US Election Special: There may be trouble ahead… (3/3)

US Election main

By Dafydd Townley

When Hillary Clinton officially announced her intention to run for the White House on April 12th last year, she was immediately proclaimed as the favourite to be the 45th President of the United States. Through a YouTube video she stated ‘Everyday Americans need a champion. And I want to be that champion.’ The New York Times stated that her announcement ‘began what could be one of the least contested races, without an incumbent, for the Democratic presidential nomination in recent history.’[1] Such was the confidence in Clinton winning not only the candidacy but also the presidency. Such confidence though is being undermined by the rise of Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump.

Clinton 2

In July of last year Clinton stood at 58% in the polls for the Democratic candidacy with a lead of 42% over her rivals. In the race for the White House she polled an average of 49% compared to Mark Rubio’s 37.5%. The latest data suggests that despite still polling at 51.2% her lead has been whittled down to a mere 13% over Bernie Sanders. In addition her lead over Rubio has flip-flopped and he now leads by 2.2%. Furthermore her lead over Donald Trump – who was not amongst the polls at the time of announcement – has diminished from 19.6% in July last year to just 2.5%.[2] Where has it all gone wrong for Hillary? There are a number of factors that affected public opinion.

Both Sanders and Trump are seen as being something different to the status quo. Despite Biden’s recent swipe on Twitter at Sanders by declaring that the United States does not need socialism, public opinion is low when concerned with both the Executive and Legislative branches of government. In a recent Gallup poll 47% of US citizens disapprove of Obama’s performance as president, and 80% feel that Congress is not effective.[3] Clinton’s declaration in the latest Democratic debate that she wanted to protect and build on Obama’s Affordable Healthcare legacy should be seen as an attempt to win over the coalition that Obama built to gain office. However, in doing so Clinton has aligned herself with an administration that is believed to be underperforming. Sanders, further left in the political spectrum than Clinton, is seen by non-Democrats as independent of Obama. Furthermore, to left wing Democrats Sanders’ egalitarian policies are seen as closer to Obama’s promises on the 2008 election trail than those of Clinton’s.

Clinton 3

The same consequences are caused by the ascension of Trump. His firebrand tactics have alienated candidacy rivals and depicted himself as an outsider to Washington circles. His criticism of Obama and Clinton, Congress, and the inability of a Republican Congress to get things done with a Democratic president, has been favourably met with the US electorate. He has managed to portray Clinton’s policies as a continuation of Obama’s, and therefore firmly associated Clinton with the Obama administration. Crucially then, Clinton’s support has deteriorated because she has failed to identify with the public as being unconnected to Obama.

It also appears that where there’s a Clinton there’s some form of political controversy. Bill Clinton’s second term was dogged by the Lewinsky scandal and impeachment proceedings. The combination of scandal and a Republican dominated Congress led to his final term being ultimately a confrontational lame-duck presidency. Hillary is threatening to be no different. Since before her announcement she has been plagued by issues regarding security breaches through personal emails while Secretary of State. At her time of her announcement to run for the White House campaign manager John D Podesta assured potential donors that the issue would fade away.[4] Such optimism has been misplaced. At the time of writing – nine months after Podesta’s reassurance – the issue has still yet to be settled causing Clinton embarrassment. This, combined with the House investigation into the Benghazi attack, has meant that Clinton has unwittingly provided ammunition for her rivals.

Clinton 1

What next for Hillary? In all likelihood she will claim the first victory in the race for the Democratic candidacy at the Iowa Caucus on February 1st. However the winning margin will not be in the region of the 30% lead that she had in November. In stark contrast to that advantage the latest poll by CNN suggests that Sanders has an 8% lead among Iowan Democrats.[5] A small victory for Clinton will not be enough to give her campaign momentum, but may be enough to burst the Sanders bubble. She is unlikely to win the New Hampshire primary eight days later where Sanders has a strong advantage. By then the additional emails from the State Department should also have been released for scrutiny which could further harm her campaign; until the legality of her actions is finalised it is impossible to tell.

