The Electoral College system in United States Presidential Elections typically limits the viable field in Presidential Elections to just two viable candidates. In this case of course, that was Hillary Clinton and the ultimate victor, Donald J. Trump.
However, despite the fact that the system for the electing the President makes it near impossible for a third-party candidate to win, that doesn’t stop third-party or independent candidates running, and this election was no exception.
Of the myriad of other candidates who were on the ballots in some of the States, the most high-profile were the Green Party candidate Jill Stein, and the Libertarian Party candidate, former Governor of New Mexico, Gary Johnson.
Given the national unpopularity of the two main candidates in this year’s presidential race, it was expected that this election could be a bumper one of third-party candidates, with forecasts during the campaign suggesting that many voters were considering backing third-party candidates out of distaste for those nominated by the Democrats and the Republicans. However, in the end, third-party candidates didn’t do anywhere near as well as expected. During the campaign, Gary Johnson was polling upwards of nine percent nationally, and had a justifiable claim for being included in the Presidential debates. However, when it came to the Presidential Election he only received around four percent of the popular vote, which amounted to more than four million votes. This meant that Johnson didn’t achieve his stated aim of gaining a five percent of the national popular vote.
However, although the national returns of these third parties candidates were less than satisfying, both Johnson and Stein did manage to gain quite sizeable number of votes in the battleground States — many of which were ultimately won by President-elect Donald Trump. It has been argued by many that the presence of the likes of Johnson and Stein in the race helped to hand the Presidency to Trump. Whilst this is hard to prove or support, it is indeed inarguable that these candidates made an impact in the battleground States.
This was particularly notable in Florida. It was of course Florida where then Green Party Presidential candidate Ralph Nader’s candidacy in the 2000 Presidential Election was widely considered to have handed the State and the Presidency to Republican Candidate George W. Bush, despite Democrat Al Gore winning the national popular vote. This time around the situation was remarkably similar, with Hillary Clinton prevailing in the national popular vote, but ultimately being well beaten in the Electoral College. In 2000, Nader received 1.63 percent of the vote in Florida. The margin between Bush and Gore was just 0.05 in Bush’s favour. Although Nader has always disputed his impact, if he hadn’t been a candidate then it would have been hard to see his Green Party supporters plumping for Bush over noted environmentalist Gore.
This year, Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton in Florida by 2.4 percent, so won by considerably more than Bush did in 2000. Gary Johnson won 3.1 percent in Florida, whilst Jill Stein won 0.7 percent of the vote there. It was a similar situation in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, with the margin in all of these States being eclipsed by the number of votes cast for Stein and Johnson. This means that if you assume that the Stein and Johnson vote would go to Clinton, then Clinton would have won these States had they not been standing, and therefore she would have won the Presidency.
However, in my opinion, this is a pretty lazy assumption to be making.
Firstly, there is no way to prove that the Johnson and Stein vote would go directly to Clinton. Throughout the campaign, Johnson and his campaign team were clear that they thought that they were collecting votes from Democrats, Republicans, and independents, meaning that there is no guarantee that Johnson’s non-candidacy would have had any significant effect on the margins between Trump and Clinton.
Secondly, one of the main reasons that people were backing these third-party candidates was as a protest against the quality of the two candidates of the main parties. What’s to say that if Johnson and Stein hadn’t offered them another option, that they wouldn’t have just stayed at home on Election Day and not even voted. I’m sure some of them would have voted and particularly with Stein’s voters, you would have thought that most would fall on the Democratic side, however it seems unlikely that they would have been enough to overhaul Trump’s margin, particularly in Florida. In 2000, just one-third of Nader’s voters going for Gore, would have been enough to flip Florida into his column. However, in this election, more than two-thirds of Johnson and Stein’s combined support would have had to vote for Clinton in order to flip Florida. To me, this just doesn’t seem likely.
Overall, although the numbers mean that it is possible to argue that Johnson and Stein caused the Trump Presidency, to me it doesn’t really stack up. It looks to me more like an easy answer to the question of why Trump’s right-wing populism won the day. For the Democratic Party going forward, it is not at all helpful to any sort of re-building process to suggest that the election was in some way stolen because of the presence of third-party candidates. Of course, it is right to assess why many voters felt it necessary to cast a protest vote for one of the these candidates, but there should be no assumption that this was what lost the election, because the facts just don’t stack up that way.
So I was wrong, Donald Trump has won the Presidency. Going into election day I still felt sure that the trend towards populist candidates would be halted in its tracks, and that normal service would be resumed thanks to the United States somewhat archaic Electoral College system. Before polls began to close, I didn’t really see a path to the White House for Trump. I mean, to win he had to win Florida, and although that would be close high Hispanic turnout would surely allow Clinton to edge the win. Likewise, I fully expected Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania to go Clinton’s way. Michigan and Pennsylvania had voted Democrat in every Presidential Election since 1992, Wisconsin in every Presidential Election since 1988. Surely Trump couldn’t take them, could he?
Alas, I was wrong. Trump didn’t just take one of these States, he took all four. Add to his column North Carolina, Ohio (by an astonishing 8.6 percent), and Iowa, and you’ve got the recipe for a comfortable victory in the Electoral College — currently projected to be 306 votes for Trump to 232 for Clinton. Having said this, it looks as though Clinton narrowly won the popular vote. But, as we know only too well (Gore 2000), it’s all about the Electoral College.
So, why did Trump win? Most of the media and political pundits effectively anointed Hillary Clinton as the next President (and the polls also suggested this outcome), and I must admit that I was only too willing to follow suit, and I am sure that I wasn’t the only one.
Prior to the election, all the talk was about how the sleeping giant of the American electorate, the Hispanic population, was going to play a huge part in deciding the winner. But in actual fact, the Hispanic impact was overstated. Yes, it was arguably the Hispanic population which got Clinton over the line in Nevada (mostly as a result of early voting) but it was always going to be Florida which mattered the most. There was somewhat of a surge in Hispanic voters (particularly in the early voting), and more Hispanics did indeed vote in this Presidential Election than in any previous Presidential Election. However, although Hispanics did vote overwhelmingly for Hillary Clinton, they didn’t vote for Clinton quite overwhelmingly enough. In fact, Trump actually received around 27 percent of the Hispanic vote nationwide. This means that he beat Bob Dole’s 1996 tally of the Hispanic vote (Dole got just 21 percent), and received a similar percentage to Mitt Romney’s 2012 share (Romney also took around 27 percent of the Hispanic vote). All this meant that despite the surge in the number of Hispanic voters, Clinton still couldn’t compete in Florida, undoubtedly the most important State in this election.
