Issues Cloud the Campaigns for the Top Republican and Democratic Candidates for President
Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton both have considerable baggage
Although polls show both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton ahead in their race for their parties’ nominations, both are carrying considerable negative baggage that will likely sink their campaigns in the upcoming months.
The Status of the Race Now
Although real estate billionaire Donald Trump has been dismissed as unlikely to win the nomination by most of the political establishment, he has become the top Republican challenger and polls show that he has closed to within striking distance of beating Hillary Clinton, the leading Democratic candidate for president. He is even ahead of Clinton in the critical swing state of Florida – a “must win” state if one wants to win the presidency.
Since announcing his campaign in late June, Trump has quickly leapt to the top of the Republican field, leading recent polls nationally, in early presidential selection states like Iowa and New Hampshire. However, these leads were dismissed by most political experts.
However, for the first time in a CNN poll, Trump’s gains among the Republican Party voters has boosted him enough to be competitive in the general election.
The poll finds Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton ahead of Trump by just 6 points, a dramatic tightening since July. He trailed Clinton by 16 points in a July poll, and narrowed that gap by boosting his standing among Republicans and Republican-leaning independents (from 67% support in July to 79% now), men (from 46% in July to 53% now) and white voters (from 50% to 55%).
Trump is the one of four Republican candidates who have been matched against Clinton in CNN polling who have narrowed the Democratic frontrunner’s lead to a competitive race. Clinton still leads all four Republican contenders polled, but the race is tightening. She tops Trump and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker by 6 points each among registered voters, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush by 9 points, and businesswoman Carly Fiorina by 10 points.
Clearly, this race will become more even more complicated in the coming months. In fact, there is a good chance that neither Clinton nor Trump may last until the national conventions in a year.
Those who know Donald Trump know that the brash New York billionaire knows how to attract media attention. And, this is why he is leading many Republican challengers, who have more experience.
While many Republican Candidates have moderated their criticism, Trump has addressed issues like illegal immigration, which is a serious issue for GOP voters, but is not satisfactorily addressed by many of the other candidates. The result is that many Republican voters, who feel that their interests aren’t represented in Washington, feel that Trump understands their concerns.
This is reflected in polls that show Trump is solidly in step with American voters on illegal immigration. In a Rasmussen poll, among all likely voters, 51% favor building a wall on the border; 37% disagree, and 12% are not sure. Eighty percent (80%) support the deportation of all illegal immigrants convicted of a felony; only 11% are opposed. Just 34% favor Obama’s plan to protect up to five million illegal immigrants from deportation. Most voters continue to think instead that the United States is not aggressive enough in deporting those who are here illegally.
Although Trump doesn’t have any experience in government and has many views that are different from those of the majority of Republicans, his outspoken nature, especially on illegal immigration, has endeared himself with many GOP and independent voters.
Former Speaker of the House of Representatives and 2012 Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich explained that Trump can play by his own rules because, unlike the political establishment – he’s beholden to no one because he is using his own money and doesn’t need campaign contributions. Gingrich called Trump the biggest “communicator of earned media, maybe in American political history.” He explained that Trump is free to be himself, and wherever he goes, the media will follow.
Trump has also been helped by the fact that many Republican candidates have refused to cross swords with him on controversial issues. They have belittled him, which only makes the average GOP voter like him more. Only one candidate, Senator Ted Cruz has sided with Trump, only to find that Trump manages to reap most of the publicity.
However, the ride at the top may end soon. As noted earlier, Trump has a record that is an anathema to Republican votes. He publically has bragged that he uses his money to influence politicians to help his real estate deals, he supported Hillary Clinton for president in 2008, and he has supported many Democratic candidates financially over the years.
And, as his campaign ramps up, many will find the details in his programs aren’t in line with Republican philosophy.
The end of Trump’s domination of the polls will happen when the other Republican candidates begin to focus on Trump’s deviations from conservatism and intensely engage them to upend his campaign. It is his positions, not his personality that makes him vulnerable.
That may be happening. The Fox Business Network has learned that at least some of the campaigns are discussing an attack-ads blitz against Trump in the coming weeks, according to several financial executives who have direct ties to the various campaigns. These people tell Fox Business that the campaigns of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio in particular are currently raising money with aims to hit Trump on various issues such as his controversial comments about immigration, as well as his record as a businessman, in these ads.
In the end, Trump has advocated enough Republican principles to keep conservatives listening but not enough to seal their support. If the race remains one of Trump versus weak establishment moderates, Republican primary voters may just conclude that if the party is going to lose the general election, it might as well lose with the boldest candidate – Trump.
It’s also important to remember the number of Republican presidential candidates that held the lead for several weeks in 2011, only to fall out of favor when they were perceived as too weak to challenge Obama.
