US Presidential Election – the Final Countdown
Dr Harinder Sekhon

As the race to the White House enters its final day, attention gets re-focused on polls that have tightened and predict a very close race. An ABC/ Washington Post poll on November 1 gave Trump a 1% lead over Clinton and an 8-point lead over her on the issue of trustworthiness. But on November 6, the last POLITICO/Morning Consult poll before the November 8 election has given Hillary Clinton a very slender lead of 45% to Trump’s 42%. But according to the same poll, there is some uncertainty in the eventual outcome as a combined 12 percent of likely voters say they will cast their ballots for Libertarian Gary Johnson (8 percent) or Green Party nominee Jill Stein (4 percent), neither of whom will win a single state but would have succeeded in diverting precious votes away from the main contest.

Whatever the outcome on November 8, it is a very closely contested battle for the White House in what has so far been one of the most divisive and turbulent presidential campaigns in US history. This has put both candidates under a very adverse spotlight, more so Hillary Clinton, who has come under severe pressure as no other politician has undergone the kind of scrutiny that she has been subjected to. Whatever gains she had garnered due to her performance in the three presidential debates have been negated by re opening of the FBI investigation into her handling of classified information while she was Secretary of State.

This act of the FBI less than one week before Election Day is no doubt debatable and supporters of Hillary Clinton have accused the agency of meddling in politics in an attempt to facilitate a certain outcome on November 8. In his defence, FBI director James Comey claims that the agency had discovered additional e mails on a computer that was seized in an unrelated probe involving Huma Abedin’s husband Anthony Weiner. Clinton has however rubbished the claim and said, “There is no case here.” The Clinton camp says that these are not fresh e mails but are the same that were investigated earlier and the case closed in June 2016. But the damage seems to have been done and the FBI’s action has had a decisive impact on Hillary Clinton’s ratings. In another puzzling move, the FBI released heavily redacted files dating back to 2001 pertaining to Bill Clinton’s controversial pardon of Marc Rich, an international commodities trader, hedge fund manager, financier and businessman, who was indicted for financial irregularities.

The focus by both candidates at this late stage now is to ensure the maximum turnout of their respective supporters that constitutes a key vote bank for each as the clash of words between the two contenders has become even more rancorous. It has been a tumultuous campaign from the beginning with both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump trading charges at a very furious pace. The Republican nominee, the flashy and controversial Donald Trump, a rank outsider in American politics, has shaken the US political establishment, first by winning the nomination from a strong field of sixteen contenders and now, through his provocative statements that show no sign of letting up. Apart from his inelegant remarks about women, including a recent video where he can be heard boasting about sexually assaulting women and getting away because of his wealth and position in society.

In other controversial tweets and speeches, Trump has vowed to build a wall across the border with Mexico, prevent Muslims from coming into America and revisit the issue of immigration. At his rallies he has boasted that he is the only one who can clean up the corrupt American political system since he knows it better than anyone else as he has for decades made large financial contributions to fund campaigns and then used this as a leverage when he wanted something done to serve his business interests. More shockingly, during his primaries, in a televised interview Trump made a cavalier and glib statement about exercising the nuclear option if he became President when he told MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, “then why are we making them?” These together would have been enough reason to end the candidacy and political career of any other Presidential aspirant, but surprisingly not Donald Trump. Apart from a minor and a very temporary blip, his approval ratings have remained consistent at 45% in two national polls conducted during the month of October.

There is no doubt a vast majority of the electorate have misgivings about Trump and his suitability to lead the United States. People worry about his qualifications, or rather lack of, to be President of America at a time when its global economic and geopolitical supremacy is being challenged by China and a newly resurgent Russia under Putin. But Trump has consistently confounded expectations and has displayed a tremendous capacity to rebound during this Presidential campaign. The only logical explanation seems to be the existence of a dangerous power vacuum within the United States that has fueled frustration and created an entirely new breed of disenchanted voters who are fed up with the status quo. These are real people, their anger is palpable, and it’s not going away anytime soon as the eight years of economic recession has only compounded their problems. Joblessness has increased, industrial production has declined, factories have closed down, and incidents of racial violence have multiplied. The list goes on.

A growing number of Americans are therefore naturally motivated by a feeling of frustration than by any individual political ideology. There is a visible disconnect between the Washington political class and everybody else, the evolution of ‘the insiders versus the outsiders’ kind of situation, putting career politicians under intense inquiry.