And on top of this, Trump had a surge of his own. The surge of the white working class. Similarly to those in the UK who voted to leave the European Union in June, these tended to be voters who felt disillusioned by the political elite and left behind by globalisation. Although the results of recent US elections and the ongoing demographic changes in many of the swing states suggested that the Democrats could win an election despite minimal support amongst working class whites, this view proved to be unfounded. In 2012, President Obama won so comfortably in the Midwest because of his strong showing with white working class voters. His low rating with this group was almost purely due to the result in the Southern safe Republican States.
In short, in the swing states Hillary Clinton did not outperform President Obama with Hispanics to the extent required to counteract the huge support Donald Trump was gaining with white working class voters. The biggest surges in Hispanic support for Clinton came in California and Texas, States which were never going to have any bearing on the result. Yes, she did outperform President Obama slightly in some areas of Florida, with Clinton slightly improving the Democratic margins in heavily Hispanic counties such as Miami-Dade, but she did not improve the margin enough to counteract the white working class voters which Trump was winning — many of whom had voted for Obama in 2012.
The same huge support for Trump amongst white working class voters was evident in Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. In counties which President Obama had won by twenty points in 2012, Trump was drawing level. In counties which President Obama had won by double figures in 2012, Trump was winning handsomely. In these swing states, the same was true as in Florida, Clinton wasn’t over-performing President Obama in the Democratic strongholds. For example, in Pennsylvania, Clinton was unable to get close to the margin needed in Philadelphia to overturn the white working class vote in over areas of the State. The same was true in Ohio, with Clinton not winning cities like Cleveland by enough to overturn her deficit elsewhere.
In short, Clinton certainly made gains among minority groups and the well educated during this election. However, these gains did not seem to occur in the swing states which needed them the most. Either this, or they were simply overwhelmed by the unexpected huge support Donald Trump had amongst the white working class — a group everyone expected him to win, but very few suggested he would win by as much as he ultimately did.
Perhaps the Clinton campaign’s real failure was to misread which were the actual swing states. Throughout the campaign, Clinton barely visited Wisconsin and Michigan, with the campaign putting out hardly any television advertising in these States. Given that they had voted Democratic in Presidential elections for so many years, they thought that they were absolutely safe. Even in nearby Minnesota, typically an even stronger Democratic State in Presidential Elections, the margin of Clinton’s victory was very, very low.
Given how wrong the polling was about these States it is, in hindsight, no surprise that the Clinton campaign didn’t foresee the problems that they were going to have in these States. The same was true in the Trump campaign, who said that their polling results were much the same as professional pollsters. Very few people saw the surge in Trump support in any of these States, apart from perhaps Ohio — although even there the polls generally only had Trump a point or two ahead, nowhere close to the 8.6 percent margin he ultimately took Ohio by.
It is difficult to now what caused such a huge polling error, but perhaps the most simple explanation was that voters were simply not willing to tell pollsters that they were backing Trump. We saw a similar phenomenon in the recent European Union referendum, where polls before the referendum gave the Remain campaign a surprisingly strong lead, seemingly because many Leave voters were telling pollsters that they planned to vote remain. We also saw a similar thing in the recent referendum in Columbia on the agreement on a peace deal between the Columbian Government and the FARC rebels. Whatever the error is, it will take far a far deeper evaluation of the polls and the methodology used, in order to ascertain what the errors were.
So it was the surge in white voters which took Donald Trump over the line, but that isn’t really an explanation for why Trump was able to win the Presidency.
Was he able to win because of Hillary Clinton’s unpopularity? I’m not sure I buy into this argument, mostly because I think that generally both candidates were disliked, and personality wise Trump probably was disliked more than Clinton. Indeed according to the results of the preliminary exit polls, 54 percent of voters viewed Hillary Clinton unfavourably, whilst 61 percent of voters viewed Donald Trump unfavourably. Therefore, to some extent, I feel that this debunks the argument that Clinton lost because of her national unpopularity — although it was arguably a contributing factor.
Delve more deeply into the exit polls, and I think they shine more light on why Trump won. The exit poll revealed that among Trump supporters, 92 percent felt that the country was on the wrong track, 88 percent were angry with the way the government was working, and 70 percent were voting for a candidate who they felt could bring about change. For Clinton supporters, they were found to generally feel as though the country was on track, and only fourteen percent were voting for a candidate who they felt could bring about change.
So, in short, voters were switching to Trump because they felt that he was the only chance to bring about change. For these voters, many of whom had voted for Obama in 2012, they were willing to vote for Trump despite their misgivings about him purely because he could bring about change, and shake up the Washington establishment. This is much the same as in the EU Referendum, where many people voted Brexit purely to give the Westminster political establishment a bit of a kicking.
Typically, when a single party is in government for an extended period of time (in this case, Obama had been President for eight years) their supporters grow disillusioned, particularly if their ‘champion’ is failing to enact the change that they voted for. This is the main reason why since 1952, there has only been one occasion where the same party has held onto the Presidency for three consecutive terms, with this of course being between 1980 and 1992 when Ronald Reagan was succeeded by George H.W. Bush.
In recent years, gridlock has characterised the workings of Washington D.C., and in his second term President Obama has been able to accomplish little without the use of executive orders. It was here that Clinton’s status as a member of the political establishment counted against her. Throughout his campaign Trump kept saying things along the lines of “she’s been in Washington for thirty years and she hasn’t solved these problems, don’t expect her to solve them now.” Whilst it isn’t true that Clinton had been in Washington D.C. for thirty years, the view that she wouldn’t be able to end the gridlock in government was clearly one shared by many. Indeed, even Clinton’s most ardent supporters would be hard-pressed to support the notion that Clinton would have been able to enact transformative change. It was this reason, that so many voters chose to go for Trump. They simply thought that he was the only chance that they had to change things with regard to healthcare, immigration, manufacturing jobs.
Whether or not he actually has the ability to do, they are not really that bothered. Having exhausted every other avenue for what these voters perceive to be positive change, they are willing to give a complete outsider a go, in the hope that he can shake up the establishment.
This trend in favour of populist and anti-establishment political candidates is one which is replicating itself around the world, on both the left and the right of the political spectrum. Of course we’ve got Trump, and we also had Bernie Sanders during the Democratic Primary. Before that we had the win for Leave in the EU Referendum. Even earlier we had the win for Syriza in Greece. Next year we’ll find out whether the trend continues in the French Presidential Election, where Marine Le Pen continues to look strong.
All over the world, voters are concluding that they want a change from the political establishment who they blame for the poor economic situation which many voters experience in their daily lives. For those who have been more insulated by the economic problems experienced by the developed world over the last eight years, this is perhaps quite hard to comprehend. But the truth is perhaps that voters are willing to vote for anything that they feel will bring about change, and shake up the political establishment.
Overall, Trump won because the voters felt that he was the only candidate who could bring about change. We will soon see whether he manages this task, and if so what changes he brings about.
We’ve known for a long time that the Electoral College makes a Republican Presidential victory that much harder than a Democratic victory — especially when you take into account the ongoing demographic changes in many of the swing states, with the rapid increase in the proportion Hispanics and African-Americans who make up the electorate, which would seem to strongly favour the Democrats.
