The “silly season,” this early part of the presidential election cycle, has been entertaining. Thus far, however, it mostly has been meaningless.
The polls are all over the place. Some show Hillary Clinton beating all GOP opponents, while others show Jeb Bush and Ben Carson beating her. Some polls show Clinton leading in the race for the Democratic nomination, while others have Bernie Sanders in the lead.
All but two of the GOP contenders are moving back and forth among each other, none of whom can seem to surpass the single-digit barrier. The one constant in polling thus far is that Donald Trump can’t beat any Democratic opponent.
But I am not implying we can’t ascertain some intriguing observations from this early point in the contest. The most interesting observation as I write this is that the majority of the voters are giving the proverbial middle finger to traditional politicians.
Trump and Carson are the GOP poster boys for non-traditional candidates. As I pen this column they are favored by over half of all Republican voters. In fact, Trump’s greatest strength has been his constant verbal attacks on the traditional Republican politicians running for the nomination.
The more outrageous his personal assault, the more he ascends in popularity among the GOP.
In the Democratic race, Bernie Sanders fills the non-traditional candidate role. No one has ever considered the Vermont senator to be a traditional politician. He continually wins running as an independent and calls himself a socialist, a branding with which most socialists take issue.
Like Trump and Carson, Sanders will not get the nomination, short of the greatest miracle in American political history. Sanders’ self-proclaimed persona as a “European-style Democratic-Socialist” may play well in Paris and Prague, but it won’t play at all in Peoria.
While these anti-politician candidates are currently polling well, it will not last. But whichever two candidates get their party’s nomination should keep in mind there is a reason so many Americans are angry with traditional politicians.
American voters want an end to politics as usual. It would be wise for a candidate to stand out as actually standing up for something important to the American people and something consequently different from politics as usual.
I have to wonder whatever happened to the Tea Party favorites. I expected Ted Cruz, Rick Perry and Mike Huckabee would make mainstream Republicans nervous at this point, but the three have barely earned more than a blip on the radar. That is not to say the Tea Party has no influence in the GOP. Republican candidates at this stage continue to move further right on the issues in a bid for the Tea Party base support.
Some will declare that the Tea Party voters are currently backing Trump and Carson. That may be true, but if so, such support is weak at best. Neither of the two is espousing strictly Tea Party positions on the issues. For that matter, I have yet to find anyone who can tell me exactly what Carson’s issue stances are.
I have ascertained that the Democratic Party has a problem of its own making. No one was interested in taking on Hillary Clinton, the presumed heir apparent. Sanders entered to move Clinton leftward on the issues, while the few others are merely using the race as a stepping stone to the future or are running for the vice presidency.
Clinton entered the early campaign with some of the highest positives ever polled in American politics.
She also entered with significant negative ratings as well, and those are catching up to her. That is why her once seemingly insurmountable advantage over paired Republican challengers has slipped so significantly.
It is why there is now pressure on Joe Biden to enter the race.
I don’t know if the vice president has the emotional strength to plunge headlong into the fray so soon after the death of his son. It is telling, though, that roughly half of all Clinton supporters say they would consider shifting allegiance to Biden if he runs.
Predictwise, a polling organization with an amazing track record, is not impressed with the current candidate rankings in the polls. Like me, these pollsters see the current results as meaningless. Predictwise correctly prognosticated the past few presidential elections and 33 of the past 34 Senate races.
It picks Trump and Sanders as also-rans with only a 15 percent and 14 percent, respectively, chance of winning. The prediction is instead a Clinton-Bush race, just as the early pundits predicted. Time will tell if they are correct.
One last observation: Super-PAC money has yet to be spent, and it will play a major role. The Koch brothers promise to spend more this election than the two parties combined in 2012.
Michael Adkins is the former chair of the Hancock County Democratic Party. He lives in Greenfield.