Voter Tests

Voter Tests

Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.

Never has a campaign had such a lock on its supporters as does Donald Trump. One has a sense that he does not have the slightest worry about his supporters’ blind loyalty. Nothing he will say or do can and will negatively impact upon their support. Trump is in a position where he can say what he wants, modify or change his positions, challenge previous records, and he will never need to apologize for changing his mind. The Trump bandwagon is so locked that nothing can impact on his supporters. Their affection for Trump and dislike for Hillary runs so deep that his campaign’s only strategic question is how to make inroads among the undecided and the independent voters.

For Hillary the situation is precisely the opposite. If she moves off her message she is guaranteed to alienate either her left or her right.  She needs some if not all of the Sanders vote that the she already has successfully brought under her tent. These voters will stay with her and will not just opt to stay home or vote protest vote. Similarly, if Hillary moves left, she could jeopardize losing many of the independent and right-wing anti-Trump voters whom she successfully has brought in reluctantly behind her candidacy. This is visible now as she straddles the center in her responses to the latest terrorist attacks. In addition, Clinton also will need to be prepared to defend her positions as Trump will bait her in the debates.

Trump has a further problem. He has so alienated Republicans on the center-right and independents with his style of campaign of insults, and mis-speaks that he can seal his fate with his very mouth. The test will be whether the center/right and the independents; as well as the educated and the white women; somehow can be moved to support him if he persists in continuing to campaign with such vitriol and anger.

At the end of the day even for Trump the election is about winning 270 electoral votes. No amount of bluster and showmanship can overcome that challenge. Trump needs more votes among key constituencies where he is seriously under supported. Hillary must just ensure that she makes no mistakes and does not break her coalition. There are events that will affect voters such as additional terrorist attacks or email leaks or WikiLeaks disclosures, but they are out of the candidates’ hands. It seems at this point that the script for next Monday night’s debate and for the balance of the campaign is fairly well set; hers to lose and his to win.

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