However, Donald J. Trump won the Republican Party’s nomination earlier this year, and throughout the primary process (and since) has claimed that he can turn States which have voted Democrat in the past six Presidential Elections, meaning that he thinks he can win handsomely.
There are eighteen States (plus Washington D.C), which have voted Democrat in every Presidential Election since 1992. This amounts to 242 votes in the Electoral College, just short of the 270 required for victory. In short, this means that it can be tough for a Republican to win without taking nearly all of the so-called swing states.
I have made my predictions for the Presidential Election, and I broadly stick by them, although I concede that given how the polls have tightened in the past ten days, I may have overestimated Hillary Clinton’s winning margin. However, I maintain that Hillary Clinton is on course to win, as Trump does not really have much of a path to the White House through the Electoral College.
However, this being said, there are some ways that Trump could fashion a road to the White House, albeit a very, very narrow one.
The ‘must-wins’ for Trump:
For Trump, there are several States that he must win, or his chances of winning the Presidency are completely dead and buried.
If we assume that the Electoral College map at present looks a little bit like this:
I’ve been conservative here with the States I have called for each candidate (in particular Clinton). Even though Trump hasn’t led in a poll in Pennsylvania since late June, I’ve put it as ‘leaning’ Democrat rather than ‘safe’ Democrat, in order to be on the safe side. Likewise with Michigan and Colorado.
However, if we assume that Clinton is going to win Michigan, Colorado, and Pennsylvania, then we begin to see the difficult task that Trump has. With these three States added to the ones already wrapped up by Clinton, she would already have a total of 268 votes in the Electoral College, meaning she would need to win just one more swing state for victory.
For Trump, the path to victory is much less simple. He would have to win Florida, Ohio, North Carolina and Iowa. The most recent polling in Florida has suggested that Clinton has edged ahead, but early voting has suggested that although she has an advantage in Florida, it is not quite the same advantage as President Obama had after early voting in 2012. Remember that he beat Mitt Romney in Florida by just 0.88 percent. Therefore, I think it would be fair to say that Florida is a virtual tie at present. As for the other three States I mentioned, Trump appears to have the edge. If we look at the RealClearPolitics polling averages, Trump has a lead of 3.0 percent in Iowa, 1.4 percent in North Carolina, and 3.5 percent in Ohio, meaning that victory in these three States is well within his grasp.
If Trump were to win Florida, Ohio, North Carolina, and Iowa, then that would leave him with 259 votes in the Electoral College, still short of the 270 needed for victory but not to far away. To get over the finish line, he would need to win both New Hampshire and Nevada, as well as taking the one electoral college vote allotted to the winner of Maine’s Second Congressional District. This would give him 270.
The problem: NEVADA.
Early voting data from Nevada has suggested that Hispanic voters are turning out in record numbers to vote in this year’s Presidential Election. It has been suggested that this is as result of outgoing Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid’s famed Get Out The Vote operation. Given the inflammatory rhetoric used by Donald Trump towards the Hispanic community at large, it is hard to imagine many Hispanics voting for Trump, and the polling throughout the race has reflected this trend. Therefore, it seem sensible to suggest that Nevada is now leaning Clinton’s way. Indeed, experienced Nevadan political analyst Jon Ralston has suggested that Clinton has already built up more of a cushion in the early voting than Obama did when he won the State by seven percent in 2012. If this is indeed the case, then victory for Trump in Nevada is now as good as impossible. Therefore, Trump will have to find a different path to victory than the one I suggested previously.
Could Trump win Michigan or Pennsylvania?
Current polling averages give Clinton a lead of 4.7 percent in Michigan, and just a 2.4 percent lead in Pennsylvania. This means that she is relying somewhat on good turnout in these States, particularly in Pennsylvania. Both States are marked by the limited impact which early voting will have: in Pennsylvania just five percent of voters early voted in 2012, and Michigan doesn’t allow early voting at all. Therefore, it is harder to properly judge the enthusiasm for either candidate this time around. The lack of early voting in these States explains why Clinton has made lots of recent trips to Pennsylvania and Michigan, and why her final rally with Barack Obama, Michelle Obama, Bill Clinton, and Bruce Springsteen in attendance, will be held in Philadelphia on Monday night.
What seems clear, is that Pennsylvania is improbably close, compared to how it seemed just one month ago. However, for Hillary Clinton to lose Pennsylvania on election day would mean an absolute calamity for her campaign, and would suggest the polling is completely wrong. It seems improbable to say the least.
For Trump, the best hope is probably Michigan given the prevalence of ‘blue-collar’ voters. However, the Clinton campaign is extremely organised here, and it is hard to see Trump making to breakthrough he requires.
Realistically, the only path I can see for a Trump victory is the one I mentioned previously. For Trump, winning Florida, Iowa, Maine’s Second Congressional District, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, and Ohio seems the only way. And with Nevada looking how it does, although a Trump victory remains possible, it is looking very unlikely at this point.
How Clinton could finish Trump off: win Florida.
For Clinton, this is the State which could precipitate a good night’s sleep on Tuesday. She doesn’t have to win Florida, but if she does then the race is as good as over. Assuming she has won Nevada, then if she also wins Florida, Trump could take Pennsylvania and still lose:
If Clinton wins Florida, it is an absolute knockout blow. There is no way Trump will come back from that.
I still think that Ohio and Florida can be won by Clinton, but it is looking more and more unlikely. It has been reported that her early voting numbers in Florida are not quite as good as Obama’s were, which suggests that she is on course for a narrow defeat. However, this doesn’t really matter, as Clinton can comfortably win the Presidency despite losing Florida (and Ohio).
I would be unsurprised if Clinton managed to take Florida but narrowly missed out on Ohio, which would still give her a very comfortable victory in the Electoral College.
Ultimately, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Electoral College map looked something like this:
Overall, I think that despite the late tightening of the polls, Clinton is on course for victory. There have been suggestions that the polls must be wrong, and that they must be underestimating Trump’s support. In fact, I think that the opposite is more likely. It wouldn’t surprise me if Clinton’s victory margin on Tuesday is more than the polls suggest. With the news that the FBI won’t be changing their conclusions in the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server, it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to expect some of the ‘soft Republicans’ who had considered reluctantly voting for Trump, instead casting their votes for Clinton. Given this possibility, I wouldn’t rule out Clinton also taking Ohio; and getting very close in Iowa, Arizona, and crucially North Carolina.
All in all, the stage is set for an exciting election night. Although I would say a Clinton victory is very likely, the real question is, by how much.
The GOP has been totally split by this election, failure to reconcile its warring factions could result in its demise.
