US Election 2016
Special Entry on 2016 Presidential Election: The Road to the White House
Trump defeats Clinton to win presidency; Republicans hold Senate and House.
Included below is:
(1) A primer on the presidential contest in the United States
(2) A primer on the congressional elections of the United States
(3) A summary of the general election developments for the presidential contest;
(4) A chronological narrative of the Trump versus Clinton match-up
(5) Election Results
1. Primer on presidential election in United States
A presidential election would be held on Nov. 8, 2016, in the United States. The winner of that election would succeed the incumbent head of state and commander in chief, President Barack H. Obama, who was elected as the president of the United States on Nov. 4, 2008, to a four-year term and was re-elected to power on Nov. 6, 2012. President Obama made history in 2008 becoming the first African-American president and transforming the political trajectory of the country's legacy.
Term limits meant that the 2016 contest would be an open contest with the contenders expected to be the nominees from the country's two major parties -- the Democratic Party of President Barack Obama and the opposition Republican Party. A primary contest began at the start of 2016 to determine who would be the standard bearers of the two major parties.
On the Republican side of the equation, the main contenders included reality television celebrity and real estate businessman Donald Trump, Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, Governor John Kasich of Ohio, Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey, medical doctor and Fox News commentator Ben Carson, and former business executive Carly Fiorina. Ultimately, it was Trump who emerged as the Republican nominee.
The Democratic race was a two-person contest between Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, a self-described Democratic Socialist, and Hillary Clinton -- the former First Lady of the United States, former New York Senator, and former Secretary of State in the Obama administration. At the conclusion of the primary process, Clinton emerged as the Democratic nominee.
2. Primer on congressional elections in United States with projections for the Senate and House of Representatives
Congressional elections in the United States were to be held on Nov. 8, 2016. At stake would be control over the bicameral Congress on Capitol Hill, which consists of the Senate and the House of Representatives.
The United States Senate consists of 100 members who are elected for six-year terms in dual-seat constituencies, with one-third of the seats being contested every two years. The House of Representatives consists of 435 members who are elected for two-year terms in single-seat constituencies
Since the start of 2015, following the mid-term elections of 2014, Mitch McConnell, a Republican, has been the Senate Majority Leader. Democrat Harry Reid is the Senate Minority Leader. Since October 2015, following the resignation of Republican John Boehner as the House Speaker, Paul Ryan, also a Republican, has served in that capacity. Democrat Nancy Pelosi, who made history in 2006 becoming the country's first female Speaker of the House, has since 2011 held the post of House Minority Leader. Going into the 2016 elections, Republicans control both chambers.
3 Summary of General Election Developments:
By June 2016, the stage was set for a general election match-up between the Republican nominee, Donald Trump, and the Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton. All eyes were on the possible vice presidential selections and the impending national conventions where the nominations would be respectively formalized. Ahead of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland where he was officially nominated to be the party's presidential candidate, Trump chose Indiana Governor Mike Pence to be his running mate. Then, ahead of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, Clinton chose Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia as her running mate ahead of her nomination as that party's standard bearer.
This election season was peppered by a hacking scandal alleged to have been carried out by the Russians, and aimed at hurting the Democrats. Trump's stances on Russia added to questions about the possible ties between the Republican nominee and Russian autocratic President Putin. Trump's political challenges were amplified when he appeared to attack a Muslim Gold Star family, and after he appeared to call for a "second amendment" solution to the problem of a Clinton presidency. Trump's claim that President Barack Obama founded the terror group, Islamic State, was not well received due to the lack of veracity and the recklessness of the assertion. It was to be seen if a staff shake-up in the Trump campaign, along with a call for the minority vote, would yield positive results. Trump also traveled to Mexico on an impromptu trip; however, he did not address the centerpiece of his immigration policy -- the wall separating the United States and Mexico. Meanwhile, Clinton was facing scrutiny over her links as Secretary of State to the Clinton Foundation.
At the start of September 2016, the presidential race was in high gear with Trump rallying sufficiently to keep the contest competitive. Trump was helped by ongoing criticism of the Clinton Foundation, and later, when Clinton referred to half his base of supporters as belonging in a "basket of deplorables" due to their xenophobic, racist, misogynistic, and bigoted views. The veracity of Clinton's statement notwithstanding, Trump was able to pillory Clinton on her critique, while deflecting scrutiny over some of his own problematic remarks about African Americans living hellish lives and having nothing to lose. Trump was also facing some degree of fire for repeating the false claim that he was always against the Iraq war even though he was heard on the radio taking the opposite view. Also problematic for Trump was his foray onto a Russian propaganda media station where he denied claims that the Russians were responsible for hacking sensitive political databases in the United States, while asserting that the United States military was reduced to "rubble." For her part, Clinton was taking fire for the aforementioned "deplorable" comment before being struck by a bout of pneumonia and then being subject to accusations of secrecy over it. But attention returned to Trump's temperament when the media refocused on his claims that President Obama was not born in the United states. While Trump finally admitted that the president was a natural born American, he blamed the genesis of the birth issue erroneously on his Democratic rival.
In September 2016, the two presidential contenders met for their first face-to-face showdown at the first of three presidential debates of the 2016 cycle. This engagement ensued at Hofstra University in New York. It should be noted that Hillary Clinton made history by becoming the first woman ever to stand on the presidential debate stage as a major party's nominee. The debate featured lively exchanges and some blows by Trump on Clinton on the issue of trade. However, Trump turned in an undisciplined debate performance compared to Clinton who was both calm and in command of the issues. Post-debate analysis indicated that Clinton was the clear winner, which translated into a lift in the national and battleground state polls for her. For his part, Trump was hoping for a benefit from an endorsement from his former primary nemesis, Ted Cruz, which did not seem to register.
At the start of October 2016, ahead of the lone vice presidential debate, Trump was being dogged by revelations that he used financial losses totaling close to one billion dollars to avoid paying taxes for years. Also during this period was the vice presidential debate between Trump's running mate, Mike Pence, and Clinton's running mate, Tim Kaine. That event was generally regarded as a victory for Pence whose debate skills and polite presentation were a contrast to Kaine's more aggressive and disruptive style. An analysis of the substance of the debate, though, indicated that Pence's on the record claims could not withstand scrutiny. It was to be seen if optics would trump substance, and if there would be a shift in the polls away from Clinton and in the direction of Trump.
