This article kicks off a series of debates that will examine the 2016 US Presidential election from Democrat and Republican perspectives. As the Primary season heats up and parties begin to coalesce around certain candidates, this article will address who is more likely to capture the White House. Matthew Edwards and Adam Isaacs will consider whether Trump will be able to transfer his Primary election success to the general election, if he is nominated as the GOP candidate at the national convention – facing off against likely Democratic contender Hillary Clinton.
The Obama presidency has been plagued with terrible approval ratings for a president who has failed to unite and raise the nation. Americans are scared by the rise of ISIS, which Obama has failed to stop, as well as the war against the middle class whose wages continue to stagnate. We are witnessing the anger, the heartbreak of millions of Americans frustrated at a political elite which has failed to solve America’s problems. A highly dysfunctional Congress, combined with a president who has abused his executive overreach for eight years, has cultivated an environment for the emergence of Donald Trump as a Republican presidential contender. And, if Trump is indeed the Republican nominee, make no mistake, he can beat Hillary Clinton.
Trump is lucky that the two best Democratic candidates, Elizabeth Warren and Joe Biden, decided not to run. In Clinton, Trump faces an opponent who has equally as poor favourability ratings as himself. In fact, YouGov polling shows that 53% found Clinton to be dishonest and not trustworthy, 2% higher than Trump who polled in at 51%. Rocked by questions over the Clinton foundation, her ongoing email scandal (which the FBI continue to investigate), and her role in the Benghazi tragedy, Clinton continues to be seen as a liar by the American people. Just recently, Clinton claimed that the USA “didn’t lose a single person” in Libya during her time as Secretary of State. The families of four American’s would beg to differ.
Clinton’s unpopularity also stems from her unconquerable urge to allow opinion polls to form her policy. For example, Clinton in 2008 was opposed to gay marriage (when it lacked support of a majority of Americans), but by 2013 was all in favour. Famously, Clinton as First Lady opposed the Bankruptcy Reform act and managed to persuade her husband’s administration to block the bill. A different Clinton, Senator Clinton, voted in favour of the bill. In words of Elizabeth Warren “As Senator Clinton, the pressures are very different, it’s a well-financed industry”.
In all, Clinton epitomises the problems with America that Trump is keen to shout about: all talk, no action politicians in the pocket of lobbyists. Exit polls across the primaries show anger at the establishment, and Clinton is as establishment as it gets. Trump will receive votes simply for being anti-establishment, which will give him a good base to build on and a passionate set of volunteers to organise an effective ground game across the country.
Other than facing a poor candidate, Trump himself is a strong candidate due to his marketing abilities. Trump, the billionaire entrepreneur is a business genius and has successfully transferred his money-making skills into politics.
Trump has spent significantly less money (as well as self-funding his campaign) than his GOP rivals. Yet, by manipulating the media, the New York magnate has become the frontrunner for the Republican nomination. A Vox report from December showed that Trump had spent just $216,000 on ads, yet was polling nationally at 29.3%. In contrast, Rubio had spent $13.1 million but polled at just 14.3%. This gives Trump a shot at winning a general election, despite the fact Clinton will be backed by the lobbyists and donors.
The online infrastructure Trump has created is second only to Barack Obama’s 2008 online campaign. With over 6 million Facebook and Twitter followers, Trump has created a network that enables to him to counter anti-Trump ads at no cost. Trump easily dwarfs Clinton in his social media outreach, which gives him a key advantage in campaigning. His bold personality fuels his online popularity; a quality that Clinton desperately lacks.
Trump not only has the reach, but exploits his reach expertly. Raking in millions of views, Trump is able to put out short, 60 second policy videos. People are short on time, and Trump recognises that. Given some of Trump’s policies lack depth, this is an effective way of winning votes.
Moreover, his campaign website is one of the best designed campaign portals out there. Unlike Clinton’s, which straight up asks for a donation, Trump’s is much more welcoming and is streamlined for ease of use. Crucially, he deploys his children, particularly Ivanka Trump (who will help bring in the female vote), in short information videos, telling voters what they need to do in their state to be eligible to vote, and where to vote. Trump is attracting a lot of first-time voters, many of whom may be constrained by their lack of knowledge about the democratic process. Trump’s site therefore seeks to turn apathetic citizens into Trump voters through simple information.
Will Trump beat Clinton if he is the nominee? That’s for the America people to decide. However, though he would certainly be the underdog, Donald Trump has enough skill and support to give him a chance of beating Hillary Clinton. Trump wasn’t supposed to last this long, but he has. Clinton and her supporters must treat Trump with respect and take him seriously if they are to beat him. If they don’t, if they underestimate Trump, they will wake up on November 9th wondering how Trump took the presidency from their grasp.
