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Last Updated Thursday July 18 2019 07:30 PM IST

Battle for the White House: Hillary leads in spite of missteps

Jayant Mammen Mathew
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Hillary US Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton waves as she boards her campaign plane at the Westchester County airport in White Plains, New York. Reuters

I was at a meeting in America on 11 September, 2016, when the familiar news alert on mobiles made us all huddle over a video of Hillary Clinton’s legs buckling and Secret Service agents almost carrying her to a waiting van. The next day her doctor said she was suffering from pneumonia.

With just six weeks to go for American presidential elections, Clinton’s health and her unfortunate statement calling half of Donald Trump’s supporter’s “Deplorables,” meaning they are racist, sexist, and xenophobic, has given Trump some much-needed momentum. Candidates typically don’t attack rival’s supporters as they are the ones who are likely to switch sides. Clinton finally apologized for the remarks.

Pneumonia-hit Hillary Clinton 'faints' at 9/11 memorial, cancels California trip

What’s worse, her email server episode, where she used a private server for official email, continues to haunt her in spite of her being cleared by the government.

Hillary Clinton becomes the first woman nominated for US president

In the latest round of opinion polls, Clinton, though continues to lead most polls by an average of 3 to 4 percentage points.  In spite of this being a primarily Clinton vs. Trump fight, there are spoilers in the fray: Gary Johnson, Libertarian party candidate who has between 8 and 10 percent share and Jill Stein, the Green party candidate, with about 2 to 3 percent.

Hillary US Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton arrives at a campaign event in Orlando. Reuters

Americans are still coming to terms with one question: How did Trump get all this support?

This election was supposed to be easy for Clinton, in spite of “trust” issues and ties to big money in Corporate America. Americans have not fully embraced Clinton as yet and probably might never, but she should get enough to become the first Female President on 8 November if she does not self-destruct in the next six weeks.

She should have announced she had pneumonia instead of hiding it from the public, who expect transparency from Clinton.

This is a race that has been unprecedented in American elections: hugely entertaining, vicious personal attacks, exaggeration, lies, half-hearted support from the Republican Party and most important, very difficult to analyze.

More uncertainty and anxiety followed few days ago with the triggering of an improvised explosive device in New York. Although both Clinton and Trump have talked tough on terror, none of them have a viable plan to prevent such attacks.

Next Monday will kick off probably the most exciting first Presidential TV debate between Clinton and Trump. Both candidates are going to spar and Trump is unpredictable but effective when he is unscripted. Channels are hoping for record ratings for the four debates. Eventually, people say candidates’ performance in the debates will swing the election.

Even before Clinton’s fainting episode, Trump has repeatedly questioned whether Clinton has the mental and physical strength, part of his strategy to remind the American public that she has a serious illness she is covering up. So far there is no truth to it.

Trump US Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump holds a rally in Aston, Pennsylvania. Reuters

In the past week, Trump finally conceded that president Obama was born in America, a point that he disputed for many years. He then seemed to suggest that Clinton’s Secret Service agents should be disarmed alluding to the fact that she might get assassinated.

Politicians are known to stretch the truth, misinform, and retract when it suits them. Trump is almost like a serial liar. The world according to Trump seems vastly different from the real world. American media is doing a good job by fact-checking and exposing him but this does not stop Trump from starting afresh with more exaggerated stories.

A month ago he flew to meet the Mexican president, after saying that Mexicans are rapists and killers and he will build a wall across the US-Mexican border, and make Mexico pay for it. Too late at placating them, analysts say.

Trump’s election strategy has been to create a divide, discredit communities and build on animosity. He has flip-flopped on his statements and softens when it suits his convenience.

Trump This screenshot shows a tweet posted by Donald Trump Jr., in which he compares Syrian refugees to a bowl of poisoned Skittles. The post caused a stir, including a terse response from Skittles parent company, Wrigley Americas - 'Skittles are candy. Refugees are people. We don't feel it's an appropriate analogy'. AP

Early in his campaign, he had talked about a ban on Muslims. After getting criticized, he has softened his stance to say that those with extreme views will not be permitted to enter America.

'I've made lot of sacrifices,' Trump attacks slain Muslim US soldier's parents

He believes his view of America has enough backers to see him through to the White House.

His biggest gamble is on immigration. He said that an illegal immigrant in America needs to be deported. Controversial, considering America’s success has been welcoming hard-working immigrants from around the world. Trump says American trade policy is detrimental to its interests and finally, he feels America should stop policing the world.

Trump US Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks at a rally at Duplin County Events Center in North Carolina. AFP

He has found fault with a Mexican-American judge who is presiding over his failed Trump University, where he has supposedly duped millions.

Most Americans expect Trump to lose the election but he has sowed the seeds of hate and fear, which will probably last for a while. He has brought to mainstream the social, racial, cultural and economic divide that exists in America. The next president will have to win over the other side to heal America.

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