2016 was a bad year for political pollsters and predictors. At his website, FiveThirtyEight, data guru Nate Silver gave Hillary Clinton a 65% Chance of defeating Donald Trump. Silver’s prediction model was on the low end. The New York Times said Hillary had an 85% chance of winning. The Princeton Election Consortium put Hillary’s chances at 99%. Hillary Clinton was heavily favored in 2016.
But she shouldn’t have been. At the end of the Obama presidency much of the nation was in a malaise. The Obama economic recovery never achieved an annual growth rate of 3% and wasn’t felt throughout large swaths of the country. While Obamacare enabled some Americans to buy health insurance, it didn’t lead to universal coverage and was passed by the Democrats via parliamentary muscle and maneuver. The president’s Iran nuclear deal was never ratified by the senate and did not have the force of law. Under Obama the Democrat Party didn’t grow, it shrank. Obama lost nearly a thousand elected Democrat seats throughout the nation. Obama’s presidency simply wasn’t transformative as he and the Democrats promised.
After eight years of Obama, Hillary had a tough task before her. Replacing a two-term president from your party, while not impossible, is hard to do. Just ask Vice Presidents Richard Nixon and Al Gore. In 2016 had Hillary Clinton been in the White House for eight years, a brilliant Democrat candidate like Barrack Obama would’ve been hard pressed to defeat Donald Trump.
Hillary was not a brilliant candidate. From her first senate run in 2000 she was stiff on the stump and had trouble connecting with voters. One got the sense that everything Hillary said had been presented to a focus group and written into a talking point. Overtime she should have become a better campaigner. But bizarrely, from 2000 through 2016 Hillary only became more awkward, ‘Why aren’t I fifty points ahead!?’ she shouted in a weird televised message during the 2016 campaign. She couldn't defeat Obama in the 2008 Democrat primary and barely defeated socialist Bernie in 2016
Hillary could have learned a thing or two from her husband. In 1992 Bill Clinton jumped into the Democrat primary. Clinton cast himself as an old fashioned democrat in the model of JFK and FDR, an alternative to the ‘bleeding heart’ liberals that lost five of the last six presidential elections to the GOP. Clinton reinvented campaigning, appearing on talk shows and attending townhalls where he took questions from voters. Clinton had an uncanny knack for connecting with people in these venues. After twelve years of Republicans in the White House and a recession, the circumstances for Clinton were fantastic and he won a three-way race. With a good economy at his back in 1996, Clinton easily defeated Republican dinosaur Bob Dole.
In 2000 Vice President Al Gore won the Democrat nomination. But despite eight years of peace and prosperity, Gore lost the 2000 election by a razor thin margin. The Vice President looked uncomfortable before the cameras as he tried to overcome his reputation for being ‘wooden’. His ideas like a social security ‘lock box’ were the butt of jokes. His three debates with GOP nominee George W. Bush were the turning point of the campaign. Bush was amiable while Gore looked like a smug, know it all bully lacking self-awareness. Gore thought he won the debates. Exasperated staffers showed him clips of Saturday Night Live’s brutal parodies of his performance.
So at this point readers are probably wondering where Trump and Biden fit into this matrix of circumstances, ideas and candidates. Let’s ask ourselves who’s the better candidate. Joe Biden has spent most of the campaign in his Wilmington home. When Biden does come out, reads cues from a comically large teleprompter, very often losing his place and the context of what he is saying. Biden looks tired and old. On most days he ends press availability before noon. The size of the Trump crowd protesting outside a Biden campaign event usually outnumbers the people attending. Biden just isn’t a big campaign draw. At this point Biden’s best argument is that he’s not Trump. His TV ads are sentimental calls for unity and change but offer no specifics. In essence Biden tells voters nothing about what he would do in the Oval Office.
Despite being 73 years old and having just recovered from the Corona Virus, Trump is campaigning across the country. He often holds two rallies a day; thousands attend. These rallies are visual masterpieces, usually held in local airports with Air Force One in the background. On the trail, Trump is relentlessly on message, touting his record on China, trade war, Corona Virus and the economy. He hammers Biden on his 47 years in Washington and son Hunter’s corruption. As far as circumstances go, who would you rather be right now, Trump or Biden?