To channel my inner Isaac Newton, actions rarely go without consequence. It’s not a complex concept, but it can certainly create serious complexities in the world of politics. Six years of Congress blocking everything from farm bills to immigration reform whilst the party establishment tell the average American their Muslim Kenyan President has ignored them, taken their taxes, retreated from their prominent position on the world stage and given their jobs to brown people like him, was bound to have some repercussions and, in the form of Donald Trump, it has. Anti-establishment, anti-intellectual and anti-immigration, Trump has succeeded in driving forward a populist movement that appears to be spurring him towards the GOP presidential nomination. To the relief and despair of many, Trump, however, cannot win a general election for three critical reasons.
Number one, simple maths. The U.S electoral system, the Electoral College, simply favours the Democrats at the moment. Large liberal states such as California, New York, Illinois and Pennsylvania provide the Democrat nominee with a simple path to 270 votes. Taking into account New Hampshire, Nevada, Colorado and Iowa, the Democrat nominee (who we will assume at this point in time will be Hillary Clinton), can reach the 270 mark even without winning Florida, Ohio, Virginia and North Carolina (all of which Obama won in 2008). That’s before factoring in that Clinton is very strong in the Deep South for a Democrat candidate, and could even win the state of Arkansas where she was First Lady for over ten years. In the early primaries, Trump has suffered among educated liberal voters, women, Hispanics and African Americans, drawing most his support from uneducated white males, largely from the Deep South. If this pattern emerges in the general election, even if Trump can win Iowa and Arkansas, he would have to win Virginia and North Carolina, swing states with large African American populations as well as Florida and Ohio to reach the all-important 270. To do that, Trump would have to run an effective ground campaign, backed by a devout support base, and a colossal amount of money, which brings me nicely onto the second reason why Trump cannot win.
In a weird twist of irony, Trump would be the poorer of the two candidates should he be the Republican nominee to face Hillary Clinton. A billionaire entrepreneur, Trump has prided himself and his campaign on rejecting large amounts of outside spending, with Open Secrets showing his total campaign war chest as $27,420,828, only $1,894,509 of that coming from outside groups. Conversely, Clinton has raised $188,192,044 with $57,748,407 of that coming from outside groups. Factoring in the amounts raised in 2012 and the inbuilt Electoral College difficulties Trump would face, he would surely need somewhere in the region of $1.5 billion to $2.5 billion to have a chance of beating Clinton. Can’t Trump, who estimates his net worth as $10 billion, just write himself a cheque to cover this, I hear you ask. Well, no. Forbes estimate Trump’s net worth as a mere $4 billion (I know, pitiful, right), and most of the assets that comprise this amount are not liquid. Can’t Trump continue with his free media strategy, you ask? Not really. You can’t win 65 million votes (Obama’s 2012 total) off the back of a little extra media coverage. This leaves Trump with two options:
1) Continue to self-fund his campaign, lose big time in the money race – a humiliating occurrence for someone who prides themself on their net worth, and probably lose the election.
2) Reverse his course, take on large donations from the establishment class and leave himself open to devastating attacks labelling him as insincere and a liar. This would be a Trump far removed from the one ‘beholden to no one’ that declared “I have disavowed all super PAC's, requested the return of all donations made to said PAC's, and I am calling on all presidential candidates to do the same”.
The political reality of the situation for Trump is flip-flop or lose.
Thirdly, and potentially the most dangerous for Trump if true, is that he appears to have a high vote floor, but a low vote ceiling. In layman's terms, this means Trump has a large base of support that will enable him to attain around 30% of votes in most states, but this level may not reach much higher. In an eight or a four candidate field, this is all well and good, 30-35% often carries a simple plurality. But, in a one-on-one situation, Trump could get thumped by Clinton. Throw in high satisfaction rate for Clinton, a massive advantage for Clinton amongst black and hispanic voters, the kind of demographics you’d find in say, the must win states of Virginia, North Carolina and Florida, and low favourability for Trump, and what you have is a serious challenge that Trump must overcome to win.
What all this says to me, is that Donald Trump cannot win. Republicans have made the wrong choice, should Trump emerge as the GOP nominee. Maths isn’t sexy, but it often provides inalienable truths, and the truth on this occasion is that a united GOP around either Rubio (Hispanic Senator for Florida) or Kasich (Governor of Ohio – a state every successful Republican nominee won) could easily have seen the Republican’s recapture the White House. Instead, the Republican establishment has poured anger into the grassroots of the party, to the extent they have wholeheartedly supported a candidate who cannot win a general election. There is still a long campaign ahead and a multitude of variables that could result in any possibility but, examining the maths, the money and the reality of Trump’s support, it appears that Donald will be defeated by Clinton come November and the Republican exile from the White House will continue.
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