Election 2016: The Primary Season Begins

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By Ianiz Deminski

After a series of televised debates, candidate dropouts, and fiery confrontations, the 2016 Presidential Race enters high gear as state party-primaries begin to take place. The initial caucus and primary (hosted in Iowa and New Hampshire respectively) are pivotal points in the race as well as the first chance voters get in choosing their next president. In order to secure their party’s nomination, each candidate must make a showing here or risk dooming their campaigns to failure. To make matters even more interesting, recent polls show that political outsiders are, for the first time in modern politics, major contenders in these initial primaries. Many analysts believe that this is the result of voter frustration with establishment politics.

On the GOP side, Donald Trump, who recently received an endorsement from Sarah Palin, has become more aggressive following gains from Senator Ted Cruz in several polls. The effect on Trump has been clear, with the multi-billionaire increasingly squalling with Cruz during televised debates and raising questions about Cruz’s eligibility to become President (due to his birth in Canada) despite the duo formerly being considered friends. However, it looks like Trump has nothing to worry about; the most recent CNN poll lists him as the first and only candidate to break 40% on a Republican poll. According to the Washington Post, even if Cruz does catch up to Trump, many conservative analysts would favor Trump due to the fact that he appears to be pragmatic and negotiable while Cruz is “inflexible ideologically and off-putting personally” as Rep. Peter King of NY puts it. In his latest stunt, Trump decided to skip the last Republican debate before the Iowa caucuses due to a feud with Fox News, and more specifically, moderator Megyn Kelly. Additionally, the CNN poll indicates that the other GOP candidates are in dire straits . Behind Trump at 41% and Cruz at 19% lies Marco Rubio at 8%, Ben Carson at 6%, and Jeb bush at 5%, figures all in the single digits. Some, like Jeb Bush, are convinced that voters will eventually rally around a more conventional candidate. Yet, many analysts are urging most GOP candidates to drop out in order to consolidate voter support behind one “conventional” candidate who can compete with Trump. It will certainly be interesting to see how this all plays out.

On the Democratic side, several polls indicate that Senator Bernie Sanders is marginally leading former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in both Iowa and New Hampshire. As expected, this has led to increased clashing at Democrat rallies and televised debates, a phenomenon rarely witnessed last fall. At last Monday’s televised Town Hall in Iowa, Sanders and Clinton repeatedly criticized each other on several issues. Sanders argued that his judgement was more valuable than Clinton’s experience, citing Clinton’s vote on the Iraq War, her delay in opposing the Keystone Pipeline and the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and her ties to Wall Street as evidence. On the other hand, Clinton did well to call herself a “proven fighter”, declaring that she’s brushed off years of intense criticism from Republicans while only gaining popularity; as for Sanders, she argued that his bold policy ideas would fare poorly in the Republican Congress and that his history on gun votes was troubling. Martin O’Malley, the third and often forgotten Democrat candidate, was also at the the Town Hall but was largely ignored by both Clinton and Sanders, likely due to his poor poll numbers. Notably, Vice President Joe Biden recently offered his praise to Sanders while calling Clinton “relatively new to the fight on income inequality” during a CNN interview on January 12th. Curiously enough, President Obama did the opposite during an interview with Politico, claiming that Clinton is incredibly experienced and has more comprehensive proposals than Sanders. One thing is sure though: this race certainly doesn’t lack excitement.

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