This year’s US Presidential Election has already become one of the most fascinating races to the White House in recent times. Anti-establishment candidates have rocked the boat in both main parties, raising the stakes of primary season even higher than they would usually be. Since the New York Primary however, both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton have emerged as almost-certain winners of their respective parties’ nominations, as both have a fearsome lead in delegates over their rivals. But, looking ahead to November, it is the Republicans that have the most to fear, and the most to lose.
The problem with Trump’s strategy is that he is appealing to nothing but a small minority of American voters. He is appealing to those who are falling behind financially, but are very conservative nonetheless. His comments regarding Muslims and his plan to build a wall on the Mexican border have chimed with parts of the electorate angry about ISIS and immigration respectively. Trump has certainly been able to extend the appeal of the Republican brand to some who have never considered voting for the party before. But for all his talk of opposing the Iraq War and the Trans-Pacific Trade Partnership Deal, while protecting Social Security benefits, Trump will struggle immensely to put together a broad enough coalition of voters if he becomes the nominee.
Trump supports extending healthcare to many Americans, but Republican voters overwhelmingly oppose this policy. He has already alienated many traditional Republicans - 24% of GOP voters said they would "seriously consider" backing an independent or third party candidate in November, rather than voting for Trump. Meanwhile, 59% of all voters view Trump negatively, according to a recent CNN poll.
The latest delegate count shows a near-even split between Trump and his rivals. This should demonstrate the true extent of the civil war within the GOP, as many Republicans are now vying to ensure that Trump does not become their candidate. But what is significant for them is that 66% of Ted Cruz's supporters and 68% of John Kasich’s supporters say they doubt that all Republicans will unite behind Trump in November. This indicates how truly divided the Republicans are over Trump’s campaign and how toxified the Republican brand has become in recent months.
What is concerning about Cruz - the man who many Republicans hope can still beat Trump - is that the latter has implemented a highly effective social media strategy. Trump has a million more followers on Twitter than Cruz and Kasich, who he communicates with by live-tweeting campaign events and voicing his controversial opinions on certain issues. Trump maintains a lead over his rivals on Facebook too. Cruz needs to urgently grasp the importance of social media if he is to extend his reach to those doubtful about voting for him.
Whoever wins the nomination, this could well be the worst election year for the Republicans in a long time. Considering how hopeless the Democrats’candidates are, it is incredibly disappointing that the GOP cannot come up with a decent figure capable of beating them. According to a recent CNN poll, Bernie Sanders has a 17% lead over Cruz and a 12% lead over Trump. It demonstrates the low calibre of the Republican contenders when a man like Sanders - with his overtly left-wing policies - is more popular than Cruz and Trump. As the Republican brand has become so damaged by the party’s civil war, this could well be the Democrats’ election to lose. We can only hope that the GOP uses the next four years to select a formidable candidate. Condoleezza Rice springs to mind.