On the campaign trail in the USA, June 2016
Sunday, July 17, 2016
The following is the second edition of a monthly series chronicling the U.S. 2016 presidential election. It features original material compiled throughout the previous month after an overview of the month's biggest stories.
In this month's edition on the campaign trail: the effect of the Brexit vote on the US presidential election is examined; a well known businessman and sports team owner pitches his candidacy for vice president; and Wikinews interviews the winner of the American Independent Party California primary.
As June began, national opinion polls showed Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton with a slight lead over presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump. Despite being mathematically eliminated, Senator Bernie Sanders remained in the Democratic race. He still held close in head-to-head match ups against Clinton in delegate-rich California ahead of that state's June 7 primary. Clinton, who won the June 4 Virgin Islands caucuses, focused her energies on Trump, delivering a speech criticizing his candidacy. Trump responded, saying the country "is gonna die" were Clinton elected president. Trump secured the holdout endorsement of House Speaker Paul Ryan and threats of a Republican establishment revolt subsided when National Review writer David A. French, the preferred presidential choice of Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol, announced he would not run. However, Trump came under intense criticism, largely from fellow Republicans, when he accused the judge hearing a lawsuit over his venture Trump University, Gonzalo Curiel, of bias due to the judge's Mexican heritage. Ryan called the comments "racist." Trump's former rivals John Kasich, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, and Scott Walker all denounced the comments. Lindsey Graham labeled Trump's remark "the most un-American thing from a politician since Joe McCarthy." Senator Mark Kirk renounced his endorsement of Trump. And former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, an early Trump supporter and potential running mate, called Trump's statement "inexcusable" and "one of the worst mistakes Trump has made." Trump described Gingrich's criticism as "inappropriate." Shortly thereafter, Gingrich argued that Trump's concerns were "valid and reflect a growing pattern of politicized justice." Trump said the media and others "misconstrued" his words. Clinton speculated that Trump was using the attack to divert attention from the Trump University case.
On the eve of the California primary, Clinton won Puerto Rico. With the delegates gained from her victory as well as a few additional superdelegates, Clinton surpassed the 2,383 delegate threshold to secure the Democratic nomination. The Associated Press, NBC, and ABC all declared Clinton as the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee. The next day, Clinton won the California primary and also those held in New Jersey, New Mexico, and South Dakota. Sanders won the Montana primary and North Dakota caucus. Sanders remained in the race but reportedly planned to cut his campaign staff by half. He announced plans to continue his campaign through the June 14 District of Columbia primary. On the Republican side, during what was the final night for GOP primaries, Trump swept all the June 7 contests in California, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, and South Dakota. In the end, Trump received a record total of 13.2 million votes in the GOP primaries. Still, his Super PAC reserved only $1.2 million in television advertisements, compared to the $108 million Clinton's Super PAC reserved. In addition, Trump stepped back from his previous fundraising goal of $1 billion, insisting he only needed half that amount. In terms of running mates, Gingrich denied having any interest on the GOP side. For Democrats, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid backed away from his initial reluctance and endorsed the idea of Senator Elizabeth Warren filling the role. Warren took to the stump, endorsing Clinton and condemning Trump as "a loud, nasty, thin-skinned, fraud" and "wannabe tyrant." In response, Trump tweeted his desire for "goofy" Warren to receive the vice presidential nomination and accused her of having a "nasty mouth" and "one of the least productive" records in the Senate. Other Democrats also gave their support to Clinton. President Barack Obama endorsed her candidacy as did former presidential rival Martin O'Malley. Sanders stopped short of supporting Clinton, but said he would "do everything in [his] power" to defeat Trump. On the other hand, several Republicans distanced themselves from Trump. GOP booster and Hewlett Packard CEO Meg Whitman hinted she would endorse Clinton, and 2012 GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney said he was leaning toward backing Libertarian Party presidential nominee Gary Johnson. Romney said he could not back Trump because of Trump's "racism ... bigotry ... [and] misogyny." Trump responded that he was "the least racist person that you've ever encountered" and attacked Romney as "absolutely pathetic," saying Romney "choked like a dog" during his loss to President Obama in the 2012 presidential election. Polls from June 10 showed Clinton leading Trump nationwide with leads ranging from three to eleven percentage points.
