Saturday, 6 February 2016

US Presidential election update: What is going on?

Why the long face? 
Photo by Michael Vadon / CC BY

Here in the UK, the Prime Minister is bound a fixed term of five years. When the allotted time runs out,  they tend to dissolve Parliament in late March or early April.

The campaign is short and sharp, with the whole charade finished by the first week of May (usually).

The average US Presidential campaign lasts 18 months. In that time, you could gestate an elephant. Hilary Clinton announced her intention to run for President, as a Democrat nominee all the way back in April 2015. 

Donald Trump, the scourge of anyone with two brain cells to rub together (and hairstylists for that matter) announced his run at Trump Tower, back in June 2015.

The election is about 9 months away, (enough time to gestate a person) but people are being assaulted by a new tranche of news from across the Atlantic.

In a corner of the United States, called the great state of Iowa, the Presidential nominees are finally submitting themselves to the democratic process.

For the first time in this long-running campaign, Republican and Democratic Party members are holding caucuses to elect their party's main candidate to receive the keys to the White House, from President Obama.

It's not like the UK's election cycle at all. Here, we have our MPs, and the party leader is the MP that has the most support from their peers.

In the US, you have the House of Representatives, and the US Senate. Presidential candidates can come from these two houses, or they can do a Donald Trump, and simply come from the private sector, and put themselves forward.

How did it all pan out this week?

The Democrat caucuses were quite simple. There was the assumed front-runner, Hilary Clinton, facing off against self-described democratic socialist Bernie Sanders, plus the distant third hopeful, Martin O'Malley.

Mrs Clinton is listed as the assumed front-runner, because she really did seem like she would sweep into this race, without any major contenders.

For a time, it seemed unclear whether Elizabeth Warren would run against her, but then she ruled herself out.

Entering into this race, Mrs Clinton was probably thanking her lucky stars that she wasn't facing a youthful, charismatic rival, similar to Barack Obama. 

Then Bernie Sanders entered into the race. Slow to catch fire at first, Mr Sanders has now been able to catch up with Mrs Clinton, and the results for the Iowa caucus for the Democrats were much closer than people could have imagined.

Mrs Clinton came first, but secured 49.8%, compared to Mr Sanders, who managed to garner 49.6%. Spare a thought for Martin O'Malley, who secured just 0.6%.

Mr O'Malley quit the race after Iowa, so it's now a two-horse race for the Democrats.

There was a debate between Mrs Clinton and Mr Sanders on MSNBC the other night. Expect to see a post about the debate and its fallout imminently.

What about the Republicans?

This leaves us with the literal elephant in the room: the Republican caucus. What a night that was.

Like the 2011-12 Republican primary campaign, the 2015-16 one has produced a large number of contenders, and they don't seem to be showing much signs of dropping out anytime soon.

You might remember previous Left Handed Dude posts in 2015 about Mr Trump, back when he commanded sizeable leads in opinion polls over his rival contenders.

The Iowa caucus has been something of a brutal wakeup call to Mr Trump. He came second with 24.3% of votes, when all the polls indicated he would win. Pipping him to the post was fellow anti-establishment right-winger Ted Cruz, who won 27.6% of votes.

Coming in third was Marco Rubio at 23.1%, and the other candidates were unable to muster vote shares higher than 10%. They ranged from Ben Carson's 9.3% all the way down to Rick Santorum's measly 1%.

At the time of writing, much hot air has been expended over claims that Ted Cruz's campaign published untrue stories about Mr Carson having quit the race, as the caucus was ongoing.

Here is a clip from MSNBC, which includes an apparent recording of someone announcing the fake story.

If the allegations are true, it will be one of the first incidents during this long campaign, where a sitting candidate will have become victim to dirty tactics.

Mr Trump claimed he felt "honoured", but was also reported to have admitted that skipping the previous televised GOP primary debate might have harmed him in the Iowa caucus.

It's interesting to see that Trump has now confirmed he's chosen to turn up to the next Fox News debate, in March.

Maybe his campaign is more vulnerable than people thought, after the prolonged oxygen of publicity? Maybe it was just built on sand?

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