This has been aptly summed up by Senator David Purdue, the Republican Senator from Georgia, who said, “The Washington political establishment has hit the panic button. Not because they are afraid of any one individual or candidate, but because they are afraid of losing their own political power… When most Americans look at the federal government, all they see is years of failed policies that have made life harder for them and their families, and a political class that is well connected and uninterested in giving them a say in how to right the ship.”

And this is what seems to have fired up Trump’s campaign so far. He has the support of the angry White conservative male voters and a large section of others who see Hillary Clinton as a status quo President who will only inflict them with four more years of the Obama administration’s policies. Just the right mix of ingredients that creates conditions for the rise of someone like Donald Trump, “an embodiment of a decaying political culture that prizes celebrity over leadership,” according to lawyer and former lobbyist Richard Berman.

As America decides between two candidates who are equally unpopular - 47% of Americans wish they were not stuck with either Trump or Clinton - certain trends could swing the election either way, foremost being voter turnout on Election Day. America has the lowest voter turnouts among developed countries and both candidates would need to ensure that their supporters come out in large numbers to vote. Conservatives normally make it to the voting booths on polling day and here Trump has the slight edge. He enjoys the support of roughly 40% of the white American male voters who seem to be anxiously waiting for a ‘rock star’ who will make ‘America Great Again’ and be the panacea for all their problems. Neither do they question Trump’s unworkable plans that have been constantly revised and improvised during the course of his campaigning. But are these angry white voters enough to pave the way for Trump to stride in to the White House? Can any candidate win the US election without getting a majority of the non-white votes? And here it is advantage Clinton. She has done consistently well amongst Afro-Americans, Asians and Hispanics. President Obama’s recent whirlwind campaign in the key battleground state of Florida and Michelle Obama’s endorsement of Hillary Clinton in North Carolina seems to have added to her advantage amongst minorities, especially the Afro-American community. But would this outreach deliver the hoped for result is something that is not very clear due to voter apathy and disdain for politicians.

The Clinton camp has another advantage – it enjoys the support of the Trump opponents within the Republican party - exemplified by people like Mitt Romney who have spoken out against the controversial billionaire — “Through the calculated statements of its leader, Trumpism has become associated with racism, misogyny, bigotry, xenophobia, vulgarity and, most recently, threats and violence. I am repulsed by each and every one of these.” Former President and also the former Chairman of the Republican National Committee, George HW Bush, has said he is not voting for Donald Trump. That he is willing to vote for the wife of the man who defeated him in 1992 shows how Trump has divided an already fractured Republican Party by offending many of his party men. More recently former Secretary of State, Colin Powell, called Trump is a "national disgrace and an international pariah" and announced that he would vote for Hillary Clinton for President.

Hillary Clinton also has the benefit of enjoying the majority support of the Electoral College. Although she can rely on only about 268 votes rather than the 270 needed to get a majority and win the race, it is much more than Trump’s tally of 204. But will this advantage remain and can this lead win her the election? This shifts the focus to the battleground states and which way they will swing is now a key issue. Trump would have to win at least two of the three largest swing states that voted for Obama both in 2008 and 2012 - Ohio, Florida and Pennsylvania – to put up a tangible fight, whereas Hillary Clinton needs only one state to reach the magical figure of 270. But it is not so simple as these are just pointers. According to latest polls, the swing states of Ohio, Utah and a part of Maine are leaning towards Trump thereby making Florida with twenty-nine electoral votes the key battleground state. In Florida both candidates are locked in at 46.1% of votes each in a four-cornered contest. The next is North Carolina with 15 votes and a very slender lead of a mere two points to Clinton. So with just a little over a day left, Clinton must hope that Hispanics and African Americans, among whom she has a distinct advantage over Donald Trump, will come out to vote in large numbers and tilt the election in her favour.

Stop Press:- As this gets uploaded on our website, the FBI have come out with a statement that after examining the additional E-mail they have come to the conclusion that there is nothing incriminating in these mails and they will stick to their original judgement. As to how much damage has already been done or will it still restore Hillary‘s lead even partially, the time only will show. Till then it is anybody’s guess!


Published Date: 07th November 2016, Image Source: http://edition.cnn.com

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