The challenge to Trump will not come from what is perceived as main stream republicans like Bush, Rubio, or Graham. It will be up to a conservative candidate like Cruz, Paul, or Walker who can show that they are more in line with GOP issues and have a better chance of beating the Democratic nominee. When that happens, Trump’s support will quickly melt.
Hillary Clinton has been a potential candidate for president ever since her husband, President Clinton left the White House 15 years ago. However, as was seen in 2008 and this year, she isn’t as strong a candidate as many Democrats hoped.
The strategy had been to serve as Obama’s Secretary of State for four years and then leave the administration in order to set up a presidential campaign. The thought was that her experience as Secretary of State would burnish her credentials and make her the Democratic nominee and eventual president elect.
There were a few problems. First, Hillary doesn’t have the political skills of her husband. She doesn’t project warmth or compassion like her husband – characteristics that are critical in an American presidential campaign. This shows in her campaign events, where the attendance is in the hundreds, while her primary challenger Senator Sanders has crowds in the thousands.
This lack of enthusiasm is frequently critical in primary elections, where only the energized voter shows up at the election booth.
The second problem is that Hillary Clinton is extremely isolated by her loyal staff. Not only are they protective of her and inclined to not challenge her, they will not warn her when she be making a misstep.
Clinton’s secrecy and isolation is also being blamed as the reason for her missteps in her private email server, which was established in contravention of US law. Clinton has been dogged by questions about her use of a private e-mail server while she served as U.S. Secretary of State, denying that the unsecure server was ever used to send or receive classified information. The result is that it has become the biggest issue with her campaign with the vast majority of American voters (including Democrats) thinking she is lying about it and can’t be trusted.
An example was recently reported by the Politico. “A reporter asked her if the questions were an indication that the email controversy isn’t going away, and will dog her campaign into next year. Clinton turned around, her hands raised in the air in a shrug. “Nobody talked to me about it — other than you guys,” she said, and then exited with her top aides around her.”
Obviously, if none of her staff told her about it, her staff is doing her a serious disservice by isolating her.
There has been a price for this secrecy. Clinton still holds an edge in the general election race despite a growing perception that by using a personal email account and server while serving as secretary of state she did something wrong. About 56% say so in the new poll, up from 51% in March. Only 39% now say she did not do anything wrong by using personal email. Among Democrats, the share saying she did not do anything wrong has dipped from 71% in March to 63% now, and just 37% of independents say she did not do wrong by using the personal email system.
The issue is worrying many leading Democrats as reports say the FBI is starting a criminal investigation. “I think if she intentionally misled or lied to the American people and did something that was clearly against the rules, and knowingly did it against the rules, if that is the ultimate conclusion, then I think she has disqualified herself,” Representative John Yarmuth (D., Ky.) told a local Kentucky political reporter. Yarmuth endorsed then-Senator Barack Obama in his 2008 presidential bid against Clinton. “I’m not saying she is more divisive,” he said at the time. “[But] she is less capable of bridging the gap in the country.”
This growing opposition to Clinton within the Democratic Party, in turn is fueling the campaigns of her Democratic opposition. Clinton’s biggest challenger, Sanders, is gaining in the polls and enthusiasm. A CNN poll released Wednesday has Sanders within 18 percentage points of Clinton in the race for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination. This is the narrowest margin of any poll to date.
Clinton is also losing several “swing states” to her potential Republican opponents. The most recent poll, released on Thursday, shows Clinton losing the critical state of Florida to Bush, Rubio, and Trump. No recent presidential candidate has won the presidency without winning Florida.
Equally worrying for Clinton is that the poll shows that Vice President Biden can beat Trump in Florida.
Meanwhile, Clinton is stumbling badly in her appearances as she tries to brush off concerns about her email scandal. On Wednesday, Ed Henry of Fox News, pressed Clinton for nearly five minutes, on the email issue. Her responses were flip and evasive.
The lowest point came when, in response to Henry pressing her, on whether she had had the email drive wiped, she responded, “What? Like with a cloth or something?” she asked, then laughed. “I don’t know how it works digitally at all.”
The difference between Clinton and Trump are dramatic. While Trump is disliked by the Republican establishment, he is bold and willing to take chances in his campaign for the nomination. Meantime, Clinton, who is the favorite of the Democratic establishment, has engaged in a cautious campaign that focuses on not giving any opponent an opening.
The result is that several Democratic leaders are afraid that Clinton is a liability in a presidential election. There are rumors going around that Vice President Biden is asking Clinton supporters about the depth of their support for the former First Lady and if they could support him. There are also some who are asking Clinton Vice President Al Gore, if he might be willing to run. Even the president of Starbucks, the coffee company has been approached to run.
While Clinton is trying to run a “safe” campaign that assumes that she will win the nomination, there are serious cracks appearing in her support. At this time, the question is not if her support will collapse, as much as who can come in to rescue the Democratic Party.
