Clinton favoured to win election but Trumpism is not going away
Washington - Opinion polls indicate that Hillary Clinton will be elected president of the United States but the result is likely to be significantly closer than seemed possible a few weeks ago.
Clinton’s lead, once double digits in some polls, narrowed considerably in the last week of the campaign. Clinton, however, leads in many heavily populated states, which gives her an advantage in the decisive electoral college.
Under the US system, the winner is not necessarily the candidate who wins the popular vote but the one who secures the majority of electoral votes — each state is assigned a certain number based on its congressional representation — with 270 needed to win.
A recent count indicated that Clinton was leading polls in states accounting for 224 electoral votes to Trump’s 180. States worth a total of 134 electoral votes were considered toss-ups.
Several factors account for the late surge in Trump’s support. For one, Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson has seen his support in polls fall from 10-12% to less than 5%. Apparently, more of the voters who are defecting from Johnson’s camp have decided to support Trump over Clinton.
Another factor eating into Clinton’s earlier strong lead was the revelation by FBI Director James Comey that the agency was investigating a new batch of e-mails related to Clinton that were found on a computer of the estranged husband of Clinton’s close adviser Huma Abedin.
While Comey did not make specific allegations of wrongdoing and acknowledged that the investigation may not reveal any, the announcement bolstered Trump’s attack that Clinton is “corrupt” and will face criminal charges if elected president. It also served to deflect attention from the swirl of allegations that Trump has a history of sexual improprieties and even sexual assault.
While a Trump victory seems highly unlikely, so does a Clinton landslide — something that seemed very possible as recently as two weeks ago. An extremely close race, particularly narrow outcomes in key battleground states, could lead Trump to declare that the election was a fraud. Even if the election outcome is by a sufficiently wide margin to make fraud allegations unreasonable, it is all but certain: Trumpism will survive November 8th.
Trump has demonstrated that a substantial portion of the US public feels anger towards establishment politicians, frustration over economic stagnation, hostility to free trade and open borders and fear over terrorism. The fact that Trump’s strongest support comes from older, non-college educated white males would suggest that fear of minorities, including Muslims, also is a key factor in his support.
If Clinton is sworn in on January 20th as the United States’ first female president, she will face the challenge of pushing through her proposed policies in a political environment that will remain highly polarised. The Democrats may capture control of the US Senate by a one- or two-seat margin but the US House of Representatives almost certainly will remain under Republican control.
Rumours abound that Trump is planning to start a television network to continue his movement to “Make America Great Again”. Even if he does not, a close election will inspire him to stay in the spotlight — a place he enjoys being and where the ratings-obsessed US media enjoy having him. To the dismay of the Republican Party establishment, future Republican candidates may feel a need to secure Trump’s blessing or at least to not anger him.
In short, the forecast is for political gridlock and continued divisive rhetoric. In such an environment, Clinton may find herself spending more time on foreign policy, an arena in which the executive branch has amassed greater control. It remains to be seen whether as US president she will be able to develop respect and legitimacy overseas when her former opponent stays on television decrying her as “corrupt” and as someone who “should be in prison”.
Clinton would be faring much better if the electorate included residents of the Arab world. In a poll of 3,200 people in eight Arab countries conducted by the Qatari-affiliated Arab Center Washington, Clinton was the favoured candidate for president by 66% to 11%. Moroccans and Tunisians were Clinton’s strongest supporters, while Egyptians came in last (but still gave her 56%). Overall, 56% of respondents said they had a positive view of Clinton and 60% stated a negative view of Trump.
If the Arab world had electoral votes, Clinton would coast to victory.