As the first week of October 2016 came to an end, there was a blow to the Trump campaign when the Washington Post broke a story about the Republican nominee caught admitting that he was sexually aggressive with women. While the Trump campaign tried to dismiss the scandal as "locker room banter" by the Republican nominee, other damaging stories were emerging about Trump of the same ilk, with a long list of women coming forward to offer testimony of their unsavory encounters with Trump. In an attempt to quell the damage to his campaign from this scandal, Trump assembled women who accused former President Bill Clinton of sexual misdeeds ahead of the second presidential debate. The move was initially aimed at rattling Hillary Clinton during the debate, but extended to the campaign's new response tactic, which was to deflect from Trump's scandal by redirecting attention to Bill Clinton's troubles in the 1990s. Another part of Trump's "go forward" strategy was to feed his base more "red meat" by calling for Hillary Clinton to be jailed.
Polling data after the second debate by CNN showed that Clinton had decisively won the debate against Trump. Nevertheless, it should be noted that Trump's aggressive demeanor during that second debate appeared to shored up support among the core Republican base. The third and final debate did Trump no favors as he refused to say that he would accept the election results, should he lose. Meanwhile, in the month ahead of the general election Clinton was extending a decisive lead against Trump. It was to be seen if Wikileaks revelations about Clinton's corporate stances would change this trend.
As November 2016 commenced, with early voting already underway, and with one week to go until election day, Clinton had been hit by the news that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) was looking at emails discovered via a peripheral investigation into the spouse of her closest aide, Huma Abedin. ]The FBI director, James Comey, gave no indication as to the nature of emails at hand, and stopped short of saying that the investigation into Clinton’s use of a private server and a private email account during her tenure as Secretary of State was being re-opened. Still, the news was likely to have a political effect. At the same time, a batch of stories were surfacing about Trump’s Russian connections. It was to be seen if these two burgeoning scandals would impact the outcome of the election. But only days ahead of election day, Comey and the FBI announced that a review of emails uncovered showed no new information and that the case against Clinton was closed.
Heading into the election on Nov. 8, 2016, final national polls showed Clinton carrying a lead across the board, with the aggregate advantage being between four and five percent over Trump . Worth noting was that Barack Obama won re-election in 2012 with a four percent lead over Mitt Romney, which translated into an electoral landslide. It was to be seen if Clinton would do likewise. Meanwhile, it was to be seen if Trump would overperform the polls -- as he did in the primaries -- and pull off a surprise victory.
4. Chronological narrative of the Trump versus Clinton match-up along with state of the race updates
The general consensus in the late spring of 2016 was that Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton could be understood as the presumptive nominees of their respective parties. To that end, the stage was now set for a "Trump versus Clinton" general election match-up. Clinton delivered a hard hitting foreign policy speech presaging what might come in that general election by disparaging Trump's statements for their lack of knowledge and good judgement, warning against in temperament, and making the case -- in her view -- for his unfitness to be president.
Polling data showed a competitive contest between Trump and Clinton in the general election in May 2016. This trend indicated that Republicans were coalescing support, however reluctantly, around Trump. Quite possibly, it was also because Clinton was still ensconced in the primary against Sanders and had not yet consolidated support of the anti-Trump vote. But at the start of June 2016, there was some movement, and now, polling data indicated that the advantage resided with Clinton. Polling data showed Clinton by mid-June 2016 starting to hold a consistent and heathy lead over Trump. Its sustainability was to be determined.
Trump would not be helped by the 2012 Republican nominee, Mitt Romney, who made it clear he would not vote for Trump, arguing that the real estate businessman and reality star would usher in "trickle down racism." Of course, it was unlikely that Romney's non-endorsement would actually influence the voting predilections of the Republican base, which had rewarded Trump with its collective seal of approval at the ballot box.
Clinton would be helped by no shortage of Democratic stars ranging from her own husband, former President Bill Clinton, the current commander in chief, President Barack Obama, and the popular senator from Massachusetts, Elizabeth Warren, who offered fulsome praise in an endorsement of Clinton, while launching no shortage of barbed attacks against Trump. Of particular note was President Obama's stance that he was "fired up" to campaign for Clinton. In a video that was released on social media, President Obama said, "I don't think there's ever been someone so qualified to hold this office. I'm with her. I am fired up, and I cannot wait to get out there and campaign for Hillary." For her part, the presumptive Democratic nominee said it "means the world" to her that the president was offering strong support. In an interview with Reuters, she said, "It is absolutely a joy and an honor that President Obama and I over the years have gone from fierce competitors to true friends."
On the other side of the partisan aisle Clinton's general election rival had a different view. Trump said of President Obama's endorsement of Clinton, "He wants four more years of Obama—but nobody else does!”
Concerns by Republican politicians in mid-June 2016 increased over Trump's rhetoric regarding a Mexican-American judge, as well as a renewed his call for a ban on Muslim immigration following a massacre at a nightclub. Most went so far as to distance themselves from Trump while at the same time admitting that they nonetheless backed the "Republican nominee." Still, there was some establishment Republican relief in the third week of June 2016 when Trump fired his controversial campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski. There were high hopes among Republicans that the shakeup signaled a pivot from primary shenanigans to a more sober general election posture.
On the Democratic side of the aisle, Sanders gave a non-concession video address in which he vowed to assist in defeating Trump yet remained in the race, and vowed to take his demands to the Democratic convention. Clinton, during this period, continued her attacks on Trump by denouncing his racially charged rhetoric, and building on her foreign policy critique of the Republican nominee with one on the economy.