What the Clinton campaign can take some comfort from is that her endorsements by Democrats in office are at a record high compared to other non-incumbent Democrat candidates from the last thirty years. Studies have shown that endorsements have been the greatest influence on state primaries and caucuses.[6] Hillary’s lead is extremely large and Sanders will not be able to convince the part elites to change their support. Consequentially the next month ahead may be rocky for Clinton, but by the road to the White House will be considerably smoother by Super Tuesday on March 1st.

[1] Amy Chozick, ‘Hillary Clinton Announces 2016 Presidential Bid’, The New York Times, April 12, 2015

[2] All poll data from RealClear Politics

[3] Poll data from www.gallup.com (Obama rating is from Jan 11-17 2016, Congress data is dated as Jan 610 2016)

[4] Amy Chozick, ‘Hillary Clinton Announces 2016 Presidential Bid’,

[5] CNN/ORC Poll, January 15-20th, 2016

[6] Aaron Bycoffe, ‘The Endorsement Primary’, FiveThirtyEight

___________

This was originally published on Dafydd’s own blog and has been republished here with his permission .
This entry was posted in American History, Features and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to US Election Special: There may be trouble ahead… (3/3)

  1. Robert Russell says:

    This is a good posting on the US election. Though I am an independent, equally distrusting both political parties, I think Hillary Clinton has a good chance at being the first female US President. In spite of controversial hindrances, she has a few factors going for her in this election.

    The first thing going for her is those that the Republican party are running, with Donald Trump as the odds on favorite to win. However, regardless of the unfathomable zealousness of his followers, the months of speeches have yet to produce any meaningful claims of what he will do (and more importantly, how he means to pull it off). Combine this with his overtly childish, unprofessional attitude during the televised debates, he will be unlikely to garner the necessary votes in the general election.

    The second factor is within her own party. Bernie Sanders is her only serious competition. While he is pulling in large audiences at his speaking engagements (as is Trump), Americans, in general, have a deep mistrust of socialists, as a result of Twentieth Century anti-communist rhetoric. Furthermore, even though Sanders has come out as being firmly against Big Business, he has also advocated for tax increases, in order to finance universal medical coverage. While Obama has suffered much indignation for his state exchanges, the odds of Sanders being able to push through universal medical coverage are very close to zero.

    The last element on Hillary’s favor is her husband. Bill has always been viewed as a highly charismatic, intelligent character, who attended Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar in the late 1960’s. Despite his philandering history, the appeal of Bill and Hillary as a team continues to work in her favor. Traditionally, the spousal role to the president has been ceremonial, or at most, pushing minor agendas, such as fitness or anti-drug campaigns, my assumption is that Bill would be best employed in a diplomatic role, escorting Hillary on overseas trips, or going alone, augmenting US representation normally carried out by the Secretary of State.

    As the US electoral process works to limit the general elections down to a single nominee from each of the two parties, plus the rare independent candidate, I probably would vote for Hillary, if she were selected to represent the Democrats over Sanders. As for the alternative she would be running against, the current spectrum of Republicans evoke personal sentiments that range from a lack of confidence to downright fearfulness and/or terror.

    • Anonymous says:

      Hillary Clinton is a talented and accomplished politician. Her likely election to office, and her qualification for the role, is owing to her own accomplishments rather than those of her husband, or the failings of other candidates.

      Clinton is a politician who has served as senator for a vast and diverse state; who has held office as Secretary of State; and weathered political trials and personal attacks as First Lady. Clinton’s political experience is broad; having worked in domestic and foreign policy for a political life-time, she simply eclipses all other candidates in terms of knowledge, ability, and experience. Unlike other candidates, her policies are clear and achievable.

      Sanders entry to the race has given Clinton a leftward lean, yet she is not alienating Republicans, even as she works to gain the progressive Democratic vote from Sanders. In a race attracted to ‘outsiders’, Hillary’s position as a professional politician is sometimes problematic for her campaign. But it also makes her a viable candidate. Her goals are realistic, her experience is proven, and she has some credibility (despite a few hiccups…). While Clinton might seem sadly central to both the left and the right, this only heightens her “electability”.

      So, I respectfully disagree. It is not Bill, Bernie, or Donald, who will be the making of Hillary’s campaign. It will be Hillary Rodham Clinton; politician.

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