Tuesday, August 11, 2015

How The Donald Could Beat Hillary

The stolid burgermeisters who run the Republican Party shrink with horror at the thought of nominating Donald Trump as their presidential candidate.  His verbal atrocities are reaching the level where they might offend Attila the Hun, and the conventional Republican wisdom is that there is no way Trump could beat Hillary Clinton, the likely Democratic nominee.

However, the latest polls that follow Trump's bloody comments directed at Fox News moderator Megyn Kelly show that Trump's support among the electorate remains essentially unchanged.  If this persists, The Donald will be a force to be reckoned with in the Republican primaries.  Democratic strategists are probably delighted, because they, too, are likely to believe that Clinton can easily beat Trump.

However, Clinton's 2008 campaign also thought she could beat Obama, and there was a problem with that line of thinking.  How could Trump beat Clinton in 2016?  By doing pretty much what he is doing now.

Within living memory, Trump has been a political centrist, and has even expressed support for liberal positions on some issues.  He's made donations to Democratic candidates.  He even made donations to the Clinton Foundation and invited the Clintons to his 2005 wedding.  As a candidate for the Republican nomination, Trump has slid dramatically to the right, proposing a wall at the U.S.-Mexico border that Mexico would have to pay for and the defunding Planned Parenthood, and generally foaming out of the right side of his mouth.  Plain talk pays off in this election cycle (see http://blogger.uncleleosden.com/2015/05/a-winning-strategy-for-2016.html) and Trump is presumably saying what he thinks will help him win the primaries.  Plain talk is certainly paying off for Bernie Sanders.

In the general election, however, if Trump is the Republican nominee, he could easily slide leftward, shifting his views to draw enough support from the political middle to win.  It wouldn't be hard for him to adopt centrist positions, since he's been a centrist for much of his life.  There is plenty of precedent for candidates from both parties to shift toward the middle in the general election.  The advantage that Trump has over Clinton is that he appears sincere, unscripted and bold.  Clinton seems unable to emerge from her cautious, calculated, too well-burnished image.  We can't see the real Hillary; and her destruction of e-mails only compounds the sense that we'll never get to truly know her. 

Both Trump and Clinton have tarnished images.  But Trump appears to have a way to overcome the tarnishes in his image.  Clinton seems bedeviled by the tarnishes in her image, and apparently can't prevent them from dominating the news coverage of her candidacy.  If this state of play continues, The Donald just might beat Hillary if they were to meet in the general election.

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