At the start of July 2016, Trump was dealing with criticism over his campaign's alleged use of anti-Semitic imagery in an advertisement aimed at hitting Clinton. On the other side of the equation, the FBI cleared Clinton of wrongdoing in a classified email case dating back to her tenure as secretary of state. However, Republicans refused to accept these findings. Clinton was nevertheless helped by a highly anticipated endorsement by Sanders, who in mid-july 2016 appeared to have come to terms with the reality of the Democratic contest. There were high hopes that party unity would work to her benefit.
In mid-July 2016, the public sphere was alert to an impending announcement of whom Trump would choose for a running mate ahead of the Republican National Convention. To that end, the short list was believed to contain Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey, Governor Mike Pence of Indiana, and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. Ahead of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Trump announced that he had chosen the conservative Pence to be his running mate.
At the Republican National Convention, the first night featured Trump's spouse Melania Trump, as she made her foray onto the national stage. Her speech was well received until the reporter, Jarrett Hill, broke the story that key components -- which Melania Trump claimed she wrote -- were very likely plagiarized from First Lady Michelle Obama. On the third night of the convention, New Jersey Governor Christie carried out a mock prosecution of Clinton on the basis of a classified emails investigation that was closed by the FBI. Christie's long list of accusations against Clinton was met with loud shouts of "lock her up" from Republican delegates in the hall. Another highlight of the convention involved a speech by Trump's former primary rival, Ted Cruz. But rather than endorse Trump, Cruz urged voters to "vote their conscience" -- a call that evoked outrage from Republican delegates.
On the final night of the Republican convention, Trump accepted his party's nomination in a major 75-minute long speech in which he cast his rival as having a legacy of "death, destruction, terrorism and weakness." He also cast the United States as a nation in decline, eroding from illegal immigrants, at risk from Islamic State, under threat of race-linked violence, and beleaguered by unfair trade deals. Trump's promise was that only he could fix these problems. To this end, he declared, "I have joined the political arena so that the powerful can no longer beat up on people that cannot defend themselves. Nobody knows the system better than me, which is why I alone can fix it."
It should be noted that Trump enjoyed a small post-convention bounce moving up in the polls and even enjoying a lead in some surveys.
For more information about the 2016 Republican National Convention, please see URl: https://www.gop.com/2016-gophq/
On July 22, 2016, ahead of the Democratic National Convention, Clinton chose Virginia Senator Tim Kaine to become the her running mate. Cast as a moderate but with a progressive voting record, Kaine appeared geared to expanding Clinton's lead and attracting centrist and moderate voters in the general election.
Over the course of the ensuing week, Democrats in Philadelphia met to nominate Clinton as their standard bearer . The occasion was punctuated by speeches involving Democratic stars, including her former rival, Bernie Sanders who endorsed her, incumbent Vice President Joe Biden, and former President Bill Clinton and the possible future first husband. Also on the agenda was President Barack Obama who issued a passionate call for supporters to send Hillary Clinton to the White House. Indeed, he enthusiastically emphasized the fact that no man or woman has ever been more qualified fas Clinton to serve as president.
For her part, Clinton accepted the Democratic Party's nomination for president, declaring, "It truly is up to us. We have to decide whether we will all work together so we can all rise together." Drawing a sharp contrast with her general election rival, Trump, Clinton also said, “We will not build a wall.Instead, we will build an economy where everyone who wants a good job can get one. And we’ll build a path to citizenship for millions of immigrants who are already contributing to our economy. We will not ban a religion, we will work with all Americans and our allies to fight and defeat terrorism.”
For more information about the Democratic National Convention, please visit: https://www.demconvention.com/
Earlier, ahead of the start of the Democrats' gathering, attention was redirected to an email leak scandal revealed by Wikileaks. At issue were emails at the Democratic National Committee indicating that stalwarts of Clinton experienced real animosity to Sanders.Clinton's campaign manager, Robby Mook, suggested that "Russian state actors" may have been behind the leak, with an eye on fomenting intra-party animosity and advancing the prospects for Trump, who has said he would improve ties with Russia, In an interview with CNN, Mook said that he did not "think it's coincidental" that the emails were released "on the eve" of the Democratic National Convention. One result of the leaked email scandal, the DNC chairwoman, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, responded to mounting pressure by saying she was resigning from her post.
Meanwhile, Clinton herself echoed Mook in accusing Russian Intelligence Services of hacking into the DNC computers, saying in an interview with Fox News at the end of July 2016, "We know that Russian intelligence services hacked into the DNC and we know that they arranged for a lot of those e-mails to be released and we know that Donald Trump has shown a very troubling willingness to back up Putin, to support Putin."
Trump did little to dispel the notion of a Putin connection when he urged Russia to commit a cybersecurity breach in order to find and release the deleted private emails Clinton. At issue was a Federal Bureau of Investigation probe into Clinton's use of a private email and server system being used when she served as Secretary of State. In a media availability with journalists, Trump said, "Russia, if you're listening, I hope you're able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing."
Trump repeated the call via the social media outlet, Twitter, as he tweeted that if anyone had Clinton's emails, "perhaps they should share them with the FBI!"
Clinton campaign manager, Mook, reacted by noting, "This is a national security issue now." He additionally fleshed out the international intervention aspect as he said, "The idea that you would have any American calling for a foreign power to commit espionage in the United States for the purposes of somehow changing an election, we're now in national security space."
The White House election entered the fray, warning that Trump's call to commit espionage posed a national security threat. As well, President Obama himself acknowledged in an interview with NBC News that Russia was quite possibly the hacking operation, as he said, "Anything is possible." President Obama also said, "I know that experts have attributed this to the Russians." He added, "What we do know is that the Russians hack our systems, not just government systems but private systems. What the motives were in terms of the leaks, I can't say directly." President Obama also took the opportunity to point out the fact that Trump's affinity for Russian President Vladimir Putin as he said that Trump had "repeatedly expressed admiration for Vladimir Putin." The United States leader explained, "I'm basing this on what Trump himself has said, and I think Trump's gotten pretty favorable coverage back in Russia."