The campaign took a new turn on June 12 when a shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida left 49 dead. The shooter expressed allegiance to ISIS. In the aftermath, Trump tweeted appreciation for those congratulating him for "being right on radical Islamic terrorism" but said he did not want the congratulations, preferring "toughness and vigilance" instead. He attacked President Obama as someone who "doesn't get it, or he gets it better than anybody understands." The Washington Post published an article interpreting the comment as suggesting Obama was "complicit" in the shooting. In response, Trump revoked the press credentials of the Post. On the day following the shooting, Trump delivered a speech condemning it as "an assault on the ability of free people to live their lives, love who they want and express their identity". He criticized Clinton's immigration policies as opening the door for Islamic radicals espousing anti-LGBT views and said he would be a better protector of LGBT rights than Clinton. In addition, he slammed Clinton and Obama for not using the term "radical Islamic terrorism." Clinton, who denounced the shooting as an "act of terror" and "an act of hate," said she was comfortable using the term "radical Islamism." This prompted Trump to declare he had "shamed" Clinton into using the term. Furthermore, Clinton touted her support for a ban on assault rifles and gun ownership for those on the no fly list. Trump agreed on the last point and said he would attempt to convince the National Rifle Association, which had endorsed him, to support such a measure. With the shooting dominating news coverage, the final Democratic primary was held on June 14 in Washington, D.C. Clinton handily defeated Sanders. A Bloomberg poll of Sanders supporters showed 22% planned to vote for Trump, 15% for Gary Johnson, and 55% for Clinton. The same poll showed a 12 point advantage for Clinton over Trump, 49% to 37% with 9% for Johnson. A CBS poll showed a tighter race with Clinton leading Trump 39% to 32% with Johnson at 11%. Clinton and Trump shared high unfavorable ratings in an ABC/Washington Post poll with 55% of respondents having a negative opinion of Clinton and 70% having a negative opinion of Trump.
Dissension within the Democratic Party appeared to crest in mid-June. Sanders finally admitted "it doesn't appear that I'm going to be the nominee" and said he planned to vote for Clinton in the general election. This came even as reports showed Sanders was not being considered for the vice presidential nomination. According to The Wall Street Journal the individuals being vetted for the position were Senator Warren, Secretary of Labor Tom Perez, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, Senators Tim Kaine, Sherrod Brown, and Cory Booker, as well as Congressmen Tim Ryan and Xavier Becerra. Meanwhile, Trump's June struggles continued as the DNC opposition research file on him was hacked, reportedly by the Russian government, then leaked and published on Gawker. Trump accused the DNC of orchestrating the hack itself to publicize "misleading and/or entirely inaccurate" information. Next, a number of prominent Republicans endorsed Clinton, including former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage and former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, both members of the George W. Bush administration. Congressman Mike Simpson claimed there were many other Republicans who would privately vote for Clinton over Trump without saying so publicly. Reports of an anti-Trump delegate coup at the Republican National Convention were published in The Washington Post. Trump denied this as a media-crafted hoax. Additionally, Federal Election Commission reports showed the Trump campaign short on cash with only $1,289,507 available. Citing need for a change, Trump fired campaign manager Corey Lewandowski replacing him with Paul Manafort. Combating the dissension within the party, national co-chairman Sam Clovis went on CNN, demanding Republicans "to get behind the presumptive nominee ...[or] just shut the hell up." The outlook for the Trump campaign improved with the vote in the United Kingdom to exit from the European Union. Trump publicly backed the exit, which was hailed as a populist reaction similar to the movement behind Trump. Trump, who was in Scotland at the time opening a golf course, explained the vote as the UK taking "back their country. That's a great thing." At the end of June, an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll showed Trump trailing Clinton by only one point nationwide, 39% to 38%, with Johnson at 10% and presumptive Green Party presidential nominee Jill Stein at 6%. By June 30, a Rasmussen Reports poll showed Trump with a four point lead over Clinton, 43% to 39%. In the Real Clear Politics average at the close of June, Clinton led Trump 44.6% to 39.8%.
Brexit's impact on the US presidential election
In June, the United Kingdom voted to exit from the European Union, resulting in the resignation of Prime Minister David Cameron. This historic turn of events, termed the Brexit, had ramifications of international import. Particularly, the moment became one of political significance in the United States due to the involvement of both President Barack Obama and presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump. Comparisons of the anti-establishment Brexit movement were made with the anti-establishment campaign of Trump. Seeking professional analysis, Wikinews looked to political science to better understand the potential impact of the Brexit vote on the 2016 US presidential election.
