Monday,23 October, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1306, (4 - 10 August 2016)
Monday,23 October, 2017
Issue 1306, (4 - 10 August 2016)

Ahram Weekly

Clinton leads in election polls

US opinion polls are putting Democratic Party candidate Hillary Clinton in the lead in the presidential elections campaign, but many hard challenges lie ahead, writes Khaled Dawoud

Al-Ahram Weekly

US Democratic Party presidential elections candidate Hillary Clinton received a boost after a successful party convention last week, winning the title of the first female nominee in US history, while Republican Party candidate Donald Trump was entangled in a new row with the family of a Muslim American soldier killed in Iraq.

According to an opinion poll released on Tuesday by CNN, Clinton has a seven point lead over Trump, with 52 per cent of voters saying they would vote for her compared to Trump’s 43 per cent. Besides improving her standing against Trump, Clinton’s Convention appearance may have boosted the share of Americans who think her policies will move the country in the right direction (from 43 per cent before either Party Convention to 48 per cent now), while Trump’s share has remained nearly the same, CNN said.

A majority of Clinton’s backers now say their vote is more to show support for her than to oppose Trump, a sharp shift since early May. Back then, 48 per cent said their vote was one of support for the former secretary of state, while 58 per cent say so now. While Trump also improved his numbers on that metric, his supporters are more evenly divided, with 47 per cent saying they are backing him to show their support and 50 per cent saying it is more to oppose Clinton, CNN added.

The Democratic Party Convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, has clearly helped Clinton to reverse the damage done to perceptions of her honesty during the Republican Party Convention in Cleveland, Ohio. Trump sharply attacked Clinton over her use of her private email to share confidential information while serving as secretary of state, even though the FBI has refrained from pressing charges.

Overall, 34 per cent of those surveyed say they consider Clinton to be honest and trustworthy, up from 30 per cent after the GOP (Republican) Convention. She will have to work hard to improve that figure, however, given the anti-establishment feeling that seems to dominate many US voters and which Trump has been keen to highlight as someone who presents himself as “coming from outside the box” and closer to ordinary voters.

But in the CNN poll, Clinton made more progress on several other measures, with 50 per cent now saying she is in touch with the problems of ordinary Americans and 48 per cent saying that she will unite the country and not divide it. However, when voters were asked about the honesty of each candidate, 35 per cent said they saw Trump as honest and trustworthy, just about even with Clinton.  

Equally important, the Democratic Convention, despite the clear anger displayed by supporters of her rival for the nomination Bernie Sanders, seems to have bolstered the party’s unity. Among Democrats and independents who lean toward the Democratic Party, 84 per cent now feel the party will be united by November, up from 75 per cent before either Convention.

Clinton was booed by a few Sanders’ supporters, angered by leaks from emails that proved that managers of her campaign had tried to influence the outcome in Clinton’s favour. This story became bigger after US President Barack Obama implied that Russian intelligence services might have been behind the leaks in order to provide support for Trump, who has repeatedly expressed his desire to improve relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Moscow has vehemently denied any involvement in the scandal.

This renewed sense of unity was in stark contrast to the Republican Convention, which deepened divisions within Party ranks. Top Republican leaders failed to show up in Cleveland, and no former Republican presidents, including George Bush father and son, openly declared their support for Trump.

While Trump’s Convention speech was watched by a larger audience, according to US polls, there was no question that the Democratic Convention was better organised and more dynamic. Topped by Obama, all the Democratic Party “stars” stood next to Clinton and strongly supported her nomination.

A CBS News survey released on Tuesday also put Clinton ahead of Trump due to the post-Convention surge. The poll showed 46 per cent of registered voters backing Clinton and 39 per cent supporting Trump.

CBS reported that Clinton’s bounce was in line with the upticks that Obama received in 2008 and 2012. It was smaller than the 13 point increase that her husband, former president Bill Clinton, saw in 1992, or the 10 point bounce that Al Gore got in 2000. According to US election experts, post-Convention bounces have been decreasing in recent years as the electorate has become more polarised, making up their minds in advance.

Meanwhile, Trump and Clinton began the post-Convention election campaign with dashes across the country, with Clinton seeking to make inroads into Trump’s base and Trump insisting that he could win traditional Democratic states such as New York and California.

Trump kicked off the week in two of the four states most critical to his viability in the November elections: Ohio and Pennsylvania. Clinton launched a three-day bus tour of Ohio and Pennsylvania, which, like other Rust Belt states, have been hard hit by the decline in US manufacturing.

She is also due to visit Colorado and Nevada, two western states with large Hispanic populations where she should fare well against Trump who has nearly lost Hispanic support due to his racist statements and repeated declarations that he will build a stronger wall along the border with Mexico if elected president.

Meanwhile, Trump continued his style of seeking to win voters by making shocking statements. In a rally in Columbus, Ohio, on Monday Trump suggested that the 8 November election could be “rigged.” He added he had heard “more and more” that the contest would be unfair, but offered no immediate evidence.

He told supporters that “I’m afraid the election is going to be rigged, I have to be honest.” He later repeated the claim on Fox News, adding “I hope the Republicans are watching closely or it’s going to be taken away from us.”

Trump has made similar comments before in relation to the Democratic race, suggesting the Party fixed the system to favour Clinton over her challenger Sanders. Earlier this year, he also complained that the Republican Party primary system was “rigged” amid efforts to stop his march to the candidacy.

At another rally in Pennsylvania, Trump took the unprecedented step of directly calling Clinton “the devil.” He attacked Sanders for capitulating in the Democratic race, saying he “made a deal with the devil. She’s the devil.” The remarks could have been an attempt to divert attention from another controversy Trump has become involved in after criticising the parents of a US Muslim soldier killed in action.

Democrats and Republicans alike have condemned Trump for his remarks about the parents of US army captain Humayun Khan, killed by a car bomb in 2004 in Iraq at the age of 27.

Former Republican presidential candidate John McCain is the latest senior figure in the Party to criticise Trump for his attacks. Senator McCain, a veteran of the Vietnam War, said in a strongly worded statement that Trump did not have “unfettered licence to defame the best among us.”

The soldier’s parents, Khizr Khan and his wife Ghazala, told the BBC it was time to stand up to Trump, but he accused them of “viciously” attacking him. Trump had caused controversy by suggesting that Ghazala Khan had been prevented from speaking alongside her husband at the Democratic Party Convention last week.

Obama sharply attacked Trump over the Khan remarks, saying that “no-one has given more for our freedom and our security than our Gold Star families.” South Carolina senator Lindsey Graham, Trump’s former primary opponent, said “unacceptable doesn’t even begin to describe it.”

In another development, American billionaire businessman Warren Buffett has challenged Trump to release his tax returns. Trump has said they cannot be made public until the US tax authorities have completed an audit, but Buffett said there were no rules against publishing tax returns and allowing people to ask questions about them. (see p.12)

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