The post-convention climate was characterized by further controversy when Trump became embroiled in a scandal involving a gold star Muslim family featured at the Democratic National Convention. At issue was the appearance of Khizr and Ghazala Khan, the Pakistani-American parents of fallen Army Captain Humayun Khan, at the Democratic convention in Philadelphia. Mr. Khan criticized Trump for proposing a temporary ban on Muslims entering the country, noting that it was unconstitutional. Trump reacted by attacking the family and spurring a public relations firestorm that only increased when other Muslim families of fallen soldiers entered the equation and expressed outrage.
Meanwhile, there was some intra-party hostility brewing when Trump initially refused to endorse both House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senator John McCain in their coming primary contests. While party insiders were eventually able to coax Trump into reversing course, the issue suggested that tensions with the Republican establishment.
Note that at the start of August 2016, polling data indicated that Clinton had received a significant post-Convention bounce and was sporing healthy leads against Trump in a number of mainstream polling surveys. It was to be seen if that lead was sustainable or if it would subside and the race returned to a competitive baseline.
Clinton's advantage was augmented when several prominent American national security experts backed her candidacy for president and commander in chief. Most notably , the former acting head of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), Michael Morell, cast Trump as an "unwitting agent" of Russia and urged voters to support Clinton instead. This scathing rebuke of Trump and his capacity to be commander in chief was made clear when Morell said, "In the intelligence business, we would say that Mr. Putin had recruited Mr. Trump as an unwitting agent of the Russian Federation." Morell's vociferous distaste for Trump was echoed by 50 top Republican national security professionals and trade representatives who issued a joint declaration making clear the following: "None of Us Will Vote for Donald Trump."
For its part, the Trump campaign reacted to this constellation of negative feedback by redirecting attention to Clinton's role in the September 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya, that killed four Americans. The Trump campaign also dismissed the assessments by these individuals casting them as part of the "failed Washington elite." More importantly, the campaign aimed for a "reset" of sorts by concentrating on the issues as Trump delivered a robust economic address, replete with conservative and market-friendly ideas, before the Detroit Economic Club.
Whatever positive feedback Trump hoped to garner from his economic address was mitigated by Trump's apparent call for a "second amendment solution" to a possible Clinton presidency. While the campaign tried to walk Trump's remarks back by denying they were a call for assassination or insurrection, the political damage was done. Trump's precise words at stake were as follows, "If (Hillary Clinton) gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do folks. Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is, I don’t know."
For her part, Clinton was being criticized in the media for mischaracterizing FBI Director Comey's assessment of her email use following a federal probe into that matter. She was also facing questions about whether she used her position at the State Department to advance the interests of the Clinton Foundation.
A week later, Clinton, along with her running mate, Kaine, were placing pressure on Trump by releasing their tax returns. For her part, Clinton, along with her husband former President Clinton, earned $10.75 million in 2015, and paid 34.2 percent federal tax rate - reflective of one of the highest tax brackets. Meanwhile, Trump continued to refuse to release his tax returns -- a normal procedure in any presidential contender's effort to provide transparency as he/she seeks the highest office. Trump has said his lawyers advised him not to disclose his returns due to an audit by the Internal Revenue Service; however that entity has noted that there would be no obstacle to Trump's release of his tax records. As well, speculation ran rampant that unlike the Clintons, Trump likely paid little taxes, if any, due to the tax structure that offers deductions for real estate. Gleefully seizing the political opportunity offered by this scenario, the Clinton campaign said via Twitter, "Your move."
Trump spurred outrage when he referred to President Barack Obama and Democratic presidential nominee, Clinton, as the "co-founders" of Islamic State, and asserting that they were responsible for the rise of the terror group. In truth, Islamic State's evolution pre-dated President Obama's tenure in power, therefore rendering Trump's claim impotent and unable to withstand scrutiny. However, the hyperbolic and fact-challenged nature of Trump's suggestion added to prevailing view that his lack of restraint and discipline reflected the wrong type of temperament for the presidency.
As noted by Clinton's senior policy adviser, Jake Sullivan, in a statement: "This is another example of Donald Trump trash-talking the United States." He added, "What's remarkable about Trump's comments is that once again, he's echoing the talking points of Putin and our adversaries to attack American leaders and American interests, while failing to offer any serious plans to confront terrorism or make this country more secure."
Meanwhile, national security experts continued to pillory not only Trump's lack of message discipline and intemperance, but also critiqued an anti-terrorism speech given on Aug. 15, 2016, casting it as incoherent, contradictory, and even contrary to the Constitution and international law.
By the third week of August 2016, Trump's campaign was enduring an overhaul when Trump campaign manager, Paul Manafort resigned amidst allegations on improper lobbying ties to a foreign government. There was no suggestion from the Trump campaign that Manafort's resignation was actually linked to his pro-Russian Kremlin ties or lobbying for the former Putinist Yanukovych regime in Ukraine. However, that issue was brewing in the background. Meanwhile, as a nod to the establishment wing of the GOP, Trump hired Kellyanne Conway to manage his campaign. But he also hired the head of the alternative right wing entity Breitbart, Steve Bannon, as the chief executive of his campaign -- an anxiety-provoking decision for some, given Bannon's nativist and ultra-nationalist inclinations.
With the Beltway media of Washington DC eager for a Trump "reset," Trump took advantage of the opportunity offered to go after Clinton, suggesting that she had health problems and calling for a special prosecutor to investigate Clinton Foundation, alleging that there was some sort of personally enriching "pay to play' scheme at stake that benefited Clinton while she was secretary of state. the Clinton campaign reacted by calling for Trump to release his tax returns rather than make salacious allegations.
In the background of these developments was Trump's new addition to his stump speech when he was addressing a rally. To this end, Trump had taken to urging minorities to vote for him, while noting that their living conditions were so bad, they had "nothing to lose." While some critics questioned the utility of this type of outreach to minorities, others noted that the intended address was not minority voters at all. Instead, Trump was trying to shore up his white base of support who would see his words as a sign that he was interested in the plight of non-white voters. It was to be seen is this calculation would actually pay political dividends for Trump.
Making political hay of Trump's infamous pitch of black voters specifically, Clinton ran an advertisement showing Trump asking the question, "What do you have to lose?"and answering that question with headlines of a racial discrimination lawsuit faced by Trump in the 1970s.
