The opinion polls show him losing by a wide margin against his Democratic rival. But we shouldn’t count our chickens before they’re hatched.
On Oct. 2, Dana Milbank, an opinion writer for The Washington Post, titled one of his articles on the Republican primary: “Trump will lose, or I will eat this column.” Trump is now sure to win the Republican Party’s nomination, and good sport Dana Milbank has said that he’ll get to work on the recipe for the daily newspaper’s column with the intention of eating it.
To be fair to the journalist, he wasn’t the only one to bet that Trump’s success would prove to be a flash in the pan. When the billionaire launched his campaign for the White House last summer, very few were willing to bet on his chances of success.
Trump has eaten his rivals one by one, starting with the most famous, the brother and son of former presidents, Jeb Bush, and finishing this week with Ted Cruz and John Kasich. Today, journalists, experts, gamblers (2 to 1) and pollsters are betting on his defeat by Hillary Clinton. Their reasoning? A large majority of Americans, from the political left and center, but also the “reasonable” right, will eventually favor handing over the White House and the Gold Codes to the experienced Hillary Clinton rather than that nutcase.
He is convinced otherwise — that he will once more outmaneuver the predictions. And this is absolutely not some wacky assumption, even though he is entering the fight with an extremely low level of popularity, the lowest seen in more than 30 years.
Clinton Is Floundering
Hillary Clinton is leading a very bad campaign. The primary campaign, which at first seemed like a no-brainer against insignificant candidates (compared, after all, to “Snow White and the seven dwarves”), has proven to be a torturous and bumpy road. While Trump has already triumphed on the Republican side, Clinton has yet to force the resignation of her main rival, Bernie Sanders, a 74-year-old man who defines himself as a “socialist," which is not, in theory, the best calling card to get a break in American politics.
Bernie Sanders, the ‘Socialist’ in the American Campaign
Torn between her centrist past and the need to seduce the party’s left, she spends her time contradicting herself. At the Department of State, she fought for the Trans-Pacific Partnership; now, she’s against it. In March, in a wave of eco-friendly sentiment, she announced that she would replace coal with renewable energies in the United States. But in May, on a trip across West Virginia, a mining region, she had to backpedal, speaking of a misunderstanding, and explaining that we have to fight against mine closures …
Hillary Clinton has not managed to attract the Democratic youth. Who would have imagined, at the beginning of the campaign, that young Democratic voters, including young women, would massively prefer old Sanders?
Sanders’s Strength: His Popularity among Young People
The former first lady will eventually win the primaries, without a doubt, but will emerge from the ordeal with a dog-eared image. She now seems like a has-been candidate, the face of the establishment and ally of Wall Street. And according to a recent poll, six out of 10 Americans still don’t find her “honest and trustworthy.”
Hillary Clinton will now attack Donald Trump head on, demonizing him. She will also have to triangulate, as her husband did in 1992, to appeal to opposition voters. But she has come up against a major problem: how to get votes from the right all while trying to appeal to the young left that support Sanders, but are already tempted to abstain from voting?
Facing Clinton is Donald Trump. He’s starting with a real handicap. Women, Hispanics, young people reject him. In over three-quarters of polls, each of these groups do not support him. Yet, he has his assets.
He is made of money. As the uncontested winner of the Republican primary, his campaign has momentum. He is full of energy. He is very popular with workers, at least male workers, a pool of voters whom he hopes to persuade to head to the polls en masse in November, which they failed to do at recent elections.
He has not won through an ideological program, but rather through a flexible and populist position, which can attract voters from beyond the Republican camp. He presents himself as the outsider, an independent voice, who is not afraid of “political correctness” (which he has proved extensively through multiple scandalous sexist, xenophobic and violent comments). He has led a frankly right-driven campaign, but has also taken care to express ideas that could also appeal to less conservative Americans. As a result, unlike his more ideological competitors, he is not closed off to social or education programs.
Likewise, he supports public investment to “make America great again,” as he repeated that “China and these other countries, they have super-speed trains. We have nothing.” And when he suggests that America should no longer play the role of the world’s police, that may appeal to voters, whatever their political persuasion, weary of Washington’s international adventures.
In order to win, Trump intends to build his own kind of “nonideological” platform. He plans to focus the content of his program on transpartisan issues (such as education), and to control his image and style, and above all, to crush Hillary Clinton.
This is his best chance of escaping from his own unpopularity, as Hillary Clinton is also hated by very large parts of America (but not the same areas). The American media machine, which loves close campaigns, won’t miss the opportunity to help him achieve this.
He will continue to tirelessly present himself as the new and energetic candidate up against the sad, has-been politician who represents the status quo. The primaries have shown how Trump has mastered the subjects under discussion: He has set the topics on which the competitors have had to declare their stance. You can’t say the same for Hillary Clinton, who has often trailed in the wake of subjects addressed by Sanders …
Despite the polls, which all suggest Trump will lose by a significant degree, it is far too early to declare him dead yet. In the primaries, he has proven himself capable of shaking up the traditional political landscape to his advantage. We would be wrong to see that as just a stroke of luck.