At what point should we start to take the threat to Hillary Clinton’s Presidency seriously? Only three months ago the Democrat frontrunner looked as though she would win not only the DNC candidacy, but the U.S. Presidency at a canter. Now, out of the blue, the reality TV side-show that was the GOP field, almost humorous in size, has produced a potential rival to Clinton in the shape of Donald Trump, whose ludicrous policy positions and social opinions are taking Republican polling rates across the country by storm. Closer to Clinton’s home, the independent senator Bernie Sanders - equally out of the blue - has declared his Presidential intentions, aligned himself with the Democrats and, over the past few weeks, emerged as a serious challenger to Clinton within her own party. With both Trump and Sanders polling at 25% in their respective parties, and both stating their policy plans very clearly - something Clinton has yet to do - the time to question Hillary’s Presidential credentials has, somewhat surprisingly, arrived.
In Clinton’s rearview mirror is Bernie Sanders. Clearly the main rival to Hillary’s candidacy, Sanders is increasingly widening his reach over traditional Democratic states at the expense of the former Secretary of State. Sanders’ experience, and well known support for social equality and civil rights, has made him an instant favourite among many left-wing groups. The movement ‘Black Lives Matters’, a group with which Clinton has only recently engaged, has publicly declared its support for Sanders, which will easily give him a foothold with African-American voters. Furthermore, Clinton’s vague policies concerning health care and gun control, combined with her reluctance to take a stance on major issues such as the Keystone XL pipeline project, have led to a perception that she is a right-leaning candidate. Sanders, on the other hand, is blatantly left wing, even by British standards, and has made his political views very clear on issues such the environment, gun control, and Wall Street. Sanders has positioning himself as the natural successor to Obama in terms of policy, which is winning him unexpected levels of support. Indeed, although Clinton is still a comfortable margin ahead of Sanders in the national polls, the latter is not far behind in the some key states, and may prove a formidable opponent on the debating stage.
Moreover, on the horizon of Clinton’s view is a Frankenstienian monster that the GOP cannot control: Donald Trump. Although initially thought to have declared his Presidential bid as a ‘publicity stunt’, Trump is clearly the Republican frontrunner. Trump's rivals remain baffled as the billionaire candidate outlines ill-conceived foreign policies, ludicrous economic positions, and vicious immigration proposals. In many cases, his competitors have attempted to copy Trump in a desperate effort to win back the radical right. Ted Cruz, for example, has begun to position himself as the Trump alternative, declaring that America should consider building a wall across the Canadian, as well as the Mexican, borders (as proposed by Trump), to prevent ‘potential terrorists’ from reaching the country.
Yet, does Trump pose a serious threat to the Clinton campaign? Not yet; none of the Republicans do. Moreover, despite the traction Trump has gained in the GOP field, a collapse of his campaign is still on the cards. Even if Trump does go so far as to win the Republican nomination, Clinton’s celebrity appeal and voter sensibility should earn her a comfortable Presidential win. However, she cannot afford to be complacent. If the Presidency does come down to a Trump vs. Clinton debate, the former’s blend of hard talk, charisma, and clarity could seduce the American electorate. Trump may - and I use the word cautiously - just have what it takes to expose Hillary’s weaknesses.
The surprising rise of Sanders and Trump has shown Clinton’s campaign to be somewhat careless. Apparently attempting to ride a wave of celebrity fame and public admiration into the White House, Clinton has used Obama’s rhetoric to mask her vague political positions. If she wants to win the Democratic candidacy – and the Presidency - Hillary will have to fight for it. She will have to declare her positions on major issues sooner rather than later in order to win back the aura of progress and hope that Obama instilled in voters seven years ago. Rising support for maverick candidates suggests that Clinton needs to instill fresh exuberance into her campaign. Otherwise, her chance to enter the White House for a second time may be scuppered.