Meanwhile, in an interview with MSNBC, Clinton blasted Trump, saying, "I am reaching out to everyone, Republicans, Democrats, independents, everyone who is as troubled as I am by the bigotry and divisiveness of Donald Trump's campaign." She then called on "fair-minded Americans to repudiate this kind of divisive demagoguery" at the ballot box.
For his part, Trump issued his own footage of Clinton in the 1990s discussing the crime bill of the day, where she referenced "super-predators." Because the crime bill has been linked to the high incarceration rate of African-Americans, Trump was eager to remind voters of Clinton's statement from the 1990s and thus erode her strong base of black support. Since that time, Trump was hammering the message that Democrats had done nothing for minorities and he was offering a fresh opportunity. Indeed, he went so far as to refer to the Democratic Party as "the party of slavery." It was to be seen if his message would be received.
At the close of August 2016, Trump traveled to Mexico to meet with that country's president, Enrique Pena Nieto, ahead of a highly anticipated immigration speech. During his trip to Mexico, Trump did not address the centerpiece of his immigration policy -- the wall separating the United States and Mexico, and specifically, his demand that Mexico pay for it. For his part, Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto joined Trump for a joint news conference in Mexico; however, he later cast Trump's demand that Mexico pay for the wall separating their two countries as "outrageous."
Following his Mexico trip, Trump outlined his immigration policy, which largely held in place his hardline policies from deporting every illegal alien/undocumented immigrant and building the aforementioned wall to suspending visas to immigrants from countries where security screening was deemed inadequate. Also on the agenda was a general limiting of immigration to people who would be self-sufficient financially.
Clinton was meanwhile continuing to face questions about the Clinton Foundation while dismissing the allegations about that entity and the ongoing email saga. She also brought in a massive haul of more than $140 million in donations. Her campaign was hoping that the cash advantage could hold her in good stead. It was to be seen if the calculation to concentrate on fundraising while not outright addressing the claims of scandal against her would be to her advantage.
At the start of September 2016, the presidential race was in high gear with Trump rallying sufficiently to keep the contest competitive. Trump was helped by ongoing criticism of the Clinton Foundation, and later, when Clinton referred to half his base of supporters as belonging in a "basket of deplorables" due to their xenophobic, racist, misogynistic, and bigoted views. The veracity of Clinton's statement notwithstanding, Trump was able to pillory Clinton on her critique of his supporters, whom he cast as basic hard working Americans. In fact, this issue appeared to have obfuscated some of Trump's own problematic remarks about African Americans living hellish lives and having nothing to lose. Still, Trump was facing some degree of fire for repeating the false claim that he was always against the Iraq war even though he was heard on the radio taking the opposite view. Also problematic for Trump was his foray onto a Russian propaganda media station where he denied claims that the Russians were responsible for hacking sensitive political databases in the United States, while also asserting that the United States military was reduced to "rubble." For her part, Clinton was taking fire for the aforementioned "deplorable" comment before being struck by a bout of pneumonia and then being subject to accusations of secrecy over it.
Trump's tendency to utter politically incorrect statements emerged in September 2016 when he called for the disarming of Clinton's bodyguards and then ruminated about the consequences of such a move as he said, "Let's see what happens to her." He said, "I think that her bodyguards should drop all weapons. They should disarm. I think they should disarm immediately, what do you think, yes?" He added, "Take their guns away, she doesn't want guns. Take them, let's see what happens to her. Take their guns away, okay. It will be very dangerous." Of note was the fact that Trump urged the disarming of Clinton's bodyguards previously in May 2016 Trump's call evoked bipartisan rebuke with a political consultant for Mitt Romney's 2012 campaign, Stuart Stevens, saying via the social media outlet, Twitter, "The Secret Service should investigate this threat." Clinton's own campaign manager, Robby Mook, noted that Trump had a pattern of inciting people to violence. Via a statement, Mook said, "Whether this is done to provoke protesters at a rally or casually or even as a joke, it is an unacceptable quality in anyone seeking the job of Commander in Chief."
Trump's troublesome statements emerged again in mid-September 2016 in regard to his long-standing charges that President Obama was not really an American born on American soil and legitimately eligible for the presidency. Under pressure to normalize his campaign, after five years of advocating a conspiracy theory about the country's first African American president not being a natural born citizen, Trump finally admitted that Obama was born in the United States. However, he went onto erroneously blame his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton, for the genesis of the birther movement in 2008, facts to the contrary notwithstanding. Trump offered no regret for advancing a damaging theory of the president's heritage while deflecting blame for his repeated erroneous claims to his rival, who -- for her part -- has consistently expressed outrage over the birther claims regarding Obama.
It should be noted that Trump's rhetoric and flamboyant claims -- objectionable to some -- was having no effect on Trump's base of voters who continued to cleave to him. It was certainly expected that Trump's promise to reverse President Obama's Cuba policy - re-opening ties with Havana -- would not affect his standing with his base. Likewise, the excoriating assertion by European Parliament President Martin Schulz that Trump was "a problem for the whole world" was not expected to harm him with his base who was already suspicious of the international community.
By the third week of September 2016, New York and New Jersey were struck by terrorist bombings at the hands of an alleged lone wolf assailant with Afghan ancestry and suspected sympathies with Islamist extremists. Given the heat of an ongoing presidential campaign in the United States, the candidates of the two major parties in the United States weighed in with their thoughts on the matter of national security.
Republican nominee, Donald Trump, whose campaign platform was based on anti-immigration ideas and the notions that he alone could protect the country said in an interview with Fox News that there would be more terror attacks to come. He also blasted the Obama administration on national security saying, "Yeah, because we've been weak. Our country's been weak." Trump blamed President Barack Obama and then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for emboldening terrorists. Trump also emphasized his hardline immigration policies as being necessary to keep out potential terrorists. Left unsaid was the fact that blocking certain religious or national groups from entry into the United States would not have stopped the New York and New Jersey bombings, which were carried out by a home grown terrorist.
Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, said the United States would cooperate with its allies to combat global terrorism. She also called for an "intelligence surge" to ferret out terror plans before they could be carried out. She additionally sought to distinguish herself from Trump's intemperate style of leadership as she said, "This is a fast-moving situation and a sobering reminder that we need steady leadership in a dangerous world." Clinton went further, noting that Trump's rhetoric and proposed policies were being used as a recruitment took by terrorists internationally. In a media availability, Clinton said, "We know that a lot of the rhetoric we've heard from Donald Trump has been seized on by terrorists, in particular ISIS, because they are looking to make this into a war against Islam rather than a war against jihadists."
As August 2016 entered its final week, most polls showed Clinton running ahead of Trump in national surveys and wining battleground states. But by the start of September 2016, Trump was closing the gap -- at least at the national level -- even extending a lead over Clinton in some polls. Clinton still held the edge in battleground states, with a more promising chance of winning the electoral college. By the third week of September 2016, Clinton was moving back into a slight lead ahead of Trump at the national and battleground level. Polling expert, Patrick Murray, or Monmouth University surmised that the movement was due to the revitalized attention on Trump's temperament and movement away from Clinton's health. At the end of September 2016, just ahead of the first presidential debate of 2016, the contest was tightening once again -- both nationally and in key battleground states. It was to be seen if Trump would maintain his momentum after the debate, or, if Clinton's performance -- largely viewed as a winning performance -- would rebound in her favor in the forthcoming polls.
In late September 2016, ahead of the highly anticipated first presidential debate of 2016, Trump received a boost in the form of an endorsement from his former primary nemesis, Cruz. While Cruz declined to extend the olive branch at the Republican National Convention in July 2016, he was in September 2016 closing ranks with his fellow Republican. Cruz said, "A year ago, I pledged to endorse the Republican nominee, and I am honoring that commitment. And if you don't want to see a Hillary Clinton presidency, I encourage you to vote for him." Part of Cruz' thawing on Trump was reported to based on Trump's consideration for naming United States Senator Mike Lee -- an ultra-conservative and Cruz stalwart -- to the Supreme Court.
Finally, on Sept. 26, 2016, the two presidential contenders met for their first face-to-face showdown at the first of three presidential debates of the 2016 cycle. This engagement ensued at Hofstra University in New York. It should be noted that Hillary Clinton made history by becoming the first woman ever to stand on the presidential debate stage as a major party's nominee. Also of note was the fact that the debate - with over 80 million viewers — broke viewership records; it was the most watched presidential debate in United States history.
The debate, which was moderated by Lester Holt of NBC News, was a lively affair covering domestic and foreign policy. Trump struck some early blows against Clinton regarding her initial support for the Trans-Pacific trade deal and her husband's passage of the NAFTA trade deal.
In another exchange, Trump accused Clinton of being "all talk and not action" on the economy, while Clinton retorted that his tax policies were the equivalent of "Trumped-up trickle-down" economics. Clinton also hit Trump for failing to release his tax returns as every other contender had done for decades, and noted that his failure to do so raised questions about whether he was paying his fair share of taxes. Indeed, Clinton pointed to the few tax documents Trump released showing that despite his claimed wealth, he had paid no federal income tax during one year. Trump replied by saying, "That makes me smart."
Trump's performance quickly disintegrated as he repeatedly interrupted Clinton, giving the impression that he was rattled by her claims and statements. Incoherent responses on foreign policy, particularly with regard to the "first use" principle of nuclear weapons and with respect to his stance on Nato, were viewed as problematic.
During the debate, Clinton expressed "no doubt" over the claim that Russia conducted cyberattacks against United States entities, including those involved in the electoral process. She accused Trump of having "publicly invited" Russian President Vladimir Putin to hack American targets -- a reference to Trump's call for Russian hackers to find Clinton's deleted emails from during her period of tenure as Secretary of State. While Trump continued to suggest there was no conclusive evidence indicting Russia, Clinton said, "This is one of [Russia's] preferred methods of trying to wreak havoc and collect information."
Another key moment occurred when Trump repeated his claim that he was always against the Iraq war -- his statement on the record to radio personality, Howard Stern, notwithstanding. When the moderator, Holt, made note of this fact, a mini-imbroglio ensues between the Republican nominee and the debate moderator. The impression, according to analysis, was that of intemperance and a lack of discipline.
Meanwhile, Clinton appeared undeterred by the constant injections from Trump and capable of addressing all manner of policy concerns with competence. The contrast was highlighted ironically when Trump - who managed to interrupt Clinton more than 50 times in a 90 minute debate -- declared that his temperament was his best quality.
Of particular note was a heated exchange between the two candidates on the so-called "birther" controversy over President Barack Obama's American heritage, which Trump had stoked for years. Trump tried to claim credit for forcing Obama to show his Hawaiian birth certificate and even deflected blame onto the Clinton campaign in 2008 for the matter. Indeed , Trump seemed eager to double down on his involvement in the controversy as he said, "Nobody was pressing it, nobody was caring much about it ... I was the one that got him to produce the birth certificate and I think I did a good job." For her part, Clinton vociferously declared: "He (Trump) has really started his political activity based on this racist lie that our first black president was not an American citizen. There was absolutely no evidence for it. But he persisted. He persisted year after year."
During the debate, Trump challenged Clinton on her endurance to be president, saying, "She doesn’t have the look, she doesn’t have the stamina." But Clinton rebutted that accusation, saying, "As soon as he travels to 112 countries and negotiates a peace deal, a ceasefire, a release of dissidents ... or even spends 11 hours testifying in front of a congressional committee, he can talk to me about stamina."
At the end of the debate, the CNN post-debate poll (to be distinguished from non-scientific online polls) showed an overwhelming victory for Clinton with 62 percent of viewers saying she had won compared to 27 percent for Trump. More concerning for Trump was the fact that 55 percent of viewers said that he appeared unfit for the presidency. Betting markets appeared to have garnered the same impression as debate viewers with contracts on a Clinton victory in November increasing.
