Trump vs. Clinton: Who Will be the Next President of the United States?

Manar Shorbagy analyzes the latest developments in the U.S. presidential primaries. Photo courtesy of Gage Skidmore
Manar Shorbagy analyzes the latest developments in the U.S. presidential primaries. Photo courtesy of Gage Skidmore

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are the frontrunners in the Republican and Democratic races for the 2016 presidential nominations. Following this election cycle's Super Tuesday results, Manar Shorbagy, affiliate professor in the Department of Political Science as well as first and founding director of the Prince Alwaleed Center for American Studies and Research, analyzes developments in the U.S. presidential primaries.

1. Is it safe to say that Trump and Clinton will be the 2016 presidential nominees?

Most probably. Now that both Ted Cruz and John Kasich have dropped out of the race for the Republican presidential nomination, Trump is the presumptive nominee.

In the Democratic presidential primaries, Bernie Sanders is still in the race and may well win some more primaries. However, the key here is so-called “superdelegates,” the majority of whom have already committed to Hillary Clinton.

Superdelegates are an invention of the Democratic party that came into being in 1980 to work as a check on the will of the people if the winner in the primaries is someone who the party leaders don’t like. Superdelegates, who compose about 20 percent of the total delegates in the Democratic National Convention, include all elected Democratic officials plus all appointed members of the Democratic National Committee. Superdelegates are not won through the popular vote like other delegates. Instead, they are rather uncommitted to the voting process and, therefore, can choose to go against the nominee who won in the primaries.

That is not to say that Bernie Sanders is the winner of the Democratic primaries. Hillary Clinton is, but with a margin that would have made Sanders a more formidable competitor at this stage if it were not for the superdelegates. More than 500 of them are now committed to Clinton, compared to only 40 committed to Sanders, which makes a difference, of course.

2. Recent polls place Clinton ahead of Trump by double digits. Do these polls give any indication of who might be the next U.S. president, or is it too early to tell?

It is too early to tell for several reasons, the least of which is that five months is a long time in presidential campaigns. There are three more important reasons, though.

First, some influential Republicans are working to put a conservative Republican on the ballot as an independent to run against Trump and Clinton. While doing this is a difficult undertaking given the great variety in election requirements for each of the 50 states, if it happens, it would be a game changer.

Even if that proves to be unattainable, there is a second reason: the mathematics of the Electoral College, which is a winner-take-all, plurality of vote system in which individual states choose a single candidate. Each state has a number of electoral votes equal to the number of members it has in both the House and the Senate. Whoever gets the plurality of votes in the state also gets all of its electoral votes, except in Maine and Nebraska, which allocate electoral votes proportionally.

Thirdly, it depends on each candidate’s “winning coalition,” or the groups that the candidate appeal to win the election. Trump has already alienated African Americans, Hispanics and women, but he will need more than simply the majority of white male voters to win; just ask Mitt Romney 2012.

Clinton’s coalition seems better: She does win blue collar white votes in some states and is ahead so far among women, African Americans and Latinos. But, she has not been doing well with the younger generation of Americans, whites and non-whites, men and women.  The elephant in the room for Clinton is not that Democrats would cross over and vote for Trump, but rather that they might stay home on election day.

3. What do we know about Trump and Clinton's views on foreign policy? How do they compare?

In my view, none of the statements made by Clinton or Trump on foreign policy can be taken seriously. Trump’s positions on foreign policy are less important than the fascist streaks he’s demonstrating, because the U.S. is supposed to choose a president, not just someone who thinks he’s the smartest, the best or the most effective. Trump’s intolerance and arrogance is what matters in both foreign and domestic policy.

The problem with Clinton’s positions is that they are ever-changing. Her positions in this campaign are different from those she took during her 2008 campaign and certainly from those she adopted as secretary of state. Just take a look at those differences when it comes to Israel. The statements she made as secretary of state are far different than those she uttered in her debate with Sanders and in her speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). So which of those positions will be ‘President’ Hillary Clinton’s?

4. How do you think Trump and Clinton's different relationships with Republican and Democratic party establishments impact their views on foreign policy?

Hopefully, the Sanders Campaign will have an impact on Clinton’s foreign policy, making it more humanitarian and less militaristic, but I honestly doubt it. Hillary Clinton is to the right of Obama on foreign policy, and he is a centrist.

Trump has already divided the GOP and may well be the last straw, after which the party will cease to exist. Trump does not owe the party anything that might make him start to listen to it now. The problem with the Republican establishment is that it remained silent for too long. It never spoke out against Trump’s anti-women, anti-black, anti-Latino, anti-Muslim slurs. This is an establishment that has, even long before Trump, condoned extreme tactics and extreme rhetoric for electoral purposes, and now it is paying a heavy price. 

The Democratic Party is not in a good shape either. The Sanders campaign is a manifestation of a party divided. Among the Sanders voters, there is a lack of trust in Clinton who is perceived as an embodiment of a party hijacked by Wall Street and part of the establishment’s neo-liberal militaristic policies. The question, in my view, is not whether she will listen to the establishment on foreign policy, but whether she will listen to the party’s base.