In just ten months time the United States electorate will vote on who will be the 45th President of the United States. The first primaries start next month in New Hampshire with the party debates between the potential candidates scheduled to continue until March. Both the Republican and Democratic parties have their conventions in mid to late July where their final candidate will be decided upon. While the predicted winner of this year’s election is still very much in the balance, there are some conclusions that can be made from the debates that have already taken place.
As unpredictable as the final result of the election, is the identity of the final candidate for the Republican Party. The party that did so well in the mid-term elections of 2014 appears to be spontaneously combusting and as a consequence destroying their chances of a victory in November. The large number of candidates throwing their hat into the ring has damaged the eventual winner’s opportunity to steal a march on their Democrat opponent. The large number of debates has given the candidates greater opportunities to shoot themselves in the foot. The ridiculously large debates have led to shouting matches where the candidates’ own advantages are being sidelined for swipes at their rivals’ weaknesses. It has become a competition of who shouts the longest and loudest will in all likelihood be the eventual candidate.
Which brings up the subject of Donald Trump. Trump is a phenomenon that neither the Republican Party nor the Democrats can ignore. Initially ridiculed for his outrageous views and ridiculous comb-over, his support has increased over the debating period. Trump currently has a lead with 39% support of Republican voters, ahead of 18% for Ted Cruz and 13% for Marco Rubio. Part of the reason for Trump’s lead has been his ability to dominate the media at the expense of his rivals. Trump’s statements and policies have appeared to some as extreme but the subsequent press coverage has meant his candidacy opponents have been kept out of the headlines. In order to harvest any publicity the remaining candidates have been forced to attempt to score points off each other during the debates. In the ensuing morass the candidates’ policies have been lost. While some criticism of Trump’s performances in the debates is justified, he has no need to go on the attack; instead, his rivals give the appearance of a party in chaos with Trump offering to be the steady hand on the tiller.
Hillary Clinton and the Democrats have no such worries. Clinton currently polls at 53.3%, a 21% lead on closest rival Bernie Sanders. While the Republican candidates bicker and fight for attention, Clinton and her rivals have targeted potential candidate Trump. If Trump manages to gain the Republican candidacy, then his extreme views on immigration will likely lead to moderate swing voters supporting Clinton. Clinton’s chance of election is more likely to be damaged by the actions of the incumbent president. Obama’s apparent discarding of the Bush Doctrine and its unilateral initiatives have already led to criticisms of a weakened American global image. Obama’s foreign policy has led to accusations by Republican candidate Senator Marco Rubio of having ‘deliberately weakened America’ and of putting America ‘is in far greater danger today than it was eight years ago.’
It is the possible connection to the Obama administration that will damage any of the Democrat candidates in succeeding to the White House. Clinton’s connection to Benghazi and her time as Secretary of State under Obama could cause her more difficulties than any issues over classified emails on a personal laptop. However, Obama’s attempts to change the gun ownership laws have already been met with Republican broadsides. Concerns of the current Democrat president’s apparent attempt to deny citizens their Second Amendment rights will only further the Republican cause.
Whatever consequences Obama’s actions – and the developing situation in the Middle East – have for the Democrats, they cannot afford to take Trump lightly. and neither should the Republicans. If the GOP decides to sidestep Trump as a candidate he could decide to stand as independent candidate. Although he has stated this is unlikely, Trump has also indicated he will not give up his candidacy. His attraction to both the conservative and white evangelical powerbase of the Republicans could wreck any GOP candidate. Just as in 1992 with Ross Perot, the independent candidate could do irreparable damage to the Republican Party and allow a Clinton into the White House.