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Thursday, July 18, 2024

Who’s leading the White House race?

by Linda S. Heard

© Shutterstock
Hillary Clinton (DEM) © Shutterstock
Joe Biden (DEM) © Shutterstock
Bernie Sanders (DEM) © Shutterstock
Donald Trump (REP) © Shutterstock
Jeb Bush (REP) © Shutterstock

The contenders in the race for the White House are out in force campaigning to win over America. The lineup includes a former First Lady and US Secretary of State, a long time senator, a charismatic billionaire and potentially the Vice President. Linda S. Heard looks at the front runners in both camps, Democrat and Republican.

Right now, the contenders for their party’s nomination have embarked on a marathon of campaigning which is not only costly but physically and mentally exhausting. Running for president requires fortitude, determination, powerful connections and oodles of funds.

It’s a popularity contest first and foremost, but those riding high in the polls today may not be this time next year. They’re all under intense scrutiny. A hint of scandal or a misspoken sentence can be a game changer. No one can predict what lies ahead, but, in the meantime, let’s look at what the frontrunners have to offer.

The biggest surprise has been the rise of real-estate mogul and host of “The Apprentice” Donald Trump. He began as the joker in the pack but he’s currently enjoying the last laugh. Every poll puts Trump way ahead of his closest Republican rival, Jeb Bush. A Fox News Poll conducted in the first week of August indicates he has 26 per cent of GOP voters in his pocket as opposed to 15 per cent cheering for Bush.

Media pundits are falling over themselves to make sense of his early popularity. The Washington Post suggests it’s more than “anger at the political class” or a “rebellion against political correctness” but rather “deep economic anxiety”. Chris Cillizza writing in the same paper says he’s embarrassed about his earlier piece headed “Why no one should take Trump seriously”, which basically said he didn’t have a hope in hell. “Boy was I wrong,” he says now that Mr. Trump is surging ahead.

Everyone who has a TV set knows the man himself, so let’s take a look at some of his policies.

On Iran, he suggests Tehran is “laughing at the stupidity” of the US negotiating team, he’s labeled “a bunch of babies”. “We should double up and triple the sanctions and have [the Iranians] come to us,” he said, which must be music to the ears of many regional heads of state.

His ‘cure’ to rid Iraq of the self-ascribed Islamic State is simple. “I would bomb the hell out of those oil fields, he told CNN. “I wouldn’t send many troops because you won’t need them by the time I’m finished.”

Referring to Obama’s handling of the economy as “a disaster”, Trump says he wants to be known as the “Jobs President”. He wants to hike tariffs on imports - particularly from China, Mexico and Japan, keep the minimum wage, but not raise it and put “smart businessmen” in charge of the economy. He would repeal the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) and eliminate corporate taxes to be replaced by 20 per cent import duties and a 15 per cent penalty tax on companies that outsource jobs.

Coming up the field at a snail’s pace is Jeb Bush, who’s been criticized for lacking confidence and for making uninspiring speeches. Bush said he wanted to have fun on the campaign trail but his body language says otherwise. He’s already made a couple of gaffes that have been leapt upon by Democrats.

His urging people to work longer hours didn’t go down well with the public. He looked foolish when he proposed increasing the retirement age but didn’t know what the existing retirement age was. And when asked whether he would have ordered the invasion of Iraq, he said he would have. Like Trump, Jeb Bush has criticized the Iran deal but says he won’t tear it up on day one because he would want to confer with his team and America’s allies before acting.

He’s slammed Obama’s response to the Islamic State as “a failure” and pointed out that the terrorist organization didn’t exist when his brother, George, was president. His answer is to embed US troops with Iraqi forces.

The former governor of Florida blames Obama for his “Zombie economy” and says he aspires to creating growth of four per cent along with 19 million new jobs. Unlike Trump, who put erect walls, he’s a free-market guy. On the economy, his record’s good. During his terms as governor, Florida’s budget increased by 27 per cent.

Leading Republican candidates in the traditionally make or break swing state Iowa until he was recently trumped by Trump, is Scott Walker, the Governor of Wisconsin, who’s been slipping overall succeeding in capturing just nine per cent of GOP voters.

Walker says he’ll terminate the Iran deal immediately, if elected. He’s characterised the biggest threat to future generations is “radical Islamic terrorism”, he supports a two-state solution. However, he believes that now is not the time due to threats to Israel from Hezbollah, the Islamic State and “the problems in Gaza”. His credentials on the economy are poor. On his watch, Wisconsin sank into the bottom third of all US states.

Moving to the Democratic primaries, a CBS in early August places Hillary Clinton in the lead with 58 per cent, followed by Senator Bernie Sanders with just 17 per cent. Vice-President Joe Biden gets 11 per cent, though he’s not yet in the contest. However, an NBC/ Wall Street Journal poll suggests her approval rating is slipping.

Hillary comes with baggage related to her non-transparency on the attack on the US embassy in Benghazi and her secret email server while she was Secretary of State that’s under investigation by the FBI. Moreover, the media is putting her relationship with her closet aide Huma Abedin under an intensive spotlight. Abedin who’s been dubbed Hillary’s Girl Friday, is suspected of having close ties to the Muslim Brotherhood.

Ms. Clinton has endorsed the Iran deal with the caveat the Iranians aren’t to be trusted. Her message to Iran is “We will never allow you to acquire a nuclear weapon.” On the Islamic State, she hasn’t said much other than saying the group’s internet propaganda is “a principal threat” to the United States! She opposes anti-Israel boycotts and she’s defended Israel’s targeting of Gaza while advocating a two-state fix.

In a nutshell, her cure for the lagging economy is more jobs and more businesses. “I want to be the small-business president,” she says, explaining that she would cut red tape, give entrepreneurs more access to capital and push for tax relief.

Senator Bernie Sanders, the son of a Holocaust survivor, is a socialist with the gripe that the superrich have “more influence over campaigns than the candidates” which he calls “an absolute disgrace”.

He has welcomed the pact with Iran as “a victory for diplomacy”. He admits he has no solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict but believes the Palestinians should have their own state. Sanders has no appetite for getting America involved in Middle East conflicts and has called upon the region to “step up” to the fight against the Islamic State.

Sanders’ recipe for an improved economy includes increasing taxes on the wealthy, investment in job creation, a war on corporations evading taxes via tax havens, the imposition of a Robin Hood tax on Wall Street speculators, and an end to tax relief for big energy corporations together with cuts on spending.

At the time of writing, Hillary polls higher overall than her Republican adversaries. This race is hers to lose and Trump’s to win; whatever happens, one thing is certain - it won’t be boring.

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