Last April, President Obama inserted himself into the politics of Brexit, urging Britain to remain in the European Union. He wrote an editorial for The Telegraph and held a press conference with Prime Minister Cameron in which he warned that if Britain divorced itself from the EU, it would go "to the back of the queue" in terms of a trade agreement with the United States. In contrast, Donald Trump argued in favor of Brexit, connecting it to the larger issue of immigration. Commentators noted the goals of the Brexit movement aligned with Trump's protectionist views on trade and support for immigration restriction. Former London Mayor Boris Johnson, a leading proponent of Brexit, was himself compared to Trump.
The most immediate impact of Brexit on the United States came just after reports of the 52 percent to 48 percent vote, when stocks tanked. Markets rebounded somewhat since, though uncertainty remains. Hillary Clinton attacked Trump for the consequence. Her foreign policy advisor Jake Sullivan argued that "Trump actively rooted for this outcome and the economic turmoil in its wake". Clinton ran an ad in which she accused Trump of benefiting financially from a market downturn. Trump labeled the ad "disgraceful" and claimed she was "trying to wash away her bad judgment call on BREXIT with big dollar ads."
Trump's head-to-head polling numbers against Clinton increased somewhat after the June 23 vote. Trump rose in the Rasmussen Reports survey from a five point deficit before to a four point lead after. In Gravis, Trump cut Clinton's four point lead in half. However, deficits for Trump remained unchanged for the Economist/YouGov and the Reuters/Ipsos polls.
Pollster John Zogby of Zogby Analytics expects Trump's position to improve as a result of Brexit. He tells Wikinews, the vote "strengthens populism and gives Trump supporters some wind at their back." As for Clinton, he foresees difficulties due to the closeness of the race and the perception of Clinton as "the rep of the elites at a bad time to be so."
Political scientist John McCormick, a professor of European Union politics at Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis, mostly agrees. Though the Brexit impact is difficult to predict, McCormick explains to Wikinews that "some of the forces that led to Brexit are also behind the popularity of Donald Trump, and in that sense Brexit has opened the door a little wider to the possibility of a Trump presidency."
"A lot of people voted for Brexit because they resented the manner in which they thought establishment politicians had ignored their needs, or were fearful of more emigration, or disliked the effects of globalization, or had bought into populist warnings about the growing domestic threats of Islamist extremist terrorism", says McCormick, "So people here are going to be voting for Trump for many of the same reasons they voted for Brexit in the UK, and in that sense the vote will have an effect on the November election."
McCormick also believes further economic disturbance could result from Brexit, which could itself have an effect on the election as US voters head to the polls.
Amid talk of secession in Scotland, Northern Ireland, and London, the UK Conservative Party was to select a new Prime Minister to oversee Brexit and attempt to unify the kingdom. The selection was thought likely to be made in October, just a month ahead of the US presidential election.
Cuban makes vice presidential pitch
With the National Basketball Association concluding its season in June, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban has a new sport to follow. As he revealed last August in a chat on his social media app Cyber Dust, "5 weeks till training camp [...] [b]ut until then Donald Trump watching is a sport." Though Cuban, a fellow businessman and billionaire, then praised Trump's unconventional candidacy as "probably the best thing to happen to politics in a long, long time", and even offered himself as a possible running mate, he has since grown critical of the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, questioning his wealth, temperament, and business acumen. The marked change has led to speculation about Cuban's own political aspirations. In May, members of the #NeverTrump movement approached him about running for president as an independent, which he rejected. He did, however, open himself to running as the running mate for presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, punctuating that possibility with a statement that he is leaning toward voting for her over Trump in November. As the 2016 Democratic National Convention approaches, Cuban has continued to express his interest in the position.
Cuban addressed the vice presidency on the May 22 edition of Meet the Press, proclaiming that, if offered, he would join Clinton's ticket on the condition she "go more to the center" politically. He explained, "I like the fact that Senator Clinton has thought-out proposals." Nevertheless, he has criticized Clinton for having "no personality", "no charisma", and for making "horrible mistakes" as Secretary of State, mentioning the 2012 attack on the American consulate in Benghazi, Libya. Nevertheless, Cuban says he is willing to look past all that, believing the main issue is "whether or not I can add value and whether or not I can impact any perspective and hopefully have a positive impact on the country".
