No one ever said it would be easy, least of all Hillary Clinton herself. In fact, Clinton, the Democratic Party’s nominee, has since the launch of her historic campaign in April 2015 maintained that this would be a close election.
And indeed it is. It’s a real nail biter, driving worried Democrats into a state of chronic anxiety that will not be resolved until Election Day.
This historic election, featuring the first woman nominee of a major political party for president of the United States during the country’s 240 years of existence, is facing off with arguably the most ill-prepared candidate in modern U.S. history. The Republican Party standard bearer, Donald Trump, is animated not only by his personal grudges, but also by his nativist, anti-immigrant and racist claims, which have emboldened some of the most intolerant segments of American society — including white supremacists and the American Nazi Party, which has expressed support for Trump.
Trump has called for a total ban on Muslims entering the United States and an explicit ban on Muslims who originate from any countries that are war-torn or in strife.
Trump has also alluded to the assassination of Clinton on a few occasions in connection with her support for increased gun safety and regulations, causing anger, alarm and concern among many Americans. No presidential candidate in modern American history has ever called for the assassination of their opponent.
Trump has called NATO outdated, a position similar to that of the Russian Federation.
International intrigue has also been a theme of the 2016 election, as Trump has repeatedly professed his admiration of Russia’s Vladimir Putin for his “strong” leadership style and has called on Russian agents to cyber hack Clinton’s email following the bizarre news that elements of the Russian government are believed to have hacked email accounts of the Democratic National Committee in Washington D.C..
The differences between these nominees could not be more stark.
Clinton is a progressive Democratic Party politician who has advocated for women and children throughout her public life and presents a robust agenda for new jobs through rebuilding America’s crumbling infrastructure, debt-free college and calls for a new immigration system to provide a path to citizenship for 11 million undocumented persons living in the U.S.. She has also offered a reform package on mass incarceration and criminal justice policies that address and respond to the deep concerns held by members of the African-American community. As a former Secretary of State, Clinton has articulated an American foreign policy stance that embraces robust leadership and engagement in the world by addressing challenges and issues, not shirking from them.
Now with 37 days to go before the winner is declared on Nov. 8, Clinton slightly leads Donald Trump by 52.3 to 47.7 percent in averaged national polling (tracking similar to Barack Obama’s 2012 defeat of Mitt Romney 51.6 to 49.7 percent).
However, Clinton and Trump are locked in statistical dead heat ties in the key battleground states of Nevada, Iowa, Ohio, North Carolina and Florida.
Last Monday night, Clinton came roaring out of the first presidential debate when she decisively won her first face-off with Trump, who appeared strangely incoherent at times, blasting lesbian celebrity Rosie O’Donnell during a discussion over the Iran deal negotiated to prevent Iran from further developing nuclear weapons. Furthermore, he bragged by calling himself smart for not paying taxes, while interrupting Clinton at least 51 times.
Clinton closed her debate performance with a damning narrative about Trump’s name-calling of women in general. She quoted comments uttered by Trump in public, such as his references to women as “pigs,” dogs,” and “fat slobs” and his sustained attacks on Alicia Machado, a former Miss Universe pageant winner, in which he called her “Miss Piggy” and “Miss Housekeeping” because she is Latina.
Her campaign, not missing a beat, nimbly turned out an ad the next day featuring the personal story of Machado, who recently became a U.S. citizen and is supporting Hillary Clinton’s campaign. Trump took the bait and doubled down, calling Machado “fat” again and saying she was a real problem because she gained a “massive amount of weight” after she won and had an “attitude problem.”
Clearly seeking to maximize her vote among women — among whom she enjoys a 20-point lead over Trump — and perhaps pick up support from Republican women as well, Clinton calculated during the debate to exploit her advantage with women voters by citing a litany of woman bashing by Trump. The Machado example also helped her with Latinos; she outstrips Trump by a robust 51-point lead with this critical voter base. Most pollsters predict that Clinton’s first debate performance should provide a boost in her ratings, to the great relief of Democrats.
Trump had a very rough period during the month of July, beginning during the Democratic National Convention and continuing for the next three weeks, but managed to climb back into the race by Labor Day when Clinton stumbled into an awkward explanation of the email scandal, which has dogged her since the start of her campaign, on Fox Television. With right-wing media whispering that Hillary had a “health problem,” she suffered a bout of treatable pneumonia which she had not made public before suddenly having to leave a 9/11 memorial ceremony; images of her stumbling into her vehicle were played repeatedly across the Internet, raising questions about the state of her health and precipitating a three-week decline in her polling numbers which ended on the night of the debate.
But Clinton’s superior debate performance seems to have steadied her campaign, while putting Trump into a tailspin, as evidenced by his Twitter meltdown about Machado early Friday morning, reinforcing Clinton’s assertions that Trump lacks the requisite temperament to be president.
Within the American system of an electoral college process, which requires a presidential winner to obtain 270 electoral votes, popular votes do matter but have more value or worth in the most populous states — like Ohio, Pennsylvania, Illinois, California, New York, Florida and Wisconsin. The candidates will be spending the next five weeks in about 12-14 of the most populous states that are tossups in a grinding effort to lock down the numbers necessary for victory.
The weakest segment of voter support within Clinton’s coalition inherited from Barack Obama is millennial voters, aged 18-34 in 2015, who now number 75.4 million — outnumbering the baby boomers, aged 51-69, by about 500,000 persons.
She is turning for help to former presidential candidate and primary rival Bernie Sanders and U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren, both popular with young people, along with First Lady Michelle Obama and President Obama, to shore up her sagging support.
Obama has repeatedly said from the campaign trail that only Clinton or Trump will be elected president in November. He also says that “not voting means you are voting for Trump. And voting for a third-party candidate means you are voting for Trump.”
Recent polls indicate that more than one-third of voters under the age of 30 plan to vote in November for third party presidential candidates Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party or Jill Stein of the Green Party (both are polling at single digit levels nationally). Clinton has support from about 31 percent of voters under the age of 35 in a four-way race. Trends indicate that Clinton has bled support from millennials in states like Colorado and North Carolina, yielding to dead heats in these battleground contests. Young people are also less likely to show up on Election Day.
Securing more support from millennials is of paramount importance for Clinton to become the 45th president of the United States.
Indeed, the votes of the millennials may not only determine the fate and direction of the United States for the next 25-50 years, but that of the world. The stakes have never been greater, according to Clinton — a statement that resonates with many Americans who are filled with dread and anxiety as Nov. 8 approaches with certain finality.