The campaign for the Republican nominee for President began in earnest on 23 March 2015, when Texas Senator Ted Cruz announced that he would be seeking the Republican nomination for President. One by one, other high-profile Republicans began to announce that they too would seek the nomination, including the likes of Jeb! Bush, Marco Rubio, John Kasich, Chris Christie, Rand Paul, Mike Huckabee, Scott Walker, and Lindsey Graham. In total, seventeen major candidates campaigned for the nomination, making it the largest single field in United States Presidential primary history.
Of course the ultimate winner of this process, and the person who I have deliberately chosen to refrain from mentioning just yet, was businessman and reality-television star Donald J. Trump.
When Trump announced his campaign for the Republican nomination with a press conference at Trump Tower, New York on 16 June 2015, few foresaw his victory, and even fewer foresaw the impact that Donald Trump would have on the wider Republican Party.
The nomination of Donald Trump as the Republican nominee highlighted a huge fissure in the Republican Party between much of the party elite (Senators, Congressmen and women, and Governors) and the Republican base. Time after time, comments by Donald Trump were disavowed by senior Republicans, but party members kept on voting for him. There was seemingly nothing that those in Washington D.C. could do to stop the Trump Train, with establishment candidates like Jeb! Bush, Marco Rubio, and John Kasich unable to conjure any answer at all to the Trump surge.
This means that we have an election coming up in November where the candidate at the top of the ticket (Trump) is running on a hugely different platform to many of the Republicans lower down the ticket, who are running for seats in Congress, or on State Legislatures. It seems clear that the Republican Party is hugely divided, which isn’t going to help when it comes to competing in subsequent elections.
Now, all ostensibly ‘big-tent’ parties face internal divisions, and it isn’t this which is the problem. Divisions can exist within parties, as long as these divisions are reconciled to the extent that the party avoids a full blown civil war. We have seen this in the United Kingdom with the takeover of the Labour Party by Jeremy Corbyn, causing a civil war between his faction and the so-called ‘Blairites’. Meanwhile, the governing Conservative Party are able to continue increasing their support, despite huge divisions of their own, simply because they prioritise power ahead of internal squabbles. The same is often true in the United States. The Democratic Primary Campaign showed that the Democrats also faced significant internal divisions, with the left-wing Bernie Sanders gaining huge support in his attempt at beating Hillary Clinton to the nomination. However, once Clinton won the nomination, the Democrats put much of this squabbling behind them because they recognised that winning the Presidency was more important than an ideologically pure political party.
The Republicans have manifestly failed to do this, and the Trump campaign can count on one hand the number of senior GOP lawmakers who are actively campaigning for him around the country. This is for a good reason, Trump has done absolutely nothing to gain the support of the party elite, and has instead chosen to shun them at every available opportunity by regularly making disparaging remarks about people like Jeb! Bush, John McCain, and Speaker of the House of Representatives Paul Ryan. On the Democratic side, the Clinton campaign recognised the need to reach out to Bernie Sanders and those who supported him during the primaries, with the result being that Sanders has campaigned around the country on her behalf, leading to a much more comfortable election campaign. Trump on the other hand failed to do this, meaning that throughout the campaign he has been fighting on two frontiers: against the Democrats, and against the Republican Party elite. Given this situation, it is perhaps a miracle that he remains somewhat in contention for the Presidency at this late stage.
This being said, it remains unlikely that Donald Trump will win the Presidency next week. This leaves the Republican Party at a crossroads, where failure to choose the right path could easily result in the demise of the Grand Old Party — at least in the sense of the party being unable to compete for the Presidency.
In the Republican Party, this crossroads comprises two very distinct factions. One the one side, you have the moderates, the wing of the party which has dominated the Republican Party throughout most of its existence, particularly at the Presidential level. On the other side, you have what we’ll call the ‘Trumpists’, a movement which has effectively morphed out of the Tea Party movement which has come to the forefront of the Republican Party within the last ten years.
Assuming that Trump loses on 8 November, there are many from the moderate wing of the party who will feel that the Trump experiment has come to an end, and that they will be able to return to something resembling their prior more moderate ideology. However, this will be far easier said than done. The rhetoric emanating from Trump over the course of the campaign is that the election, and indeed the whole political system, is rigged. Therefore, Trump supporters are being primed to not accept the result of next week’s election. If this is the case, and Trump’s most keen supporters refuse to accept the result in significant numbers, then rebuilding the Republican Party of old could prove almost impossible.
The difficulties that the Republican Party face today have been a long time coming, with the grounds for these difficulties perhaps being set in 1980 when the Republicans returned to presidential power with Ronald Reagan.
This was done with an almost completely different electoral coalition than that which usually supported the Republicans, with Reagan’s supporters encompassing many evangelical Christians and white working-class ex-Democrats. These new party members were in sharp contrast to the existing pro-business conservatives who made up the Republican Party. More recently, these divisions have been manifested in the rise of the Tea Party movement, which mostly occurred during the 2010 midterms, although it could be said that the 2008 selection of Sarah Palin as John McCain’s running-mate also helped to usher the Tea Party onto the national stage.
With the emergence of the Tea Party, the moderate wing of the GOP effectively lost control of the primary process. This has led to many Tea Party backed candidates winning Republican primaries and then getting trounced by their Democratic opponents in Congressional races (remember Christine O’Donnell?), although this being said there have also been many Tea Party backed candidates who have made it into Congress due to their standing in safe Republican seats. One of the most notable of these was Tea Party candidate Dave Brat who challenged then Republican House Majority Leader Eric Cantor for his Congressional seat in Virginia in a primary prior to the 2014 midterms. In a huge upset, Brat defeated Cantor 55.5%-44.5%, and with this Cantor became the first ever House Majority Leader to lose his seat in a primary challenge.
The Tea Party takeover of the Republican Party, particularly in terms of their House of Representatives group, caused huge problems for the moderate party elite. It was effectively this that caused the resignation of Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner, with the Tea Party wing kicking up a huge fuss if Boehner so much as considered compromise with President Obama and the Democrats. This led to the Republican Party being forced to shift further to the right of the ideological spectrum in order to appease the Tea Party faction, and by extension the grassroots of the party. This has culminated in the election of Donald Trump as the Republican candidate for President, and what is effectively an existential crisis for the Republican Party.
Given that this Tea Party wing of the party is totally unelectable on the national stage then the answer would seem pretty straightforward. If asked the question: which way should the Republican Party go? then you would expect any rational person to suggest that they go the way of the moderates, i.e. those who have some chance of winning the Presidency. However, it is not that simple. Those who vote in the Republican primaries are the party grassroots, and as I said previously this group are on a completely different wavelength ideologically to those in the moderate wing of the party. It is these in the party grassroots who are relied upon to campaign when it comes around to elections, and so to a certain extent it is very important to be able to keep them onside. In addition, the problem is further complicated by the Conservative ideologues who populate the likes of Fox News, Breitbart, and Conservative talk radio. It is these individuals who effectively control much of the modern Republican Party and to whom Republican politicians are forced to pander if they wish to appeal to their grassroots supporters, indeed the Chief Executive of Donald Trump’s Presidential campaign is Stephen Bannon who is on leave from Breitbart for the duration of the campaign. The likes of Fox News commentator Sean Hannity, and radio hosts Rush Limbaugh, Alex Jones, and Laura Ingraham have been particularly keen backers of Trump, and it is these people who set the tone in the modern Republican Party.
