the electorate. His comments about Judge Gonzalo Curiel as well as his doubts that a Muslim judge could fairly decide the case, even led his more enthusiastic supporters, like Newt Gingrich, to dissociate themselves from such racist claims. On race and ethnicity, Trump has always been a divider.
Unpredictable, erratic and angry: Trump is unpredictable, he is erratic and it is unknown how or what he would do if he was in the White House. This means, at some level, he is a big risk. This gives Democrats a significant opening to play into the doubts of the electorate.
His hair-trigger temper has popped up several times, providing an unsettling image of what he would be like as the nation’s commander-in-chief. It also raises questions as has been the case in his attacks on the judge handling the Trump University case, about whether he will be willing to work within the boundaries of the Constitution.
* Lukewarm support from GOP establishment:
Trump has been unable to win enthusiastic support from many in the GOP. While the Never Trump movement was paper thin and didn’t last, much of the support from Republicans remains lukewarm, a grudging acceptance that he is the only choice that Republicans will have. He will need the support of around 90% to 95% of the Republican electorate to win. He will also need high levels of voter turnout and strong ground mobilization to win in swing states, all of which remain in doubt at this time.
* Controversy galore:
He is saddled with an enormous amount of controversy and scandal, not all of which has surfaced. Just in recent weeks, the discussions about Trump University and ongoing questions about why he won’t release his tax returns, as well as alleged connections to organized crime, along with the many comments that can be dug up about his personal life, will remain a vulnerability. The best news for him is that the Clinton controversies of the past 25 years can cancel some of this out or at least neutralize it in the final vote. But there is a long history of controversy involving Trump and further scrutiny by the media could raise new doubts among voters.
*Weak knowledge of policy issues:
During the primaries, Trump has often shown a very thin grasp of some basic policy issues. Sometimes, it quickly became evident that statements he made to a certain area of policy were just wrong. And while it is true that he has been able to win the nomination anyway, ignorance can hurt when he faces off against Clinton, one of the smartest and most experienced people in the political realm. He has made baffling statements about allowing Japan and South Korea to have nuclear weapons to deter North Korea, he was stumped by a question about the nuclear triad and was confused by a question about “Brexit”.
* Unholy Romance with Women
Trump has been reportedly assaulting different women that have come in contact with him. Though he has denied several allegations at different forums, the witnesses have been coming up with facts on how they were allegedly assaulted. As at the time of filing this reports, no fewer than nine women have come up with facts confirming Trump had assaulted them at one time or the other.
These strengths and weaknesses are likely to drive the dynamic of the general election, even though it’s likely that new issues will arise.
To be sure, there is room for candidates to work on some of their weaknesses and bring to the forefront aspects of their candidacies that have not yet been on the table. But the basic outlines of candidates do tend to become clear in the first phase of the election.