Well, it’s almost here. The final stage of the 2016 presidential campaign soon will be upon us.
Donald Trump’s populist message helped him capture the Republican presidential crown — despite insulting the disabled, women, Hispanics, the media, political opponents and at least one of their wives. Hillary Clinton appears poised to limp her way to the Democratic nomination — although Bernie Sanders isn’t making it easy, and Clinton still must survive the FBI inquiry into her ill-advised private email server.
Barring an indictment of Clinton or an unlikely Sanders victory, we’re already seeing what the fall campaign might look like, long before the Democratic and Republican national conventions, with Trump deriding Clinton as an “enabler” of her husband’s affairs — this from a man who admitted his own affairs. Clinton and husband Bill surely will have an attack plan of their own in mind, but “You’re a bigger adulterer than my husband” doesn’t have much of a ring to it.
Trump, meanwhile, is walking back many policy positions, supporting a minimum-wage hike after opposing it, acknowledging that his tax plan will be negotiated and shifting back and forth on how to finance the national debt. In some ways, he’s veering left for the fall campaign, trying to take any advantage that Clinton might have with the electorate.
Clinton, meanwhile has veered farther left than she probably ever anticipated, saying at one point that “we’re going to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business” and then having to explain those remarks to voters in West Virginia.
But as Trump shifts left, Clinton will surely shift right for the general election, presenting the question of how we can believe anything either of them says? Will Clinton truly oppose the Trans-Pacific Partnership, something coveted by President Obama and many Republicans? Will she really try to shut down hydraulic fracturing?
This has shaped up to be an historic election in many ways. On the one side — if she can defeat Sanders once and for all — will be Clinton, the first woman to head a major presidential ticket and the wife of a former president. On the other will be businessman and reality-TV star Trump.
It will be, one suspects, one of the most divisive and nasty elections in U.S. history — and there have been some nasty ones.
It could also be very close. Many pollsters and pundits have predicted a Democratic landslide. Eighteen states, with 242 electoral votes, have voted Democrat in the past six elections, they point out, meaning that Clinton would need just 28 additional electoral votes to reach 270 and victory.
But, even within the past few days, some news accounts have pointed out that Trump’s support is typically understated. He’s polling neck-and-neck in several swing states, and one can’t help but remember Republican-establishment types saying again and again that he would never be the nominee. Famous last words.
In the end, the 2016 election will be a wild ride, perhaps one of the least predictable political fights we’ve ever seen. We all might need a vacation just to prepare.
Christopher Wood can be reached at 303-630-1942, 970-232-3133 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.