This group could soon include Trump himself, if he launches ‘Trump TV’. It has been suggested that his son-in-law and de-facto campaign manager, Jared Kushner, has been attempting to drum up support for this, although naturally when asked Kushner denied it. In any case, the Conservative media will go a long way to deciding which way the Republican Party goes. It seems extremely unlikely that following a Donald Trump loss, they will simply roll over and allow the moderates to take back the party. If anything, it is more likely for the Tea Party wing of the GOP to blame to moderates, and suggest that the party needs to shift even further right.
In short, there seems little chance that the two factions of the Republican Party will reconcile. What this means, is that they could instead split.
The possibility of a split in the party has been suggested by several high-profile moderate Republicans, perhaps most notably by Steve Schmidt who was a key advisor on George W. Bush’s 2004 re-election campaign, and who managed John McCain’s 2008 campaign for the Presidency. In an interview with Vox, Schmidt said:
I think the Republican Party has an outstanding chance of fracturing. There will be the alt-right party; then there will be a center-right conservative party that has an opportunity to reach out, repair damage, and rebuild the brand over time. America, ideologically right now, is a centrist country — it used to be a center-right country — but it’s by no means a Bernie Sanders country. Not even close. The market will demand a center-right party.
There seems little doubt that a split like this would indeed be possible. If someone with no knowledge of American politics were to compare the views espoused by Donald Trump during his Presidential campaign with the views of some moderate Republicans, perhaps Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona and Senator Mark Kirk of Illinois, then it would be unlikely that they’d guess that Trump was technically part of the same party as Flake and Kirk. This means that the landscape is ripe for a split, and it seems unlikely that either of the two factions would be particularly adverse to this outcome. Indeed, the aforementioned Flake has himself said that if the Republican Party doesn’t undergo a dramatic shift in policy and tone then they will consign themselves to “political oblivion”. Given that the grassroots supporters of the Republican Party won’t tolerate this kind of policy change, a split seems the only option.
However, the problem with a split is that it would be highly likely that it would end the possibility of a Republican being elected as President for a generation. The first-past-the-post electoral college system for electing the US President means that third-parties have almost no chance at all of gaining electoral votes. The effect of the Republican Party splitting would be that their vote would also be split, making a Republican President an impossibility.
A split would likely consign the Republican Party (and any new party) to the electoral dustbin. If the Republican Party is serious about winning the Presidency then it needs to unite and reconcile the more conservative wing of the party with the moderate wing. Because running on a moderate platform is the only way to win the Presidency. This particularly the case in modern America where demographic changes mean that the electoral map is skewed more and more in favour of the Democratic Party. The likes of Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Colorado tend to be touted as swing states, however statistically it looks as though it would be fair to classify these states as safe Democratic. Even Texas, once the bastion of Republican support, is turner bluer every year thanks to a rapidly increasing Hispanic population flexing its political muscles. These changes are making it more and more difficult for even a moderate Republican Party to win the Presidency, meaning that an ‘alt-right’/Tea Party Republican Party has absolutely no chance of national success.
As the aforementioned Steve Schmidt has said: “there’s no question that Republicans — as an institution and what we’re led by — are unfit to run the country, or to govern the country.” And he’s absolutely right. For rational, moderate voters, the Democrats are the only option. For liberals like myself this is great at first glance, but history shows that a lack of credible political opposition isn’t good for anyone, and ultimately leads to inefficient government.
For the Republicans the task is simple, they must take a more moderate path and stop obsessing about settled social issues that don’t concern the wider electorate. Failure to appeal to the wider election will result in the demise of the party of Lincoln, which is still affectionately known as the Grand Old Party.
With the debates over and only a couple of weeks until the Presidential Election, the race is hotting up. Here’s my prediction for how each state will vote, and whether Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump will win in November.
Doesn’t even need to be discussed. Has voted Republican in every Presidential Election since 1976, and this won’t change now.
Typically a safe Republican state, and the last time Alaskans voted Democrat was 1964. Although polls suggest the race here is closer than normal this time around, it look likely that Trump will still win relatively comfortably.
Typically Arizona is a relatively safe Republican State, although Arizonans did vote for Bill Clinton in 1996, therefore its definitely possible to turn the State. Polling suggests that this election could be the first since 1996 where Arizona turns blue. The latest polling by the Arizona Republic puts Clinton five points ahead, whilst the RealClearPolitics average has Clinton 1.5 ahead, making it look like a Clinton victory is coming in Arizona.
Arkansas almost always votes Republican. They did vote for Bill Clinton in 1992 and 1996, but that was only because he was previously the State Governor. Polling for this years race has consistently suggested that Trump leads by over twenty points here, and so the result here is a foregone conclusion.
California is one of the safest Democratic states, and hasn’t voted Republican since the days of Ronald Reagan. This will be an easy Clinton win, probably by around twenty points.
Typically considered one of the swing states, Colorado is usually won by the ultimate election winner, with President Obama having won the state in both 2008 and 2012. Polling suggests that Clinton has a relatively comfortable lead here, with the RealClearPolitics average giving her an advantage of 8%.
Has voted Democratic in the last six Presidential Elections and it would be very unlikely for the result to differ this time around. A comfortable Clinton win.
Has always voted Democrat, will do so again this time around.
Often described as the swingiest of all swing states, it was victory in Florida which won the Presidency for George W. Bush in 2000 despite him losing the popular vote to Al Gore, and it could be similarly significant this time around. Florida normally votes for the winner, with 1992 being the last time it didn’t. Obama won here by just 0.9% in 2012, but current polling suggests that Hillary Clinton has a lead of 4% going into the final stages of the campaign. Victory here could ultimately be crucial to her White House bid.
Georgia hasn’t been won by the Democrats since 1992, but even though it tends to be a relatively safe state for the Republicans, the margins are never huge. In short, it is winnable for the Democrats. Current polling provides a mixed picture, with most polling suggesting that Donald Trump is holding a slim lead, but others showing that Hillary Clinton has pulled ahead. Although Georgia can currently be considered a toss-up, I am doubtful that it is really a State that the Democrats can win, and there are certainly easier Republican targets for them to aim at (Arizona for example). At the moment it looks as though Trump will hold on here.
One of the safest Democratic states of all, Hawaii has only voted Republican in Presidential Elections twice in its history. Clinton will win comfortably here.
The last time Idaho was won by a Democrat was in 1964, and it’s been a safe Republican State ever since. There is no chance of that changing.
