Including early dropouts like Lawrence Lessig, Jim Webb, Carly Fiorina, Scott Walker and several others, 23 Presidential hopefuls entered the running in the summer of 2015 in the race to become their party’s nominee for President of the United States. When the race and debates began in earnest in the fall of 2015, many conventional news outlets believed that the future winners were clear.
Hillary Clinton, who ran in 2008 and worked closely with the Obama administration as Secretary of State, seemed to be the candidate of choice for the Democratic establishment. John Ellis Bush (Jeb), the governor of Florida until 2007, raised more than $100 million before voting even began, largely through Super Political Action Committees (PAC). Super PACs are organizations that allow donors to contribute more than the $2,700 contribution as long as they do not communicate directly with the Presidential candidate—the fact that Jeb recieved this level of funding shows the power and sway he had with Republican donors.
Now, three months after the Iowa Caucus that began the voting process, the last remaining Republican contender for president is business mogul Donald Trump, who has never held political office. Although his chances of victory were improved due to Republican rules, including a large number of “winner-take-all” states where he benefitted from a divided field of opponents, Trump has received ten million votes, over 30 percent more than the second-place candidate, Senator Ted Cruz, who suspended his campaign on May 3 following a loss in the state of Indiana.
Cruz, widely considered to be an outsider candidate when his campaign begun, had become the favorite candidate of the Republican establishment following the collapse of Marco Rubio’s candidacy. Cruz has not ruled out restarting his campaign if he sees a road to victory, but Trump’s nearly 500-point delegate lead makes the possibility seem remote. Trump’s voter base includes largely lower income white men, especially individuals without college education. According to the Atlantic, many of these voters feel frustrated and believe that they have no say in the direction of the country.
On the Democratic side, Clinton has made progress towards shutting down the hard-fought Bernie Sanders campaign following her April 19 victory in New York by a nearly 20 percent margin. Until that time, it seemed possible that Bernie Sanders—whose poll numbers have improved throughout the campaign season to nearly over 40 percent of the national democratic voter base—might have been able to overtake her. Sanders’ voter base, like Trump’s, has been mostly white males, but with two major differences: his supporters tend to be college educated and young.
Clinton needs to win less than 30 percent of the remaining vote in order to clinch the nomination, made even less when her superdelegate lead is taken into account. Superdelegates are not bound to vote for the winner of the state they are from. Sanders, however, a long-time Independent, has vowed to continue the fight, hoping to influence Democratic policy at the national convention in July.
Both Trump, and Clinton are unpopular nationally. The percentage of Americans who hold unfavorable opinions towards Hillary Clinton are nearly 40 percent, while Trump’s ratings are well over 50 percent.
Trump is not a career politician. His last foray into the political stage was his support of Mitt Romney in 2012 when he questioned the veracity of Obama’s birth certificate. His campaign has alienated a number of important voting blocs, promising to wall off Mexico from the United States and deport a number of undocumented Latinos and suggesting a temporary ban on Muslim immigration to the United States. He also faces deep distrust from the Republican establishment, many members of which have refused to endorse or support him.
Hillary Clinton also faces public relations problems. She is struggling to capture younger voters within her party and is currently being probed by the FBI for potentially illegal behavior involving classified information on emails she stored in a private server.