Clinton/Trump: Who Does America Hate Less?

221

If you remained tightly focused on their respective campaigns, you would think that Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton were soaring to their nominations on a cloud of unfiltered adoration. But as a story in the New York Times this week points out, the bigger truth is that both candidates are widely disliked by the American people:

America has lived with Mr. Trump and Mrs. Clinton, in a remarkably intimate fashion, for decades, processing their controversies, achievements and setbacks, from impeachment to marital breakdowns, Senate victories to flashy skyscraper openings. Voters’ impressions of them, with few exceptions, are largely formed and fixed. According to Gallup, 53 percent of Americans have an unfavorable opinion of Mrs. Clinton and 63 percent have such a view of Mr. Trump.

If those numbers hold or grow worse, the 2016 general election could come down to a true case of “the lesser of two evils” for many voters. Will Americans prefer Clinton’s scandalous past and obvious political pandering or will they find a way to cope with Trump’s brash personality and questionable campaign rhetoric?

To be sure, it could go either way. Clinton has a couple of advantages, starting with her path to the Democratic nomination. While Bernie Sanders has given her a few moments of discomfort, he hasn’t blasted her the way a more ambitious challenger might have. By the time she is crowned this summer, she will have survived the primary process relatively unscathed.

Her other advantage: the media. Once we’re past the primaries, the mainstream press will be solidly in her corner. Unless something earthshaking happens, we probably won’t hear one word about her email scandal after she wins the nomination. Attacks on her will be categorized as sexist. And the flipside on both counts mean trouble for Trump.

But then again, he too has some advantages. For one thing, he may have come into the race as a well-known celebrity, but the Trump of The Apprentice did not quite prepare voters for what they’ve seen since. In an election year that has shown a deep hunger for serious change in Washington, he can offer Americans something they simply can’t get from Hillary.

His other advantage, ironically: the media. While Clinton might get all the good press, he’s going to get the most press. For eight months, Trump has proven to have an almost magical ability to manipulate the media; when he wants coverage, he gets it. In the process, he’s weathered a series of “gaffes” that have only sent his poll numbers rising. In an age of oppressive, boring political correctness, Trump’s disdain for carefully-prepared, focus-group-approved speeches may be his greatest strength.

Of course, a lot can happen in eight months, and Trump is going to have to battle the Republican Party just to get the nomination. For all we know, it could wind up being Ted Cruz or…gulp…John Kasich who walks out of Cleveland to challenge Hillary. And faced with a truly unpredictable opponent in Trump, you’d better believe that’s exactly what Clinton is hoping for.