Wednesday, 16 March 2016

U.S. Presidential Election: Trump v. Clinton?

There were five important primary elections in the United States yesterday, and the results seem to suggest that the candidate for the Republican Party will be Donald Trump and the candidate for the Democratic Party will be Hillary Clinton.

Donald Trump now has around 674 delegates of the 1237 that he needs for the nomination. Ted Cruz, the right-wing Christian fundamentalist from Texas, born in Canada, trails behind with 396. John Karich, the “moderate” from Ohio, has only 142. The proposal of the Republican establishment to mobilize around Karich will not work, as the rules for the Republication convention require that a candidate have won in at least eight states, and he has won only Ohio.  On average, Trump has been winning 37% of the votes cast in the Republican primaries, but most of the states remaining have a “winner take all” delegate system which will greatly aid him.

Hillary Clinton won all five of the contests yesterday for the Democratic nomination. She is slowly adding to her delegate lead over Bernie Sanders: it presently stands at 1132 to 818, with 2383 delegates needed to win the nomination. Clinton swept the solid south, and this has given her the lead, but these are states where the Democrats rarely win. Sanders will have to win many of the big states by a good margin to catch up with her.

Clinton as the Democratic candidate
There are a number of significant obstacles to Hillary Clinton winning the Presidential election in November 2016. They are as follows:

(1) In the primaries there has been a significantly greater turnout of voters for the Republicans. For example, in the five primaries on March 15 the Republicans received 54% of the total votes and the Democrats 46%. If this trend holds, Clinton will have to move to the right to attract Republican voters. No doubt this is part of her strategy to defeat Trump.

(2) 43% of potential voters are identified as independents. Only 19 states have open primaries where independents can vote. But public opinion polls showed that 70% of independents have preferred Sanders over Clinton. What can Clinton do to change this situation?

(3) Young people have turned out in mass to support Sanders. Clinton is part of the political and corporate establishment that they oppose. Sanders was winning 80% of the vote of those under 30 years of age. Will they vote for Clinton? One poll reported that 33% would not, and a second poll put this at 20%.

(4) In the CNN/ORC poll released on March 1, 55% of those surveyed had an unfavourable view of Clinton. Only Trump was higher at 60%. Sanders was at 33% and was the only candidate which had a favourable rating over 50%. Can Clinton change this situation?

I can see a possible scenario developing. Clinton could enter the convention with a majority of the elected delegates, but less than a margin of 493, the number of super delegates who will vote without being elected. If the public opinion polls show that Sanders would win in a contest with Trump and Clinton would not, would they break with tradition and not back the candidate with the most elected delegates?

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