Alan Chartock | I, Publius: Now the presidential race is set, prepare for a mudfest


GREAT BARRINGTON >> It's settled — two New Yorkers will be running against each other for president.

They are, of course, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. This is when all the most serious negative research starts.

They will use surrogates to damage one another and call each other names. They will investigate every deal Trump has ever been involved in, and there are many. Hillary's past will be traced back to Whitewater. She'll be blamed for her husband's infidelities.

There will be rumors of new Bill Clinton paramours. We'll hear about tax records and people who have been screwed by either of these candidates. Those folks will suddenly emerge and from here on in, the gloves will come off.

We all wonder who each will pick for a running mate. I've heard from a lot of people who suggest that Hillary should pick Bernie Sanders. They think that would pacify all the people who backed Sanders and have said they would never vote for Hillary.

The problem is, this strategy runs counter to everything we know about presidential contests. The name of the game is for candidates who have had trouble running against the ideologically pure members of their parties to get to the middle, semi-independent members of the electorate as fast as they can. On the other hand, the Bernie-ites need to be lured back into the party.

Some people are talking about the politically astute Castro brothers (no, not the Cubans) who could bring in the Hispanic voters. While it is true that some Hispanics do vote for Republicans, Trump has been so offensive to Hispanic voters that the strategy of picking a Hispanic running mate may not be necessary for Team Hillary.

Geography can be an important consideration, too. Hillary might want to find a politician popular in a politically strategic state such as Virginia, Ohio or Florida.

As for me, I think she could do no better than picking Deval Patrick. He was a great governor of Massachusetts. He is African-American and we remember how critical the African-American vote was when it came to electing President Obama. Geographically there may be a problem since Massachusetts is right next door to New York.

Another favorite is Elizabeth Warren, who might be counted on to bring in some of the progressive Bernie voters. But she too offers little to bring in the American moderate voters. She also hails from Massachusetts and the idea of a second woman on the ticket may seem too politically over the top for some voters.

Since all the contemporary polls are showing that Hillary and Donald are running neck and neck, the vice presidential pick may prove incredibly important. In the end, however, it will be Clinton vs. Trump and while the veep pick may be helpful, that is not why people will come out to vote in this election.

Both candidates are perceived by the American people to be deficient. They will be counted on to make mistakes that will be seized upon by partisan journalists and will exacerbate the unpopularity that both candidates are already dealing with.

The woman issue in sexist America will be central to the campaign. Have you noticed how Trump brings all the women in his family to one campaign appearance after another? Some have described his entourage as eye candy.

From the day she announced she had it all wrapped up, Hillary Clinton has emphasized the historic nature of her candidacy. In the same way the uniqueness of Barack Obama's candidacy as an African-American was a plus, Hillary will count on the "first woman president" thing to work for her.

Let's not make any mistakes here. Trump has found an audience that has sometimes been referred to as the moral or silent majority. That in itself is extraordinary since the Donald is anything but a moral man.

Get ready, get set, go!

Alan Chartock, a Great Barrington resident, is president and CEO of WAMC Northeast Public Radio and a professor emeritus of communications at SUNY-Albany.


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