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The great presidential race

Hook in the west

Hook in the west
George Hook

THERE is a distinct air of uncertainty whistling through the streets of towns and cities across America this past week. As voting day arrives in one of the most hotly contested and unpredictable presidential election campaigns in decades, it remains too difficult to say with any degree of confidence, which of the two main candidate’s will come out on top.
If the US election system was determined strictly on a popular vote, there is every chance that Donald Trump would win. A recent survey, published here in the USA, revealed that 43 percent of Americans think Trump is trustworthy, compared with just 38 percent that believe Hilary Clinton is trustworthy.
This may come as stark reading to Europeans, most of whom haven’t the foggiest notion of what Americans on the ground are really feeling about the respective candidates, but it suggests to me that, even with the electoral college system in place, Trump maintains a decent chance of victory.
The tide of optimism that smothered Clinton’s campaign last month, when Trump was frantically batting off allegations of sexual assault and sexism at every turn, has switched dramatically in the opposite direction so that, even in the last few days before America casts its vote, and despite the FBI clearing her again on Sunday, Clinton was drowning in a crisis of email servers and perceived dishonesty.
Trump, on the other hand, is as relaxed and confident as ever before in this campaign and his public performances over the past ten days have been his finest since declaring his intention to run on the Republican ticket.
Indeed, Trump has the demeanour of a man that knows he is within touching distance of one of the most surprising and meteoric rises in the history of US politics. Crucially, he has saved his best performances for the most critical stage of the campaign. Right now, as I write, his momentum is running off the charts.

‘Make America Great Again’
Meanwhile, the Clinton machine, steadily confident up until now, is frantically pushing out the ‘big guns’ in the desperate hope of diluting Trump’s late rally. President Obama has been wheeled out almost every day this past week, imploring Americans against making a decision that he says would ‘destroy the world’.
Michelle Obama and Bill Clinton have also been busy drumming up support in any last remaining crevices where voters remain undecided. Unfortunately for the Democrats, however, it appears that this late effort is largely falling on deaf ears. Most of the electorate have already made up their minds.
Beneath the busy fervour of last minute campaigning, Democrats remain quietly confident that Hillary will take enough key states to swing the vote in her favour, but the reality on the ground here is that the support bases that proved so crucial in getting Obama over the line during his first campaign for office no longer apply to Clinton.
African Americans and Hispanics are not united behind Clinton like they were when her husband contested the 1992 US election. In fact, Trump’s campaign slogan of ‘Make America Great Again’ is beginning to resonate warmly with the frustrated lower classes, most of whom have seen little quantifiable change in how American society has been run during the Obama administration.
Now, with racial tensions higher than at any time over the previous three decades, many black Americans feel a radical change in governance is needed in order that a fundamental shift in society materialises. Hillary’s face does not fit such a change and there is a perception this past week that the Clinton campaign was imploding.
The American media has played its own part in pushing the focus away from Trump’s history of lies and racial slurs and onto Clinton’s most recent FBI headache. Most Americans barely scan the newspapers for content, but when they see and hear wall-to-wall coverage of Clinton’s alleged dishonesty, where discrepancies between her and the FBI’s version of events were growing wider by the day, it was not surprising that the American public would start to question whether this Democratic candidate has been telling the truth.
And amid all the FBI / email headlines, barely any coverage has been given to policy issues on either side. It might seem incredible to Irish people reading this, but this campaign has morphed from a political contest, into a personality competition. And with Hilary floundering and panicking at every turn, a smiling, relaxed Trump continued to pick up more and more support.

Poor candidates
Some bookies have already paid out on Clinton winning this election, but if I was the chief executive of Paddy Power, I would be shifting uncomfortably in my leather chair. Clinton’s biggest problem has not gone away; she remains most unlikeable to a large proportion of the American population. Factor in serious questions over her judgement recently, and it is perfectly feasible that Trump could capitalise on this latest email circus and come out on top on Tuesday night.
Nobody can say for certain what a Trump presidency would mean for the world. I am certainly not a Trump fan, but I can understand how the race for the White House in 2016 has descended to this position. Trump is on record as saying he will await the outcome of the election result next week before he decides whether or not to accept the result. But imagine if he wins the popular vote, but loses out because of the electoral college system? It would not be in keeping with his form or personality to accede defeat in such a scenario.
In my opinion, neither candidate in this election is fit for the office. Clinton has been craving that ultimate power position for neigh-on 50 years. Now, with her last shot at the US presidency in sight, it would be unthinkable to her that she might lose out to a man like Donald Trump.
All will be revealed this week, but as I write this, that scenario is growing more and more possible by the hour.