June 2016 Election Update – The General Election Race Begins
With both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump now having locked up their nominations, and becoming presumptive nominees of their respective parties, the general election is officially in full swing. In this article, we’ll be taking a look at each candidate and how they have faired so far in June.
Earlier this month, voters in California, New Jersey, and a handful of other states helped put the final nails in the coffin of Senator Bernie Sander’s bid for the Democratic Nomination. While the Independent-turned-Democrat had the biggest rallies and a rabid fan base, it was not enough to turn the party away from the longtime favorite, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Nevertheless, the self-described democratic socialist did much better than anyone expected at the outset, earning over 1,800 pledged delegates to Clinton’s 2,220. Thus, Sanders will almost certainly remain a force in the party, and hold plenty of influence over the platform that comes out of the convention next month.
The Senator has not endorsed Clinton yet, though he has promised to work with her to keep Donald Trump out of the White House. A more forceful endorsement of Clinton will likely come in the time leading up to the party’s convention. While there are rumblings about upset Sanders supporters refusing to vote for Hillary, or even voting for Trump, this so-called “Bernie or Bust” vote will in all likelihood not end up truly affecting the race. Political junkies remember that in 2008, following a much more bitter primary between then-Senators Clinton and Obama, angry Clinton supporters insisted they wouldn’t vote for Obama in November. Yet, the numbers indicated that the party consolidated around Obama by the Fall. Already, the same seems to have begun to happen for Clinton now:
The Size of the Lead May Vary by Poll, But Clinton is now Consistently Ahead
Since Clinton locked up her party’s nomination, she has moved from a tie with Trump to what is now a moderately sized lead in most polls. She is ahead by 6.1 points in the Real Clear Politics average of all major polls of the last two weeks.
Clinton’s new lead can be explained a number of ways. For one, she received the endorsement of President Barack Obama, who is increasingly looking like he will leave office as a relatively popular and well-liked President. His approval rating currently hovers around or above 50%, a notable achievement for a late second-term President.
President Obama’s Approval is Strong for a President Late in a Second Term
In comparison, at this point in 2008 President Bush only had 28% approval and thus was toxic to John McCain’s campaign. Clinton will have two popular Presidents campaigning on her behalf, given how well-liked her husband remains with Americans.
This is good news for Secretary Clinton, because she is not very good at campaigning. Fairly or unfairly, she comes off as wooden and artificial, and her approval rating always drops whenever she is running for something. It is a peculiar phenomenon- as Senator or Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton was popular, with poll data confirming deep approval of her work. Yet she drops devastatingly low as soon as she so much as looks at the campaign trail. Having what are arguably the modern era’s two greatest living politicians on her side will likely be a relief.
The biggest thing Hillary Clinton has going for her in this race, beyond even two popular Presidents, is her opponent. As one amusing factoid states, Hillary Clinton is the most disliked Presidential presumptive nominee of all time, except for…
What is there really to say about this billionaire Presidential Candidate that hasn’t already been said?
He has absolutely confounded expectations in laying waste to a Republican Party that had hoped to begin to appeal to minorities. He has gleefully courted controversies and made statements that would have sunk just about any other candidate. He has essentially declared war on his own party at times, calling out Republicans in Congress when they do not back him more forcefully.
At this point, anyone who declares that Trump has peaked does so at their own risk. The businessman has at minimum proven that he can consistently produce shocking results. That’s why Hillary Clinton would be wise to not get too comfortable with her 6 point lead. It is simply too volatile a year to rest on what would be seen as a safe lead in any other year. Remember, President Obama defeated Governor Romney by about 4% in 2012 and it was seen as a pretty sizable win. Yet Hillary’s larger lead right now should not be counted on, especially with how much time there is between now and November.
All that said, it has decidedly not been a good month for Donald Trump. He has had multiple “restarts”, including one just last week after the (forced) departure of campaign manager Corey Lewandowski. Yet each time he tries to change the tone of his campaign, he manages to start up a twitter fight, make an insensitive comment, or continue fighting with his party.
Many Republican candidates are currently running away from their presumptive nominee, clearly afraid he may be poison for the down ballot. And Trump has even managed to put safe Republican states in play for Clinton- a recent poll has him only up by 4 points in Arizona, while another has him actually losing narrowly to Clinton; a state Mitt Romney carried, Arizona by 10% in 2012.
It seems that Mr. Trump’s appeal to the Republican base is not translating to America, in general. Yet, the end of this month brought news from across the pond, a stark reminder that nothing is over until it is over. In the UK, voters decided to leave the European Union in large part thanks to fears about immigration. While this was only a little surprising given that polls showed the referendum results would be close, it nevertheless provided ammunition for Donald Trump, who boasted at one of his golf courses in Scotland about how great it was that the United Kingdom was “taking its country back” (apparently oblivious to the fact that Scotland overwhelmingly voted to stay in the EU,) just like he keeps saying Americans should in the US.
Populism is an undeniably visceral and powerful political force, and as such, Mr. Trump’s brand of populism may yet propel him to a surprising win in November.
No one can really deny that June 2016 has been much better to Hillary Clinton than it has been to Donald Trump. The former Secretary of State has been consolidating support within her party and now has a popular sitting President actively campaigning for her, leading to decently sized polling leads both nationally and in the important swing states.
Donald Trump is still battling with his own party, and whether he can appeal to a larger bloc than just a plurality of the Republican base remains to be seen. His sheer unpredictability will keep everyone guessing until the very end, and that is no doubt a hidden weapon that keeps him in the race.
If we were to make a comparison to a basketball game, right now this election is in halftime, and Hillary Clinton is up by 10 points. That is a decent sized lead and if she plays it smart in the second half, she is favored to win. However, a ten point lead, as any basketball fan will tell you, is hardly insurmountable.
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