At the start of October 2016, an expose by the New York Times included the release of Trump’s 1995 federal tax returns, which were submitted anonymously. That document showed that declared a $916 million loss in 1995, which meant that he paid no tax on income in subsequent years totaling the same amount of close to a billion dollars. Clinton wasted no time exploiting this revelation, declaring, “In one year, Donald Trump lost nearly a billion dollars. He apparently got to avoid paying taxes for nearly two decades while tens of millions of working families paid theirs.” The Trump camp's response to the emerging scandal of a presidential candidate not paying taxes to the functioning of the nation was to extol the Republican's "genius" business skills in avoiding paying taxes. Clinton's former rival in the Democratic primary -- Bernie Sanders -- assailed Trump's defense, saying, “If everybody in this country was a genius, like Mr. Trump is and not pay any taxes, we would not have a country."
In another blow, the publication, USA Today, published an excoriation of Trump, casting him as a "dangerous demagogue," and warning voters against voting for him. While USA Today did not go so far as to endorse Clinton, the editorial noted that while it had never taken sides in a presidential election in its more than three decades of operation, it was taking the unprecedented step of urging voters not to vote for Trump. Of note were the editorial's declarations: "He is ill-equipped to be commander in chief," "He traffics in prejudice," and "He’s a serial liar."
The vice presidential debate between Trump's running mate, Mike Pence, and Clinton's running mate, Tim Kaine, took place on Oct. 4, 2016. That event was generally regarded as a victory for Pence whose debate skills and polite presentation were a contrast to Kaine's more aggressive and disruptive style. An analysis of the substance of the debate, though, indicated that Pence's on the record claims could not withstand scrutiny. Of note was the fact that Pence largely denied Trump's questionable stances from expelling immigrants from the United States to punishing women for having abortions, and also denying that Trump's inaccurately claimed that Russia did not invade Ukraine, or that he and Trump touted Russian President Vladimir Putin's strong leadership. Kaine doggedly challenged Pence on each of these issues, and the veracity of Kaine's claims were highlighted by fact checkers the day after the debate. However, it was to be seen if optics would trump substance, and if there would be a shift in the polls away from Clinton and in the direction of Trump.
At the start of October 2016, ahead of the lone vice presidential debate, momentum for Trump had been reversed and was instead was moving in Clinton's direction. At the national level, Clinton was moving into a solid four-five percent lead, according to several polls, with additional leads in key battleground states like Pennsylvania, Florida, Virginia, Colorado, New Hampshire and even North Carolina; Nevada looked close, with Ohio and Iowa trending towards Trump. But should those trends hold, Clinton could win the electoral college without Nevada, Ohio, and Iowa.
As the first week of October 2016 came to a close, there was a blow to the Trump campaign when the Washington Post broke a story about the Republican nominee caught admitting that he was sexually aggressive with women. At issue was a live microphone video recording from the "Access Hollywood" program dating back to 2005; in that excerpt, Trump was heard describing how he uses his star power to kiss, grope, or have sex with women. While the Trump campaign tried to dismiss the scandal as "locker room banter" by the Republican nominee, other damaging stories were emerging about Trump of the same ilk, with a long list of women coming forward to offer testimony of their unsavory encounters with Trump. As well, still other stories were emerging about Trump entering the backstage area of his beauty pageants when contestants were undressed.
With these allegations circulating through the public purview, Trump had been deemed radioactive. As such, some key Republicans, like John McCain, rescinded their endorsements of Trump while House Speaker Paul Ryan urged Republicans to concentrate on down ballot races. This distance from Republicans spurred retaliatory attacks from Trump and threats to destroy the establishment Republican Party.
In an attempt to quell the damage to his campaign from this scandal, ahead of the second presidential debate, Trump assembled women who accused former President Bill Clinton of sexual misdeeds, even having them sit behind the family box during the debate. The move was initially aimed at rattling Hillary Clinton during the debate, but extended to the campaign's new response tactic, which was to deflect Trump's scandal by redirecting attention to Bill Clinton's troubles in the 1990s. The problem with this strategy, however, was that few people other than those in the core Republican base were likely to blame Hillary Clinton for her husband's misdeeds.
Another part of Trump's "go forward" strategy was to feed his base more "red meat" by calling for Hillary Clinton to be jailed. While this move of jailing one's political opponents has traditionally been reserved for the domain of third world dictators, Trump expressly warned that this would be Clinton's fate, should he become president, during the second presidential debate.
Note that on Oct. 12, 2016, the New York Times broke a story depicting testimony of two women on the record who alleged that Trump groped them in separate incidents. As expected, Trump categorically denied the allegations and threatened to sue the newspaper.
Meanwhile, polling data after the second debate by CNN showed that Clinton had decisively won the debate against Trump and that she was disproportionately viewed as more fit to be president. Nevertheless, it should be noted that Trump's aggressive demeanor during that second debate appeared to have breathed new life into Trump's flagging campaign - at least with the members of the core Republican base. He was actually bleeding support from women, and white women particularly -- a demographic group that Mitt Romney won in 2012 but still lost that election to Barack Obama. Losing this demographic to Clinton would almost surely guarantee her victory.
To that end, new polling data in the second week of October 2016 showed Clinton extended a significant lead -- in the double digits or high singles according to various pollsters -- at the national level. Meanwhile, Clinton was leading in key battleground states, making up ground in Ohio and Nevada where she had earlier been trailing, and even looking competitive in Republican states like Arizona and Georgia. It was to be seen if Wikileaks revelations about Clinton's corporate stances would change this trend.
By the third week of October 2016, ahead of the third and final presidential debate, Trump was categorically denying the claims being made by women of his sexually aggressive behavior. In fact, he appeared to suggest that some of them were too unattractive to have been on his radar. At this point, there were almost daily disclosures from a long list of women claiming unwanted sexual advances and violations by the Republican nominee. Soon, Trump was alleging a conspiracy between the media and the Clintons to go after him with false allegations from women. Polling data showed that his base believed his denials and that he was holding onto core Republican support — including from the Republican establishment. But he continued to suffer erosion from female voters, particularly those who were college educated. A scathing excoriation of Trump by First Lady Michelle Obama during a campaign rally for Hillary Clinton was expected to intensify that problem.
