US elections shaping up as Clinton-Trump showdown
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.