With the election just a few days away, both the Democrats and the Republicans have geared up their resources and public relations blitz in full earnest and with the utmost intensity. Earlier, at the culmination of the long primary election cycle this past summer, both the national parties held their mega-conventions. In the historic city of Philadelphia, the convention delegates for the Democratic party nominated Hillary Clinton-Tom Kaine team for the 2016 election as respective Presidential and Vice Presidential candidates
Similarly, the Republicans had a colourful carnival type convention at Cleveland where Donald Trump drafted Indiana Governor Mike Pence as his running mate to win back the presidency into the Republican fold after eight years of Obama presidency. It is no coincidence that the two major party conventions were held in the crucial states of Ohio and Pennsylvania, both of which are widely considered to be swing states with crucial electoral votes.
For Hillary Clinton, the stakes are high as she is the first female presidential candidate from a major political party to contest the race for the presidency of the United States thus breaking the glass ceiling in the American political arena. If Hillary is to win in November, she will also be the first ever first lady (the wife of former President Bill Clinton) to win the race for the White House. Hillary Clinton’s long years of political activism coupled with her role as the Senator from the state of New York did help her to convince the majority of Democratic delegates to repose their faith on her candidacy. On the other hand, her Republican rival, Donald Trump, a business tycoon and a maverick politician, who has never held any elective office in the past, has made his way to being the torch bearer of the Republican party to be its presidential candidate. Trump’s path to nomination was not so smooth as he faced stiff opposition from fellow candidates such as Jeb Bush, John Kasich, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz and others. Trump’s choice of Mike Pence as his running mate is likely to pave good dividend at least in Indiana as a lot of voters in the Bible belt stretching from Kentucky to the Deep South would look at him favourably for his socially conservative values.
With the heavy emphasis on putting the United States in a new direction, Hillary Clinton has outlined her priorities on a range of crucial issues before the electorate. From welfare to crime prevention, environmental safeguards to additional funds for education and student loan, to a fair tax system wherein the wealthy, Wall Street and the big corporations pay more, combating terrorism and keeping the homeland safe and secure, stress on rural communities in America’s hinterland, strengthen manufacturing through ‘Make it in America’ and a fair immigration policy, Hillary would like to have a new look and expanded domestic and foreign policy agenda than what her two immediate Democratic party presidents namely, Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, had envisaged.
For Donald Trump, he has a more radical solution for addressing the American ills ranging from railing international trade agreements such as NAFTA and Trans-Pacific Partnership by calling it as ‘disaster for the American workers’, asking NATO members to bear greater financial burden in terms of cost sharing, creating wall across the border with Mexico to stop infiltration of illegal immigrants, to put pressure on China on issue of environment and labour standards, asking Tokyo and Seoul to stop relying on American security umbrella and start building up their own nuclear arsenals, ban immigrants from the muslin countries into the United States and introduce waterboarding in the interrogation method of suspected terrorist, etc. Although, some of these statements and policy prescriptions have raised alarm both in the domestic and international sectors, yet a cross-section of the population does subscribe to Trump’s extreme views in this uncertain and turbulent times.
Although the election is days away, it has already generated a wave of negative advertisement commercials on the part of both candidates to distort each other’s record and confuse the electorate. While Hillary Clinton promises to bring fairness and equity to the political discourse, Donald Trump tries to raise the fear spectre among the American electorate vowing to bring back the conservative and radical ideologies into the mainstream. Apart from Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump, there are candidates in the running from other fringe parties such as Jill Stein from the Green Party and Gary Johnson from the Libertarian Party.
At the end of the day, it is as to which candidate can garner 270-plus electoral votes in the election sweepstakes that will determine the winner. In the infamous, re-counting-filled election of 2000, it was the state of Florida with 29 electoral votes that put George W. Bush on top although Al Gore of the Democratic party had more popular votes nationally. The states to watch in the forthcoming election are the key states such as Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Iowa, Colorado, North Carolina, Virginia, and Georgia, Nevada, New Mexico, which have vast number of independent and uncommitted voters. Florida is another big state where Hillary Clinton is expected to do well due to the overwhelming presence of Cuban-Americans as well as Senior Citizens above the age of sixty-five who have lot to gain from Hillary’s welfare and health care reform initiatives.
Women and youth voters of America in the November election are also likely to play a significant role. In the Democratic party primary election, Hillary’s challenger, Bernie Sanders, had scored over 60% of the age group of 30-44. Since 80% of the young population are in the age group of 18-29, both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have to court this group assiduously. As for women votes, backed by prominent feminist organizations such as NOW( National Organisation for Women), and with issues like women’s right to have an abortion, family care, increased welfare and job security of working mothers, Hillary Clinton is likely to be the chief beneficiary of this important segment of the population.
As the election fever reaches its peak, the race is likely to be tighter than ever before. Moreover, there may yet be some last minute surprise in store in the domestic and foreign policy fronts such as Hillary’s e-mail controversy and Trump’s alleged Russian connection that might have a potential to tilt the race one way or the other. As the legendary baseball player Yogi Berra had once said, ‘it was not over till it was all over’. All in all, the 2016 US presidential is shaping up as battle royal and all the world’s eyes will be upon it on the election day of November 8.
Mohammed Badrul Alam is a Professor of Political Science, Jamia Millia Islamia University, New Delhi.