Although Trump and Clinton both lead their respective parties, they both have serious flaws that could send them back home without the nomination.
Trump has connected with the voters and their concerns, but his brash style and previous Democratic leanings can defeat him, providing the other Republican candidates focus on his profound weaknesses and move right on illegal immigration.
Clinton’s secrecy and isolation are dramatic flaws that could end her campaign either before the Democratic convention or during the general election next year. Her strength is the Democratic Party’s weakness – no one currently poses a serious challenge for the nomination. Sanders, Gore, and Biden are old white males that will not appeal to the demographics of the party – leaving an un-energized voter base staying home on Election Day.
The fact is that if Clinton’s campaign implodes, the Democratic Party’s chances of retaining the White House implode too.
Meanwhile, the GOP has many attractive, qualified candidates that can fill in for Trump.
What that means is that while the GOP can discard Trump and retain a good chance of winning the White House, the Democratic Party has to face the realization that whether they stick with Clinton or not, they have a difficult road to winning the presidency next year.
Why the Iran ideal increases the risk of war
By Kim R. Holmes
August 10, 2015
Let’s cut to the chase: Does the Iran deal make war more or less likely? “No deal means a greater chance of more war in the Middle East,” President Obama says. His critics disagree. They think it will make war more likely. So which is it? Let’s break it down.
First, the Iran agreement does not stop Iran from getting a nuclear weapon. It may slow it down, but in 15 years Tehran is free to do what it wants. For the region, the signal couldn’t be clearer. Iran is going nuclear, if not soon, then at least in 15 years. Saudi Arabia and Turkey are not going to sit on their hands waiting to see what happens. They will prepare not only for the worst but also the inevitable: a nuclear Iran. It will be only a matter of time before they start developing nuclear capabilities of their own, which will greatly enhance tensions in the region. The result: More nuclear proliferation and a greater likelihood of war.
Islam and the Spread of Individual Freedoms: The Case of Morocco
By Ahmed Benchemsi
August 20, 2015
Policy Analysis No. 778
Morocco is a “partly free” country according to Freedom House’s Freedom Index—it is a constitutional monarchy with a freely elected government. However, the North African country’s constitution makes clear that, whatever the outcome of free elections, the real and undisputed center of power is the royal palace. The legitimacy of the 12-century-old monarchy stems from divine right, as the king holds the title “Commander of the Faithful.” Not only is Islam the official religion of the State, but freedom of conscience is unknown, as virtually all Moroccan citizens are deemed Muslims by birth. All legislation pertaining to family matters and social interactions derive, directly or indirectly, from Islamic laws. Yet despite this adverse environment, a strong secular and pro-individual freedom movement exists and has been able to score important tactical victories in recent years. The Moroccan movement for individual freedoms is rooted in the emergence of a local civil society during the 1990s—itself a consequence of the political liberalization process initiated by former King Hassan II. Less government control generated a wider space for social activism and freedom of expression. The emergence of an independent press has subsequently acted as an amplifier for liberal voices.
The Iran Nuclear Agreement: Beyond Partisan Infighting: Mark II
By Anthony H. Cordesman
Center for Strategic and International Studies
August 19, 2015
American partisan ideological extremism is in full swing and on a bipartisan basis. It has been a little over a month since the signing of the P5+1 nuclear agreement with Iran on July 14th, and a month since the vote of the UN Security Council to accept it. As was all too predictable, it has become a partisan fight along party lines that owes as much to the coming Presidential election as the merits of the agreement. It still seems likely that the end result will be an agreement where the Republican majority and swing Democrats lack the votes to override the President’s veto. At the same time, they have the votes to pass both constructive and spoiler legislation. It is also clear that the agreement is complex, imperfect, almost certain to require negotiating efforts to fully define and clarify, and is likely to be a source of ongoing contention between Iran and the U.S. for years to come.
Iran deal a boon for US-Saudi defense ties
By Tara Beeny
American Enterprise Institute
August 19, 2015
In the wake of the nuclear agreement with Iran, US-Saudi relations appeared on the rocks. But when it comes to defense spending, business has rarely looked better. While Iran’s nuclear program may be a US and regional concern, Iran’s asymmetric and unconventional operations have long posed a more immediate threat to Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states like Saudi Arabia. The focus on the nuclear file frustrated GCC states, which felt the United States downplayed or ignored conventional security issues. Recently, Saudi authorities have signaled the Kingdom may diversify its arms suppliers by reaching out to France and Russia. Saudi Arabia signed for a $500 million delivery of French helicopters, and the Kingdom may purchase two French helicopter carriers. Still, the French deals are small given the scope of Saudi arms purchases. The $500 million French contract matches the cost to resupply ammunition for US-sourced equipment that Saudi Arabia already owns. And those contracts are nothing compared to the recently approved $5.4 billion sale of 600 PAC-3 missiles.