A safe Democratic State which hasn’t voted Republican since 1988. Current polling puts Clinton close to twenty percent ahead of Trump.
Not considered a swing state, Indiana tends to be strongly Republican. However, the Hoosiers did vote narrowly for President Obama in 2008, before swinging sharply back toward the Republicans four years later. The RealClearPolitics polling average suggests that Trump has a lead of five percent, and although this may lessen as we near the end of the race, it looks as though he will hold on.
Iowa is currently considered a battleground state, but Iowans have in fact voted Democrat in six of the past seven Presidential elections. However, current polling suggests that could be about to change. The latest polling suggests that Trump has pulled into a four point lead, however Hillary Clinton looks as though she is gaining support here, and by the time the election comes around she should probably have taken the lead. In any case, the margin here looks set to be one of the narrowest in this election.
One of the safest Republican States that there is. There is no question about who will triumph here.
Tends to vote Republican, although did vote for Bill Clinton in both 1992 and 1996. Trump has a very comfortable lead in the polls here, and it will remain that way.
Another Southern State which voted for Bill Clinton in both 1992 and 1996, but otherwise a safe Republican State. Looks set to be another comfortable Republican victory here.
One of only two States (the other being Nebraska) who don’t allocate their Electoral College votes on an ‘all or nothing’ basis. In Maine, the statewide winner gets two electoral votes, with one electoral vote up for grabs for the winner of each of Maine’s Congressional districts. As of yet this hasn’t resulted in a split electoral vote, and Maine has voted Democrat in the last six Presidential elections. But current polling suggests that the race is much more competitive this year than in previous years, with Clinton sitting on a five percent statewide lead (a significant fall from the fifteen percent margin President Obama led Mitt Romney by). But, although Clinton leads statewide, Trump leads in by around ten percent in Maine’s Second Congressional District, which would give him one electoral vote.
Prediction: Clinton (3 votes), Trump (1 vote).
Very safe Democratic state which Hillary Clinton will win with ease.
Voted Democrat in the last seven Presidential elections, and a very safe Democratic state this time around. Another easy Clinton win.
During the Republican Primary Campaign, Michigan was a State picked by Trump as one he felt he could capture from the Democrats. Although Michigan has voted Democrat six presidential elections, Trump felt that as a State that was significantly affected by the financial crash, it could be his for the taking. However, it is looking as though this confidence was misplaced, and polling suggests that Clinton has a lead of about eleven percent here. Michigan will remain a safe Democratic state for now.
The last time Minnesotans didn’t vote Democrat in a Presidential election was 1972, when Richard Nixon won a landslide victory. Although Hillary Clinton is leading here in the polls, it is looking much closer than usual. President Obama won Minnesota by ten percent in 2008, and by seven percent in 2012, Hillary Clinton currently leads by only around five percent. Nonetheless, it looks as though she will hold on, and carry the State.
One of the safest Republican States out there. An easy Trump win.
Missouri has voted Republican more than Democrat in recent years, however it does have a relatively good record at picking the overall winner. However, this was lessened in recent years, John McCain carrying the state by just 0.1% in 2008, and Mitt Romney winning comfortably in 2012. Polling suggests that Trump leads in Missouri by about 5–8%, and expect it to stay this way on polling day.
Montana has only voted for two Democrats in the last fifty years, and it looks sure to stay red this year. Trump will win comfortably.
In the same way as Maine, Nebraska allocated its votes by Congressional district with one for the winner of each of these, plus two for the statewide winner. A split has only occurred once, when President Obama narrowly won the Second Congressional District in 2008. The Clinton campaign has put a lot of money into the Second Congressional District, and it looks as though they may be able to replicated Obama’s 2008 success. The overall State vote will be comfortably won by Trump.
Prediction: Trump (4 votes), Clinton (1).
A true swing state, Nevada tends to be one of the best predictors of the overall winner. The last time Nevada didn’t vote for the overall winner was 1976, where it voted for Gerald Ford ahead of Jimmy Carter. This year, most polling conducted in the State has given Hillary Clinton a relatively secure lead, with the current polling average giving her a 4.2% advantage in a three-way race. Expect it to stay this way on election day.
New Hampshire has voted Democratic in five of the last six elections, and although John Kerry carried the State in 2004, it generally has a good record of picking the overall winner. It is a State which Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson suggested he could have a chance of taking on election day, but his challenge seems to have fallen by the wayside a little. Clinton holds a comfortable lead here, and it looks set to remain that way.
Although New Jersey has a Republican Governor, the former Republican Presidential candidate Chris Christie, it has voted Democrat in the last six Presidential elections. Polling suggests that Hillary Clinton has a twenty point lead here, and there is no way this will change.
New Mexico is typically a Democratic State, and has voted this way in five of the past six presidential elections. Nonetheless, as a previous Governor of the State, it was a target for Gary Johnson. However, it looks like Clinton has done more than enough to win it, with polls suggesting that she holds a comfortable lead at this stage.
A safe Democratic State which hasn’t voted Republican since the days of Ronald Reagan. Despite Donald Trump suggesting early on the campaign that as a New York native he stood a chance here, polling has suggested otherwise. Clinton will win comfortably.
A battleground state, North Carolina tends to be Republican more often than Democrat. Having said that, the State was carried by President Obama in 2008, only to be lost to Mitt Romney four years later. This year, Clinton has generally been in the lead here, but it has been very, very close. The latest poll gives her an advantage of just two percent. Despite this narrow lead, she has probably done enough to hold on.
Very safe Republican State which has voted Democrat only once in the past 76 years.
In recent years, Ohio has been a very strong predictor of the overall election winner. Since 1944, Ohioans have voted for the losing candidate just once, when in 1960 they selected Richard Nixon ahead of John F. Kennedy. Polling in Ohio for this race has constantly flitted between Clinton and Trump, and both candidates have held leads of up to seven points here at some point in this election. The current RCP Polling average gives Trump a lead of 0.6%, but recent polls have been tied suggesting that Clinton is gaining momentum here. I think that she has momentum enough to carry the state.
Has voted Republican in all but one of the Presidential Elections here since 1948, will definitely vote Republican again.
Was a relatively strong Republican state until 1988, and since then has voted exclusively Democrat in Presidential elections. Polling suggests Clinton leads by about ten points here, and will win comfortably.
Commonly considered a swing state, but in recent elections Pennsylvania has been carried by the Democratic candidate. This will continue this time.
Safe Democrat, and has only been won by the Republican candidate for President twice in the last fifty years. Easy Democratic win again.
A safe Republican State which hasn’t voted Democrat since 1976 (when Jimmy Carter who was from neighbouring Georgia was on the ticket). Will definitely vote Republican again this time around.
Very safe Republican state which hasn’t voted Democrat since 1964.
In the last two elections, Tennessee has been carried by the Republican candidate for President, but other than this and 1960, the State has sided with every Presidential Election winner since 1928. However, evidence suggests that the State has become more Republican in recent years, and can now be considered safe.
