The unprecedented nature of the presidential campaign has many dimensions and sub-themes. The campaign has already been marked by a series of extraordinary developments, with more undoubtedly ahead.
One way to analyze the bigger picture of this amazing and sometimes bizarre presidential race is to look at some key issues and challenges facing Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Here, in shorthand fashion, are some of the significant determinants in the race:
Trump vs. media -- He generates extensive media coverage but doesn't like much of it, (often referring to the "dishonest media,") threatens retaliation, and fails to acknowledge his own responsibility for the controversies he stimulates.
Trump vs. facts -- It is not unusual for candidates to put their own spin on issues and to play fast and loose with the truth, but Trump takes this tendency to a new level with outlandish claims and still refuses to make his tax returns public.
Trump vs. elements of the Republican party establishment (or what's left of it) -- There is increasing concern among party leaders about retaining control of Congress, once seen as a foregone conclusion, but now with fears that Trump will damage down-ballot Republican candidates and the chance that Democrats might win control of the Senate. (This also could jeopardize GOP ability to determine the choice of Supreme Court nominees, a major concern of many Republicans and possibly a factor in bolstering Republican turnout on Nov. 8.)
Trump vs. women -- Although he now has a female campaign manager, he continues to demean and offend women voters, with little indication that's going to change, and making it difficult to draw a winning coalition, with surveys showing strong Clinton support among women.
Trump vs. staff -- Reluctance to take advice, aside from family members, has characterized tumultuous campaign operations and the resignation of Paul Manafort, an experienced wheel-greaser and influence peddler who was supposed to smooth things out. Then there were damaging revelations about Manafort's work with the former pro-Russian government in Ukraine that added to Trump's "Russia problem" and his friendly overtures to Russian President Putin.
Trump vs. world -- His often exaggerated, ill-informed and boastful comments show little grasp of foreign policy and international security issues, but his appeal to U.S. nationalism clearly is an attraction for some voters.
Trump vs. minorities/immigration -- Clumsy efforts to "reach out" to African-American and Latino voters bring reminders of just how little support he has among these voters.
Trump vs. sincerity -- He takes pride in never expressing regret and recent apologies and scripted teleprompter contriteness are not very convincing.
Obviously, this list could continue, including Trump's practice of propagating conspiracy theories and unsubstantiated "people are saying" comments.
And what about the Clinton determinants?
Clinton vs. baggage -- Past controversies continue to haunt her, most recently involving the Clinton Foundation and donations from corporations and foreign contributors.
Clinton vs. e-mails -- Acknowledging that she made a mistake in using a private server for government business hasn't diminished the political furor among her critics, despite the FBI investigation which failed to result in any charges against her.
Clinton vs. Benghazi -- She held her ground under relentless questioning from congressional Republicans and other opponents, but she has been scarred by the overall episode.
Clinton vs. trust -- Her long time in the public spotlight and her links to a series of controversies and the constant battering from her critics have contributed to a "trust gap."
Clinton vs. media -- She has her own history of troubles with the media and is extremely guarded in dealing with journalists, including avoiding press conferences, no doubt because she believes she has often received unfair coverage.
Clinton vs. complacency -- Regardless of polls showing her well ahead, the Clinton campaign has to guard against potential voters who take her victory for granted. To borrow sports terminology, this won't be a time for a four-corners stall or freezing the ball or running out the clock.
Clinton vs. unexpected developments -- With what appears to be a solid campaign mechanism and ample financing, Clinton looks well positioned for the marathon still ahead -- nearly 80 days (although early voting begins sooner in many states) but Trump ally Newt Gingrich, a master of hyperbole, forecasts a September surprise that will bring "staggering" new information on the Clintons and will "drown" Hillary.
This is a lineup of major factors influencing or potentially influencing the race. At this point, Trump faces more obstacles and in many respects the campaign is more about Trump than about Clinton. However, the obsessive Clinton demonizers aren't going away and many of Trump's problems are self-inflicted. His trail of controversial comments overshadows topics that might be troublesome for Clinton.
The first debate is still five weeks ahead. It could be entertaining and maybe enlightening. II there's going to be a shakeup in the lineup, the debate could be the time.
Commentary on 08/24/2016
Print Headline: The challenges ahead