Three more candidates have dropped out since my last Presidential election post. We’re left with 3 Republicans and 2 Democrats … 6 possible pairs of nominees. The Republicans may go to their Convention without a clear winner. That could be interesting … at least as a TV event. The Democratic Convention will probably be little more than the start of their national campaign.
I’ll discuss the least likely possible opponent pairings first. Much as we may like and agree with Bernie Sanders, it seems unlikely that he will be nominated.
Were Bernie and John Kasich to run against each other, the Presidential campaign would the most civil race in decades. Sure, Bernie can get a bit worked up from time to time. Like many of us in our 70s, Bernie has been waiting for another chance to fix the world for about 50 years. Most of the time, he’s loud and determined …, but not angry. John has focused on our problems and his potential solutions from the beginning of his campaign through the present. He’s been one of the few “grown-ups” at the Republican debates.
Because they represent the extreme Left and the extreme Right of their respective parties, a Bernie Sanders – Ted Cruz contest would be the most “interesting”. Both campaigns have promised to overturn Supreme Court rulings or repeal laws. Both promises are misleading because neither is at the President’s discretion. The Supreme Court cannot even consider changing an earlier decision unless they get a case relating to that decision. At most, the President can, like anyone else, present a case to the Court. The President can propose legislation, but laws are made and repealed by Congress. The President can only sign or veto what Congress passes. This contest would test the temperament of the electorate and the kind of country we want to be. Both candidates seem to be fixed in their respective positions. I see this match-up as a no-win situation for a large portion of the electorate. With neither wanting to compromise, the Center would lose.
Bernie versus Donald Trump could devolve into a multi-month shouting match. Both candidates can be intense and loud. Who would win? It depends upon what we, the electorate, focus most of our anger and anxiety … and who we blame. If we blame the “one percent”, Bernie wins. If we blame illegal immigrants, Muslims, and/or “the boogie man du jour”, Donald wins. If we blame “the establishment” like we did in “the good ol’ days” (the “Sixties”), it’s a toss-up. Both claim to be “outsiders”, but those claims are questionable. Bernie has been in Congress for more than a quarter of a century. Donald has been a real estate developer for almost half a century … and brags about his wealth.
The most likely combatants in the November election are Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. I do not use the word “combatants” lightly. This will be a serious fight. Both are unpopular in their own parties. Both are distrusted by large portions of the electorate. Both have “skeletons in their closets”. Hillary’s “skeletons” are related to her tenure as Secretary of State (e-mails, Bengasi, etc.) Donald’s “skeletons” are related to his business practices (tax returns, Trump University, etc.). Both are able combatants. The tactics Donald used on his Republican opponents won’t work on Hillary, but he’s extremely adaptable.
Who each candidate selects as a running mate could make a big difference. Julian Castro is probably high on Hillary’s list. (Would the Right Wing’s lunatic fringe attack his last name the way they attacked our current President’s middle name?) Hillary could also take a page from Ronald Reagan’s playbook and choose a former adversary from the primaries … Martin O’Malley.
Donald would do well to select a woman for his Vice President. Nikki Haley, the Governor of South Carolina, would be excellent. Chris Christie and Ben Carson may be applying for the job, but John Kasich would be Donald’s best “Reagan playbook” choice.
I hope we do not see a Hillary versus Ted Cruz contest. As my regular readers know, I do not like Ted Cruz. (Many of his Senate colleagues don’t like him either. Ted is not a very likeable person.) I think he’s dangerous. He was one of those in Congress responsible for shutting down the Federal Government for 16 days in October of 2013. A lot of people suffered … some more; some less … during that fortnight plus two days. Those who forced the shutdown were a bit like the little boy who “takes his ball and goes home” because he didn’t get his way. When Ted talks about restoring freedoms … especially religious freedom … I become especially nervous. I get the impression that he believes that his definition of religious beliefs must apply to everyone. Isn’t that just the other side of saying that secular beliefs must apply to everyone. I don’t know how to resolve the conflict between these two varieties of discrimination, but I’m fairly sure that both sides have it wrong. Running against Ted, Hillary will have to quickly shift back to the political Center. Campaigning against Bernie has drawn her to the Left, but Hillary is essentially a Centrist. Ted could not move to the Center even if he chose to do so … which he won’t. I believe that most of us are closer to the Center than to the far Left or the far Right.
The only way that John Kasich can become the Republican candidate is as the compromise candidate at a contested convention. John and Hillary would be worthy opponents. The campaign would be civil. The debates would focus on issues. Who would be the winner in November … and our next President … is too close for me to call. I might vote for John myself … if I weren’t still “holding a grudge against” (i.e., distrusting) the whole Republican Party. (Iraq lacked the WMDs that the last Republican administration assured us existed. I’d forgive the party if George W. Bush unequivocally said, “We made a mistake,” … but that isn’t going to happen.)
One last thing … Politifact.com checks the validity of statements in the news and rates those statements on a semantic differential scale. Their scale is True, Mostly True, Half True, Mostly False, False, … and, for truly outrages misrepresentations of reality, Pants on Fire. I’ve tabulated many months of their checks of candidates’ statements and graphed the ratings. The number of statements per candidate differs because more of Donald’s and Hillary’s statements “make the news”. I’ve included the category Averages (across the candidates) for comparison. Here’s the graph. You be the judge.