Texas is usually a reliable Republican State, and has voted this way in every election since 1980. In 2012, Mitt Romney won here by almost sixteen percent. However, recent polls have suggested that the State is now in play for the Democrats, and that Trump’s lead here is down to around two or three percent. However, given the dominance of the Republican Party here, it would be a really tough ask for Clinton to win. I expect the Republicans to hold on, but the gains made here in this presidential election could prove very helpful to the Democrats in 2020 or 2024.
Utah is one of the oddest states in this years election. Usually a very safe Republican state, the State’s high Mormon population have not warmed to Trump at all, and the Republican candidate only came third in the caucus here earlier this year, behind Ted Cruz and John Kasich. Enter independent Presidential candidate Evan McMullin, a former Republican aide in the House of Representatives. Recent polling has put support for McMullin in Utah as high as 29 percent, just one percent adrift of Donald Trump. Although polls tend to overestimate support for third-party candidates early on in presidential races, they tend to be pretty accurate later on. Therefore, we should be able to be pretty confident that McMullin can hold on to this support, or increase it. McMullin has the advantage of being able to focus his campaigning efforts on Utah, whilst Donald Trump has to travel all around the country as part of his campaign. Therefore, with only a few percent to make up, I think that McMullin can do it and become the first third-party candidate since George Wallace in 1968, to carry a state.
From 1856 to 1988, there was only one occasion that Vermont wasn’t carried by the Republican candidate for President, in 1964 when the State voted for Lyndon B. Johnson ahead of Barry Goldwater. However, since 1992 the state has been reliably Democratic. In addition, the Democrats could benefit from Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, who is campaigning hard for Clinton. All in all, Vermont will be an easy Clinton win.
From 1953 until 2004, Virginia was a safe Republican State, and was only carried by the Democrats once in this period. However, in 2008 and 2012, President Obama won here, both times by around five percent. Virginia has been considered a key state throughout this election campaign, and was perhaps one of the main reasons that the Clinton campaign chose former Virginia Governor (and now Senator) Tim Kaine to be Hillary Clinton’s running-mate. Polling suggests that this move has paid off, and Clinton holds a strong lead here in the run-up to election day.
Has voted Democrat in the past seven presidential elections, and the Democrats have a strong advantage here again. Will be an easy Clinton win.
West Virginia was won by Democratic candidate Michael Dukakis in the 1988 Presidential Election, and held by Bill Clinton in 1992 and 1996. However, since then it has been reliably Republican, and the last three Presidential Elections have seen Republican landslides here. Expect another Republican landslide this time around.
Often considered a battleground state, but has actually voted Democrat in the past seven Presidential elections. Clinton leads here comfortably, so expect the same this time.
Reliably Republican, and has voted Democrat just twice since 1944. Will be an easy Republican win.
As you can see from the above graphic, the following predictions would result in Hillary Clinton winning a commanding victory in the Electoral College. As for the popular vote, I do not expect the margin to be as large as Clinton’s margin of victory in the Electoral College suggests. In 2012, President Obama beat Mitt Romney by just 3.9 percent in the popular vote. If the polls are to be believed, and they sound believable, then the popular vote margin in this election will be greater. Although Hillary Clinton is doing slightly worse than Obama in many of the North-Eastern Democratic strongholds, she is doing considerable better in many of the Southern states. In 2012, Romney won most of these by double figure margins. Texas was won by more than fifteen percent, Arizona by eight, Missouri by nine, Idaho by almost 32. In this election, these margins will be much, much narrower. Given this, it would be unsurprising to see Clinton’s lead in the popular vote getting closer to seven or eight percent, maybe even ten if she does particularly well on the day.
But, it is the Electoral College that matters, and in the Electoral College Clinton is set to win comfortably, consequently winning the Presidency.
With the Presidential Election on November 8, we’ll find out soon enough whether these predictions are correct.
Probably not, but the gains made in this election could win it for the Democrats in 2020 or 2024.
When you think of Texan politics, particularly in Presidential elections, you tend to think of domination by the Republican Party. Indeed, Texas hasn’t been carried by the Democratic Party since 1976, when Jimmy Carter won here. In addition, no member of the Democratic Party has been elected to Statewide office in Texas since 1994. All in all, the last forty years have seen total domination by the Republican Party in Texan politics. Therefore, it was no surprise to see most people react with disbelief at seeing polls suggest that Texas was now considered a ‘toss-up’ in this presidential election. Despite the divisiveness of Republican Party candidate Donald Trump, I don’t think anyone ever thought that Hillary Clinton stood any sort of chance here.
This week, three separate polls, all with large samples, all found that the race in Texas was extremely close. Polling by the University of Houstonfound that Trump was just three points ahead, the same margin found by a poll conducted by CBS News and YouGov. And then, polling by The Washington Post and SurveyMonkey found that Trump’s lead in Texas was just two points. Given that there hasn’t been a great deal of polling in Texas (for the most part because it has always been believed that it would be an easy win for Trump), it is hard to say how accurate these polls are. However, given that several polls, all with large sample sizes, have found Clinton only just behind, it seems fair to say that they must be fairly accurate. The tight race in Texas mirrors much of what is happening in many States which tend to be seen as safe Republican. Overall, Trump is underperforming in these states relative to how Mitt Romney performed in 2012. Although the Electoral College system means that Trump’s winning margin in these states doesn’t matter so long as he wins, the possibility that he could lose a safe state like Texas, will be alarming to this campaign. With 38 Electoral College votes, Texas has the second most clout after California, meaning that it is potentially a huge prize for Clinton, could she win it.
Overall, I think Clinton winning Texas this time around is rather unlikely. We must remember that these polls were undertaken at a time when Donald Trump’s approval ratings were at their absolute lowest, shortly after the release of the Access Hollywood tapes. With just over two weeks to go until election day, I would anticipate the race tightening slightly. Nonetheless, the polled margin between Clinton and Trump in Texas is about the same as Georgia, which is now considered a battleground state; and, the margin is not much more than Trump’s current lead in Iowa, a State I expect Hillary Clinton to ultimately clinch. In addition, 38.8 percent of Texas’ population is Hispanic, and Hillary Clinton has a fifty percent lead over Donald Trump among Hispanics.
Therefore, the possibility that Clinton could win Texas should not be dismissed. Ultimately though, 2016 may just be several years too soon for Democrats to make a breakthrough in the Lone Star State. The Republicans have a large cushion here, and it would be a huge ask for the Democrats to overturn this. To do so, may require resources which are better served in marginal states which Clinton has a stronger chance of win like Iowa, North Carolina, and Arizona.
However, although there is a strong chance that Trump can retain Texas for the Republicans in this election, the gains made here by the Democrats in this elections, as well as the ongoing demographic changes throughout the state, means that there is a very real possibility of the Democrats making a breakthrough here in the 2020 or 2024 presidential elections.
