Trump! Trump! Trump! Since early summer when his jumbo jet emblazoned with TRUMP on the side landed at strategic airports, Donald Trump, billionaire entrepreneur and showman, has captured the rapt attention and fascination of the American public. Some call it entertainment fueled by non-stop media attention. They arrive by the thousands to join in the excitement when he comes to their city. Other more sober observers see him as a blazing comet shooting up into the stratosphere of stardom and adulation. Many skeptics have been waiting for him to reverse the curve and plummet to earth. That has not happened.
During the first two Republican debates he was positioned center stage among ten or eleven presidential candidates, tossing insults and sparring with Rand Paul and Carly Fiorina. A few challenged him and received a temporary boost in the polls. Governors Rick Perry of Texas and Scott Walker of Wisconsin, once touted as the man to beat, ran out of money and withdrew. It appeared that voters were not interested in governors of big states and their accomplishments. John Kasich, of Ohio and Chris Christie of New Jersey are in single digits in the polls. Jeb Bush, former governor of Florida and the establishment darling is Donald Trump’s favorite whipping boy . He remains in single digits and has started to cut staff expenses. Only, Dr. Benjamin Carson, the neurosurgeon and other leading outsider has edged up close to Trump in the polls. Admirers dismiss his bizarre comments on Hitler, gun control, Jews ,and the Holocaust as well as comparing Obamacare to slavery. He is soft spoken and has strong Evangelical appeal in Iowa where the first caucuses are the traditional kickoff for both parties.
Hillary! Hillary! Hillary! Hillary Clinton started her campaign with a strong statement of policy and a cross country tour to listen to and meet American women and men in small towns and rural settings. The only large rally was on Roosevelt Island in her home state of New York when thousands of excited fans greeted her as she announced her candidacy. She presented her eight years of experience as First Lady and her accomplishments as Senator from New York and Secretary of State for Barack Obama in her quest for the presidency. She is the antithesis of the two favored outsiders in the Republican party. Hillary Clinton has been a headliner in political life for decades and is often referred to as the “Most Admired Woman in America.”
The Democratic campaign also attracted Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who describes himself as a Democratic Socialist. He has a long, impressive record in the U.S. Senate as a lawmaker focused on ending economic inequality and promoting civil rights and other liberal causes. He is a dynamic, fiery speaker and has attracted tens of thousands of enthusiastic young men and women to his rallies in big cities such as Portland, Oregon and Boston, Massachusetts. During the first Democratic debate, he stood on Hillary Clinton’s right. Martin O’Malley former Governor of Maryland was on her left. Two other candidates were Lincoln Chafee of Connecticut and Jim Webb of Virginia. Both had impressive records of government service but have since withdrawn from the race. The verdict of instant polling and every media pundit was that Hillary Clinton won the debate with a very strong performance. Some of the comments: “Clinton commanded the debate!” “Hillary mopped up the stage!”
The second triumph for Hillary Clinton was her appearance before the House Select Benghazi Committee in the Capitol in mid October. The setting was spectacular ; She was seated completely alone at a large circular desk facing the phalanx of Congressional representatives. MSNBC and CNN Cable news ran the entire hearing live, which lasted an historic eleven hours, starting at ten a.m. with only a few breaks. Fox News quit coverage before it was over — perhaps since the marathon session cut into Bill O’Reilly or they saw Clinton coming through clearly as the winner. The chairman, Trey Gowdy, and six hostile Republican colleagues each took turns asking her accusatory questions. They alternated with the five supportive Democrats who attacked the motives of their Republican colleagues. Hillary Clinton never lost her cool, answering each question with calm, specific responses. In her opening statement and that of Representative Elijah Cummings, it was stressed that the Republican House Majority Leader had said publicly that “the Benghazi Committee was formed to bring down her poll numbers.” Oops! After the hearing, Trey Gowdy told reporters that they had learned “nothing” and would continue to call other witnesses. It should be noted that the cost to tax payers so far runs over $4 million!
The Iowa Caucuses, next February may seem far off . And it is a full year from this November when the presidential election will take place. Much can happen in these months to the candidates and their political fortunes. We know from the 2012 campaign, especially in the Republican party, that front runners like Herman Caine who catapulted to fame in the polls or Michelle Bachmann who won the Iowa Straw Poll can disappear from the race. This time, there are two outsiders who are leading the Republican race. Neither has ever run for nor held political office. That’s their calling card. They boast about coming from the outside to “Make America Great Again!” .or “Clean up Washington” We’ll find out in the months ahead if their allure holds as voters decide whether they can imagine a President Trump or a President Carson.leading this nation as Commander in Chief. Ah, there’s the rub! It’s no longer a game when each of us reaches the voting booths in November, 2016.