Hillary versus Trump: who will be the winner?

The American presidential elections are hardly three months away. Voting will take place on Tuesday, November 8. The USA is a presidential system of democracy unlike India which follows Westminster or parliamentary type of democracy. In the USA, a president is elected every four years and each president can hold a maximum of two terms.

Weird but true, in the strongest democracy of the world – America - the president is not elected directly by a popular vote. A citizen casts the vote for an ‘elector’ and the latter in turn elects a president. Out of 538 electors, a presidential nominee needs 270 votes to be the winner.

In the two-party system of American democracy, the presidential nominee from each party is not thrust upon by so called “high command.” A presidential aspirant has to seek a win through primary contests (called primaries or caucuses) within his own party – a form of inner party democracy.

Thus, after months of rigour, virulence, theatrics and political rhetoric, we now have two presidential nominees in the fray: Donald J Trump is the Republican (or GOP – Grand Old Party) nominee and Hillary Clinton, the Democratic Party nominee.

In addition, Libertarian Party has nominated New Mexico former governor Gary Johnson as its Presidential nominee and Green Party last week announced Jill Stein as its nominee.

This election is one of the most divisive elections in the US history. Credit goes to Trump for running an unconventional campaign characterised by ‘politically incorrect’ views on several issues that USA faces today. Trump is a multibillionaire businessman. He is trying to use tag of being an outsider from the political establishment of Washington to his advantage by championing that things need to change and they must change now.

Trump has been maintaining that the country needs a politically incorrect perspective on various pressing matters. His pet refrain is that the country needs a man outside of Washington establishment who can look at the problems from a common man's perspective. He has struck the right chord with the masses by venting out his feelings on issues like illegal immigrants, Islamic terrorism (it may be noted that President Barack Obama has steadfastly refused to link terrorism with Islam) and why the US is trying to be the chieftain of the world rather than taking care of its own pressing issues at home. His priority for job creation in USA is also finding echoing sentiments in the public.

Even though highly polarising figure, Trump was truly able to arouse a mass mobilisation of voters across the country during the Republican primaries. He amassed as many as 13.3 million votes in the GOP primaries, a highest so far. This is unprecedented despite the fact that he chose not to focus on a cadre based party mobilisation and deciding to spend less on advertisements.

Trump is not a typical republican candidate and thus to compensate this, he has chosen Indiana Governor Mike Pence who famously declared: “I’m a Christian, a conservative and a Republican, in that order.”

Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, had tough primaries too. Although, she always seemed like in a winner in Democratic primaries, the avowed "socialist" democrat Bernie Sanders gave her a protracted competition.

Opinion survey

Hillary Clinton carries big name as well as a baggage of liabilities. She also served as Secretary of state during first term of Obama. Trump has been constantly calling her ‘Crooked Hillary’ due to her alleged involvement in a private server scam and the fact that she must carry accountability for the failures of American intervention in the Arab world  and the Islamic State becoming so powerful in last several months.

Who will win? The national polling average on New York Times website, as of August 8, shows Hillary Clinton grabbing 46% votes and Trump 39%.

Money plays a great role in US elections. In July, Hillary campaign raised $80 million compared to $72 million raised by Trump. On that aspect, Trump may be lagging behind. But to be fair to billionaire Trump, he never seriously sought donations until the last couple of months. American political pundits say Trump is not only lagging behind on the money trail, but also on organisational mobilisation that it is not possible for him to catch up with Hillary.

But on ad spending also, Trump’s approach has been careful. His campaign is in no mood to spend too much when the ‘media is already paying him great attention anyway’. In addition, many feel that Trump has also alienated women voters, black and Hispanic voters. How much can he woo middle class white voters will largely decide his outcome.

Trump cannot imagine a victory without winning swing states of Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida. It may be noted that Pennsylvania has never voted a Republican candidate in last 28 years and Ohio’s sitting Republican Governor John Kasich has refused to endorse Trump thus far.

Democratic Party is more heterogeneous in terms of social, racial and ethnic representation, and Republican Party represents supremacy of whites and Christianity. Thus, Clinton will continue to rant usual Democratic Party ethos and woo Hispanic and Black voters and talk of middle path.

In Republican domain, the discussion this time is not happening on abortion and gay rights, thanks to the uncharacteristic Republican Party candidate Trump who is talking of jobs, ‘making America great again’ and his vigorous outbursts on illegal immigration, and radical Islam.

The possibility of Americans having a first-ever female president does not seem to have ignited passion. Hilary cannot count on that alone. Trump is a wild card candidate and that sums up all. Watch out!

(The writer is a Chicago-based columnist)

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