Of course, it is hard to say whether the fall in Republican support in Texas in this election is down to Statewide demographic changes, or simply a case of Texans not liking Donald Trump. We must not forget that this years Texas Republican Primary was won by Senator Ted Cruz, and that Trump was able to muster just 27 percent of the vote. This suggests that maybe it is simply a case of Trump’s unpopularity which has allowed Clinton to gain somewhat of a foothold here. However, the reduction in the Republican dominance of statewide politics in Texas is a trend which has been ongoing for several years. In 2000, Republican candidates running for statewide office average about 60 percent of the vote, however by 2008 this had fallen to 53 percent. This suggests that the rise of the Democrats in Texas is not just a case of dissatisfaction with Donald Trump, but that it is in fact part of a wider trend.
The Democrats already dominate urban areas in Texas, and in 2012 President Obama won Texas’ four biggest cities: Austin, Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio. However, this was counteracted by Republican support in in suburban and rural areas of Texas which propelled Mitt Romney to 57.2 percent of the vote. Although the Republicans have counted upon their strong support in rural areas in recent elections, the bad news for them is that Texas’ population growth is in its urban areas.
As Texas becomes more urbanised, and even more ethnically diverse, the Democrats will benefit. Although, the population perhaps isn’t quite diverse enough for Hillary Clinton to win Texas in this election, it is expected that the number of African-American, Hispanic, and Asian residents in Texas will grow and grow over the next few years. This makes it a very real possibility that the Democrats could carry the State in the 2020 or 2024 Presidential Elections.
Ultimately, Hillary Clinton won’t win Texas this time around. Although the polls suggest that the race in Texas is pretty close (and it probably is) the Republicans just have too large a cushion here to lose this time around. Although the Clinton Campaign could potentially win here by diverting a large number of their campaign resources, this would be unwise given that there are states like Arizona which are much more sensible targets. However, the changing demographics in Texas mean that a Democratic win here in the 2020 or 2024 Presidential Election is a very real possibility. If Texas were to be turned blue, then that could leave the Republicans truly facing an existential crisis. Without Texas, it is hard to see how the Republicans could possibly win the Presidency, and it would mean that party having to hugely rethink what they stand for if they were to have any hope of competing in the future.
Both Clinton and Trump had their best debate, but the Democrat came out on top.
Last night the final presidential debate of this marathon of a campaign took place at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. For the first half an hour, we were treated to something we hadn’t seen so far in this year’s presidential campaign: an actual policy debate!
The forceful moderating of Fox News’ Chris Wallace led the candidates to discuss some actual issues. The debate touched upon the Supreme Court, gun control, abortion rights, and immigration; and for this first half hour, both candidates did pretty well.
For the first time, Trump put forward some actual policy, and it was clear that he had been well coached in what he needed to say to reassure the Republican base. He was clear about how he would appoint pro-life Justices to the Supreme Court who would overturn Roe v. Wade, putting the issue of abortion rights back into the hands of individual States; although his knowledge of what actually constitutes a partial-birth abortion was lacking. He was clear on his opposition to any form of gun control, and made a big thing about his endorsement from the NRA. He then went on to talk about how he was the only one of the two candidates who could reduce immigration, reinforcing his commitment to building the impossible border wall, and once again falsely claiming that he had been endorsed by ICE. Throughout this, Hillary Clinton was calm and collected, giving strong policy answers, which were typically almost opposite to Trump’s views.
At this stage, it would be fair to say that Trump and Clinton were neck-and-neck, both debating strongly, and putting forward strong policy based answers.
But then, Trump decided he’d had enough of being Presidential, and the classic Donald Trump re-emerged. He became short-tempered, and began to constantly interrupt his opponent.
In one exchange, Clinton was asked about the details of her paid speeches which had been revealed by the hack on John Podesta’s emails. She managed to successfully pivot onto a point about Trump’s admiration for Vladimir Putin, and whether Russia was behind the hacking. Trump then stated that Putin didn’t have any respect for Clinton or President Obama, to which Clinton responded: “that’s because he’d rather have a puppet as President.” In typical Trump style, the only response he could conjure was “You’re the puppet.”
This was pretty much how it went for the rest of the debate, Trump veered a long way off-piste from his original plan to look more Presidential and put forward actual policy (a plan to which he was actually adhering for the first 30 minutes of the debate).
In a question that Trump was surely expecting, he was asked about the sexual assault allegations that have been levelled against him in recent weeks. However, despite the sheer obviousness of the question, he didn’t appear ready for it. Trump claimed that the allegations have been “largely debunked,” suggesting that he isn’t completely denying them; and once again claimed “no one has more respect for women than me,” which is clearly untrue regardless of the veracity of these latest allegations. Clinton countered with a stirring answer headlined with, “Donald thinks belittling women makes him bigger.” This was perhaps one of the few moments, where we have seen some real emotion for Clinton in these debates, and she did well.
Both candidates struggled in questions about their respective foundations, but Clinton then came out on top in a question on experience. When Trump reused a favourite line about how Clinton had been in public office for thirty years but hadn’t, in his opinion, done anything, she had a strong (albeit pre-prepared) response. She did well to compare her career with Trump’s, explaining how their respective life experiences made her the better candidate. Trump had little in response, and by this point he was largely beaten.
This meant that he wasn’t well prepared when asked whether he would accept the result of the election. In answer to this he produced the soundbite that will be played over and over again, the only real takeaway from this debate: “I will look at it at the time. I’m not looking at anything now,” suggesting that he would consider not accepting the result. Clinton responded that the remarks were “horrifying,” and put forward a catalogue of times when Trump had also cried ‘rigged’, including when he didn’t win three Emmys in a row, to which he interjected: “should’ve gotten it.”
Although Trump began the debate well, and acted calm and Presidential, this soon changed, to the extent that at times the debate resembled a slanging match between a brother and sister. Petty responses like “you’re the puppet” and “should’ve gotten it” only add more ammunition to those who say Trump doesn’t have the temperament to be President. They would be right. It seems fair to say that anyone that can get as riled up by Twitter as Trump, shouldn’t have the nuclear codes.
Overall, although this was probably Donald Trump’s best debate performance, it won’t have done much for his chances in this election. He started well and things were looking good for him, but he quickly lost interest in proper debate and things descended into name calling, with Trump using his closing statement to call Hillary Clinton, “a nasty women”. For Clinton, all she had to do was turn up, and barring any revelation about a serious scandal she would be ok. She did this. For Trump it was a last chance to appear Presidential. Although he did this for the first thirty minutes, the way he lost his cool later on completely wrecked his progress.
Now the only question is how close this election will be, because surely Trump cannot win. I remain of the view that the popular vote will be relatively close, but it looks as though Clinton could win a huge victory in the Electoral College. All we can do now is wait and see.