Clinton, meanwhile, had her own challenges. Hacked emails released Wikileaks indicated intra-Democratic party tensions, but more significantly, an attempt by the State Department and the FBI regarding the classification of Clinton’s email exchanges in certain cases. While the government denied any deal actually took place, the appearance of political negotiations of this sort raised many eyebrows.
On Oct. 19, 2016, Clinton and Trump faced off in their final debate. While the two contenders argued over foreign policy, gun control, reproductive rights, and the national debt, two key moments dominated the public purview. In one exchange, Trump referred to Clinton as a “nasty woman,” thus prompting a social media firestorm. It was unclear if it would help or hinder him with female voters although the “smart money” was on it likely to inflict further damage to Trump.
The second key moment occurred when Trump refused to say that he would accept the election results, should he lose. The Republican nominee’s refusal to commit to the tradition of a peaceful transfer of power — backed up by his regular claims of election fraud and rigging — was a disturbing turn in the presidential contest. Both Republican and Democratic state electoral officials sought to remind the country that the electoral process was secure and not subject to election fraud, while Republican and Democratic leaders condemned Trump for failing to commit to doing what every other losing presidential contender had done in modern American history. Rather than back away from the burgeoning controversy, Trump later said he would respect the election result “if I win.” He added, "Of course I would accept a clear election result, but I would also reserve my right to contest or file a legal challenge in the case of a questionable result.”
A post-debate snap poll by CNN/ORC showed that viewers believed Clinton had won the debate 52 percent for 39 percent for Trump. Via Twitter, President Obama issued a vote of confidence in the Democratic nominee, saying Clinton scored an “outstanding 3 for 3 debate sweep" and characterizing Trump, once again, as unfit for the presidency.
Meanwhile, Clinton was dealing with the fallout of an additional tranche of Wikileaks hacked emails that were released. They indicated internal turmoil over Clinton’s use of a private server and promised to revitalize the email controversy while she served as Secretary of State.
As November 2016 commenced, with early voting already underway, and with one week to go until election day, Clinton was hit by the news that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) was looking at emails discovered via a peripheral investigation into Anthony Weiner, the estranged spouse of her closest aide, Huma Abedin. At issue was an investigation into Weiner who allegedly texted sexually explicit material to a minor. In the course of that investigation, some of Abedin’s emails involving her State Department work were discovered on a shared device.
The Clinton campaign chairman, John Podesta, expressed confidence that the matter would be resolved and the FBI would hold to its July 2016 findings that there was no grounds for charges to be brought. To this end, Podesta said, “We are confident this will not produce any conclusions different from the one the FBI reached in July.” But Podesta also demanded that the FBI Director show more transparency as he declared, "The (FBI) Director owes it to the American people to immediately provide the full details of what he is now examining.”
The FBI director, James Comey, gave no indication as to the nature of emails at hand or whether they were even of a questionable or classified nature. He also stopped short of saying that the investigation into Clinton’s use of a private server and a private email account during her tenure as Secretary of State was being re-opened. Nevertheless, the news was likely to have a political effect.
For his part, Trump wasted no time trying to capitalize on the matter, declaring at a rally, "This is the biggest political scandal since Watergate.” His supporters roared in response the popular rhetorical attack on Clinton, “lock her up.”
At the same time, a batch of stories were surfacing about Trump’s Russian connections, not just limited to the ties of his advisers, Paul Manafort and career Page, but also with regard to the Kremlin’s desire to cultivate an alliance with Trump, for their own interests.
FBI Director Comey’s decision to notify Congress of the fresh look at Clinton’s emails, set against his refusal to comment on the FBI’s investigations into Trump associates, was the hot topic of the period. Indeed, it even evoked speculation that he may have violated the Hatch Act and influenced the election. That being said, it was to be seen if these two burgeoning scandals would actually impact the outcome of the election result, or, if the prevailing dynamics would remain in place. But only days ahead of election day, Comey and the FBI announced that a review of emails uncovered showed no new information and that the case against Clinton was closed.
As of the first week of November 2016, Clinton was maintaining a lead in most - but not all — national polls, and according to state polls, was holding an advantage in enough battleground states to win the election. The likelihood of an electoral map blowout was now reduced and a tighter race was anticipated as some wavering Republican voters were now returning to the fold and ready to vote for Trump. Nevertheless, Clinton had several viable pathways to 270 electoral votes needed to win the presidency whereas Trump had to run the table.
Heading into the election on Nov. 8, 2016, final national polls showed Clinton carrying a lead across the board, with the aggregate advantage being between four and five percent over Trump . Worth noting was that Barack Obama won re-election in 2012 with a four percent lead over Mitt Romney, which translated into an electoral landslide. It was to be seen if Clinton would do likewise. Meanwhile, it was to be seen if Trump would overperform the polls -- as he did in the primaries -- and pull off a surprise victory.
5. Election Results:
Trump defeats Clinton to win presidency; Republicans hold Senate and House.
Polling data in the 2016 election was shown to be completely wrong and reminiscent of the Brexit vote in the United Kingdom which also failed to accurately predict the mood and judgement of the people. On Nov. 8, 2016, the American people voted to elect Donald Trump, the Republican nominee, as the president of the United States.
The final numbers of the electoral count were not completely tallied on the night of the election, although it was clear that Trump would cross the 270 electoral vote threshold. At the same time, Clinton was expected to win the popular vote, mirroring the ironic finish of the 2000 election. Clinton nevertheless conceded her loss .
For his part, Trump declared victory with a tone of unity as he said:
“Now it’s time for America to bind the wounds of division. We have to get together. To all Republicans and Democrats and Independents across this nation, I say it is time for us to come together as one united people. It’s time. I pledge to every citizen of our land that I will be president for all Americans, and this is so important to me. For those who have chosen not to support me in the past, of which there were a few people, I am reaching out to you for your guidance and your help so that we can work together and unify our great country.”
Note that Republicans held onto control over both the Senate and House of Representatives, ensure dominion over the levers of government.