The latest USA TODAY/Suffolk University Poll shows problems for both major political parties. The bad news begins with Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton maintaining the lead for the Republican and Democratic Parties, respectively. Trump could conceivably win the GOP nomination while being disliked by many in the Republican mainstream while Clinton could win the Democratic nomination with the support of the Democratic mainstream, but not many others.
…there is an almost even divide among those who have an unfavorable opinion of both Trump and Clinton: 45% say they dislike Clinton more; 42% dislike Trump more.
“Their mantra is ABCT— Anybody But Clinton or Trump,” says David Paleologos, director of Suffolk’s Political Research Center in Boston. More than one in five of those surveyed fall into this category. “If each is their party’s respective nominees, the poll tells us that the majority of the country does not see either candidate as acceptable, which means that the race for president may come down to which candidate voters view as the lesser of two evils.”
How things have changed from last summer, when the mantra was no more Bushes or Clintons. Now Jeb is hardly a factor, while Ted Cruz is this month’s leader as top challenger to Donald Trump.
The bad news for the Democrats is also that the poll shows that Clinton would have a tough time against the major Republican candidates: ” Clinton leads Trump by 4 percentage points, Cruz by 2 and Ben Carson by 1. Rubio leads Clinton by 3 points.” Battleground state polls, where Clinton has preformed poorly, suggest she would have an even tougher time in the electoral college.
The biggest news out of this poll is that 68 percent of Trump’s supporters say they would vote for Trump if he ran as an independent, while only 18 percent say they would not. While I wouldn’t put it past Trump’s ego for him to run as an independent, it is hard to see how that actually comes about. Even if his current lead in the polls does not allow him to run away with the nomination, most likely he will be competitive for the next several months, probably dissuading him from going third party for quite a while. By the time the GOP nominee is determined, it could be too late to launch an independent bid. In the event that Trump performs poorly in the early primaries, he would then be tarnished and look like a loser, making a third party run less likely to obtain support.
But maybe someone as unpredictable as Trump will run and perhaps even more candidates will get in the act. Jesse Ventura has been making noise about running, and possibly other candidates will arise. While unlikely, maybe 2016 will be the year which ends the dominance of the Democratic and Republican Parties. Both Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders are showing that there is a significant number of voters who are unhappy with the establishment choices from both parties. Plus there is a large pool of potential voters among those who have not voted in recent elections should a candidate be able to motivate them to vote.
A race between a DLC Democrat such as Hillary Clinton and an establishment Republican would not differ significantly on policy, even if their primary rhetoric is different to attract two different partisan bases. Theoretically a third party candidate could go far if they could convince voters that both Clinton and the Republican establishment not only offer essentially the same thing, but that their policies are the policies which have been screwing up America.
Of course that will never happen. The voters from both parties are a bunch of suckers. Republicans have convinced their base, including the Tea Party, to express their rage against government by voting for the Republicans–the party which has dominated both the federal and most state governments. The Democratic base is looking just as delusional, supporting a candidate who opposes so much of what Democrats claim to support and has spent her career undermining liberal principles.
Perhaps a third party candidate can come along and convince voters of the folly of voting a Republican, or a Republican-lite candidate such as Clinton. Donald Trump might have the showmanship to pull this off, but he is also bat-shit crazy.
Our best hope remains that Clinton can be defeated in the Democratic race, with Bernie Sanders building a new coalition to change the status quo.