Could Donald Trump defy odds to assume the presidency of the United States?
Although Donald Trump defeated numerous rivals for the Republican presidential nod fairly easily, polls suggest he’ll lose the November general election to Democrat Hillary Clinton, now just days away from clinching her party’s nomination. But Norman Ornstein—a highly regarded expert with four decades’ expertise in U.S. electoral politics—says it would be a mistake to rule out a surprise Trump victory in November, in what has been an utterly unpredictable campaign season.
Ornstein sat down with AFP to answer questions about the tumultuous 2016 presidential race.
Why has it been so hard for Hillary Clinton to lock up the Democratic nomination?
Hillary Clinton simply can’t emerge very easily as a figure of change. That was true in 2008, when there was strong desire for change, and Barack Obama became that candidate of change.
Now, eight years later at the age of 68, having served in the Obama administration, change isn’t the word you’re going to use about her. Her issues involving email and other questions going back to some of the scandals, some of which were not real but were blown out of proportion from the Clinton administration years, are weighing her down a little bit.
The fact that her focus is on incremental policies to help improve the country, and not on sweeping revolution like Bernie Sanders, doesn’t help her very much either. The populism that we see out there, which is anti-establishment, is not going to work for a figure who is a core figure of the establishment.
Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders has mounted an astonishingly vigorous challenge to Clinton from the left during the Democratic primaries. What does the future hold for him within the party?
The symbolism if Sanders wins California becomes important because that will embolden him to dig in and stay in the contest longer and to demand more from Hillary Clinton in terms of policy, platform and the like, which will pull her to the left before he concedes.
For Bernie Sanders at some point, this becomes a question of how he goes back to the U.S. Senate. He could go back as a major figure, he is now a national figure, where he wasn’t before. He could be the leader of the left, but if he persists in a quixotic campaign that he can’t win and damages Hillary Clinton’s chances of winning the White House, he could also go back as a pariah.
Can Trump beat Clinton in November?
Because our politics are tribal, most Republicans are going to end up voting for Trump. Why would they vote for Trump even if they don’t much like him or don’t care for some of his policies? Because he’s not Hillary Clinton. Negative partisanship will play a role. Because of the tribal politics and the negative partisanship, Donald Trump probably starts with a floor of around 45 percent of the votes. If he gets over 50 percent, he’s got a chance of winning the electoral college numbers to win an election.
Let’s face it. Things can happen in the final weeks and months before the election. What if there’s a Brexit? What will that do to the global economy and maybe the American economy? What if we have an attack like Paris in October? Maybe people will say we can’t trust a person who’s never had any experience, but maybe there is the allure of a strongman. We just don’t know. And while Trump is not likely to expand his base beyond angry white voters, anything can happen in this day and age.