Tomorrow marks the start of the brave new world of President Donald J. Trump. But today marks the end of the Obama-to-Trump transition. They, and we, survived the interregnum, more or less — and it was not guaranteed and is worth celebrating.
It’s already clear that the very strange political year of 2016 is bleeding over into the New Year. How could it be otherwise? President-elect Donald Trump, loved and hated by about equal numbers of Americans, continues to ignore or break with convention in a wide variety of areas. Just as the normal rules didn’t apply to him in the campaign, they may not apply to him in office either.
Well, what can we say — we blew it.
After a nearly two-year campaign — kicked off in December 2014 by Jeb Bush (remember him?) — we’ve come to it at last. Election Day is less than 24 hours away.
Hillary Clinton has picked an awful time to hit one of the rough patches that has plagued her throughout the campaign. Now with just days to go until Election Day, there’s added uncertainty about the outcome. But while she may not be on the brink of an Electoral College win the size of Barack Obama’s in 2008 or even 2012, her position as the clear frontrunner in this race endures.
Another week has passed in the presidential race and it appears that Donald Trump is not making up much if any ground on Hillary Clinton. Last month, we coined the term “Fortress Obama” to describe an outer and inner ring of defenses Clinton had against Trump as she sought to recreate Barack Obama’s Electoral College majority. The outer ring consisted of states like Florida, Iowa, Nevada, and Ohio — states that Obama won twice but that are vulnerable to Trump — as well as North Carolina, which Obama carried only in 2008. These are states that Trump needs but that Clinton could probably do without. Then there’s the inner ring, states like Colorado, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Wisconsin, none of which Clinton can afford to lose if Trump were to completely knock down the outer ring.
The mist is lifting from the map of the United States and the moment of clarity for the 2016 general election campaign has arrived. Yes, there is still uncertainty about some states in the Electoral College. But nearly all of it comes in states that Mitt Romney won in 2012 or a couple of Barack Obama states that Hillary Clinton doesn’t need to win.
In the broad sweep of U.S. history, very occasionally one of the major parties simply disqualifies itself from the contest to win the White House by nominating an unelectable, non-mainstream candidate. We suspect that there will never be a better example than Donald Trump. The Republican Party chose a deeply divisive figure — one not supported by many senior figures in the GOP even before the release of Trump’s raunchy 2005 discussion with Access Hollywood ’s (and now The Today Show ’s) superficial, celebrity-worshipping Billy Bush. (Yes, he is of the Bush family, so a Bush finally speared Trump, however unintentionally.) Their X-rated discussion, and Trump’s insistence on discussing Bill Clinton’s sordid past, has caused voters to usher children out of the room when the TV news comes on. Is this the most embarrassing campaign ever? It must be close.
As we await the second debate, it’s obvious that Hillary Clinton got a bounce from the first debate and has re-established a clear lead in the presidential race.
The first debate is over! At least everyone survived.