All signs point to this being a year of opportunity for the Democrats
There isn’t an obvious opening on domestic issues for the Republican Party this election cycle. The economy is vastly improved under President Obama from where it was after the financial crash, and should continue to do well through November.
Annual deficits are a third of what they were. Health costs inflation has slowed, and tens of millions have insurance who didn’t have it before thanks to Obamacare. Energy prices are low, and the US is making real progress is transitioning to a better energy future.
On immigration, one of Donald Trump’s signature issues, the country is with the Democrats, and not with him.
The basket of issues around ‘security’ remain the GOP’s one obvious opening, with Secretary Clinton having some lingering issues from her time as Secretary of State. Expect a tremendous level of engagement from the GOP on ‘security’ issues this year.
Trump’s running mate
For Donald Trump there seems to be one really good pick for Vice President, and lots of less helpful ones.
John Kasich brings delegates to wrap up the nomination quickly; has as good a ‘favourable rating’ as any GOPer in the country; has deep governing experience to complement Trump’s inexperience; hails from the region of the country where Trump must win; and is the governor of the state where the GOP convention is taking place.
Kasich’s standing inside the party will grow for ‘taking one for the team’ by joining the ticket. I just don’t see how this doesn’t happen.
As for the Democrats, my money is still on Tim Kaine of Virginia. He is a former party chair, governor and is deeply respected by people on both sides of the aisle.
He hails from a swing state, speaks fluent Spanish, is Catholic (Rustbelt, Hispanics) and reinforces the ‘steady hand on the rudder’ sensibility that will likely be a core Democratic offering this year.
There are other good choices out there – Cory Booker, Julian Castro, Mark Warner, Elizabeth Warren, etc. – but I think Kaine feels like the right choice for this race at this time.
Six months out, signs point to this being a year of significant opportunity for the Democrats. The playing field leans Democratic right now, and the map is particularly advantageous to Democrats this year.
The Party’s leaders are well liked, and it has a strong track record of success in each of the last two presidencies and in winning national elections.
Additionally, Trump’s hard line approach to immigration makes Democratic success in states with heavily Hispanic populations like Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Nevada, Virginia and perhaps North Carolina more likely.
Taken together, all of this gives the Democrats a formidable advantage against an unpopular GOP without well regarded leaders and very little to show for their time in power over the past generation.
While the basic structure of the race favors Secretary Clinton, Trump is only seven points behind at this stage. Clinton’s high negatives will give Trump an opportunity to make his case.
His even higher negatives and lack of a true campaign are enormous liabilities for him, ones that will make it very hard for him to turn this into a competitive race in the months ahead.
What will the Republicans do?
But expect very aggressive attacks around the ‘security’ theme (Trump’s first major policy speech was on foreign policy), and on Clinton’s honesty and overall leadership skills.
Also expect the GOP to come together rapidly around Trump in the months to come, as on many of the major issues – tax cuts, climate denial, Obamacare repeal, hardline immigration policies, interventionist/jingoistic foreign policy – Trump is very much a mainstream Republican.
All signs point to it being a year of opportunity for Democrats. Though Trump should not be underestimated, the hole he and his party have dug for themselves is very deep. It remains to seen if they can make the election competitive.
Simon Rosenberg is the founder of the think tank NDN/NPI. In the run up to the US election Left Foot Forward will be reposting his weekly analysis of the campaign trail as a UK exclusive. You can find previous columns here
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