US elections shaping up as Clinton-Trump showdown

Friday 04/03/2016
A combination photo of Republican US presidential candidate Donald Trump (L) and Democratic US presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

Washington - Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump scored impres­sive victories in their parties’ primaries and caucuses on Super Tuesday and be­came increasingly invincible in the quest for their parties’ nomination for president.
Barring a shocking and unfore­seen development — such as a Clin­ton indictment over violating the State Department’s e-mail policy — US voters will face a choice in No­vember between the former secre­tary of state and the New York real estate mogul.
Of the two, Clinton is in the bet­ter position because the Demo­cratic Party establishment prefers her over US Senator Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.). Even though he likely will remain in the race for some time, Sanders is unlikely to attack Clin­ton in ways that would damage her in November.
Trump, on the other hand, faces strong opposition from a Republi­can Party establishment terrified at the prospect of the unpredict­able New Yorker being their party’s standard-bearer. Three of Trump’s opponents — US Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who won three of the March 1st Super Tuesday prima­ries; Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), who won his first primary; and Ohio Governor John Kasich, who is holding out in hopes of winning the Ohio primary in two weeks — have vowed to stay in the race. Trump won seven Super Tuesday contests.
For those in the Republican Party who still dream of stopping Trump, it is becoming just that: a dream. Time is not on their side, nor is the fact that throughout the campaign Trump has been virtual­ly impervious to criticism. In fact, the more outrageous his remarks, the more support he seems to at­tract.
Assuming we are indeed headed to a Clinton-Trump bout in Novem­ber, what will that race look like? For starters, it will be framed un­like any US presidential election in recent history: The first woman major party nominee for presi­dent, with vast experience as first lady, US senator and secretary of state, versus a blunt-talking, often profane New York billionaire who has never held elected office and only joined the Republican Party in 2015.
Clinton’s campaign will empha­sise her experience in the political system and the fact that she has been tested. Trump will emphasise that it is the political system that has created the problems and that the solution lies with him, a self-funded candidate who is beholden to no one and who will address is­sues in the manner of a chief exec­utive officer.
The two candidates have big dif­ferences as well as some shared views on the Middle East. Trump has called the nuclear agreement with Iran “a terrible deal” but has not explicitly threatened to revoke it. Clinton supports the agreement but has vowed to use all means — including military force — to ensure Iran abides by its terms.
Trump has insisted that destroy­ing the Islamic State (ISIS) must be the priority over defeating the Bashar Assad regime in Syria. He has proposed sending a limited number of US ground troops to the region and destroying the oil fields ISIS has seized. He also has sug­gested killing the families of ISIS terrorists as a deterrent to their recruitment. Clinton has proposed more coalition air strikes against ISIS and greater support to Iraqi Sunnis and Kurds.
Clinton and Trump both support establishing safe zones in Syria for refugees — and Trump says Gulf Cooperation Council states should pay the bill. Clinton supports a no-fly zone in northern Syria, which Trump opposes. He has expressed scepticism about the benefit of as­sisting moderate Syrian forces. As has been widely reported, Trump opposes allowing Syrian refugees into the United States and later expanded that idea to a ban to all Muslim immigration. Clinton sup­ports US President Barack Obama’s plans to greatly increase the num­ber of Syrian refugees allowed into the United States.
Clinton has expressed strong support for a two-state solution between Israelis and Palestinians as well as strong backing for Is­rael; she has said that the Israeli prime minister would be her first White House guest if she is elect­ed. Trump has been vague on the two-state solution and describes himself as “Israel’s best friend” but refuses to back down from his argument that in order to be an ef­fective negotiator, a US president must appear to be impartial.
The polls, not surprisingly, vary widely: four national polls con­ducted in the middle of February ranged from an 8-percentage-point Clinton lead to a 2-point Trump lead. Polls this far from Election Day, however, are all but meaning­less.
Trump, however, faces a serious problem with minorities. No Re­publican since 1980 has won the White House without taking at least 30% of the growing Hispanic vote (Romney won 27%). But Trump has pledged to round up and deport all 11 million undocumented immi­grants — an overwhelmingly His­panic group — in the United States and to build a thousand-mile wall along the border with Mexico. In a recent Washington Post poll, only 16% of Hispanic voters expressed a favourable view of Trump.
No polls are available but Trump’s support among Muslim- American voters must be in the sin­gle digits (Muslim voters are a sig­nificant factor in Michigan, Virginia and New Jersey).
But in a year of “anything-can-happen” politics, the only certainty is that the roller-coaster ride is not over.