James Pethokoukis, writing for The Week, explains how Cuban can add value to a Democratic ticket. Describing Cuban as charismatic and well spoken, Pethokoukis says Cuban would neutralize Trump's appeal as an outsider candidate while making the Democratic ticket "more palatable" to disaffected Republicans. Though the nomination of a centrist businessman could upset progressives, Pethokoukis feels Cuban's middle-class Pennsylvania background could provide a compelling story for the majority of the electorate.
"Basically, Cuban is Trump", writes Pethokoukis, "without all the bigotry ... and without the insane policies ... and with probably more dough."
Kyle Kondik of the University of Virginia Center for Politics disagrees with Pethokoukis's premise. "To me, the first rule of vice presidential selection is 'first, do no harm'", he explains to Wikinews, "Cuban would be a risky choice for Clinton that does not provide an obvious benefit[...] One of Clinton's benefits in this election is that, compared to Trump, she seems qualified for the job and serious enough for the job. Picking Cuban doesn't really help her make that argument."
Dan Judy of North Star Opinion Research agrees, commenting to Wikinews that Cuban has "virtually no chance" of becoming Clinton's running mate because, "he's a political novice who doesn't bring much to the table in terms of shoring up Hillary's left flank, appealing to independents, or being a governing partner. Cuban's a colorful, outspoken guy, and I think he's just having fun. I don't think he has any real political ambitions."
Clinton insiders also say Cuban has no chance. However, Clinton herself is appreciative of Cuban's "openness," announcing on Meet the Press that she is "very interested" in considering "successful businesspeople" who have not held elected office.
Still, Cuban has continued to make media appearances touting himself as a potential vice presidential candidate. He even went on the attack against a front-runner for the position, Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, arguing she is too far left and that if she were selected, he would probably vote for Trump. In addition, Cuban recently boasted to TMZ that Clinton "needs me" for the position.
At the end of June, Cuban met with former President Bill Clinton, husband of Hillary, at a casual dinner party where politics were discussed.
Clinton is expected to choose a running mate before the July 25 National Convention commences in Philadelphia. Senators Warren, Cory Booker of New Jersey, Tim Kaine of Virginia, Sherrod Brown of Ohio, and Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro are among the favorites to receive the vice presidential nomination.
California American Independent Party primary winner speaks to Wikinews
Though most of the media attention of the June 7 California primary focused on the Democratic and Republican races, with Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump winning each, respectively, the Peace and Freedom Party, the Green Party, the Libertarian Party, and the American Independent Party (AIP) all held primaries as well, owing to the fact that each has attained the status of political party in the state; a designation reserved for parties that can show they have registered members totaling greater than 0.33% of registered voters in the state, and maintained with either keeping registered voters at that percentage or holding 0.067% of registered voters while winning at least two percent of the vote in a statewide election. The largest of these third parties, the AIP, had seven participants in its primary. Wikinews reached out to the victor, Alan Spears, an attorney from Cedar Glen, California.
The AIP is a paleoconservative group formerly affiliated with the Constitution Party. It opposes same-sex marriage, abortion, and supports the construction of a fence along the US–Mexico border. Though the party has an estimated half million registered members, three percent of all registered voters in California, a Los Angeles Times poll shows 73% mistakenly joined the party believing they were registering as Independent. As a result, these voters could only vote in the American Independent Party primary.
According to the latest count, 42,241 voted for the candidates on the ballot in the primary. Ballot Access News speculated Donald Trump won the primary since more than two thirds of voters wrote-in candidates, the majority believed to have been for Trump, but these votes were not counted. Of the candidates on the ballot, Spears won with 8,103 votes (19.2%). Former Jet Propulsion Laboratory engineering technician Arthur Harris came in second with 7,216 (17.1%). 2012 AIP vice presidential nominee and hip hop artist Robert Ornelas finished third with 7,164 (17%). Fourth place Wiley Drake, a pastor and TV host, edged fifth place J.R. Myers, chairman of the Alaska Constitution Party, by one vote, 5,476 to 5,475 (roughly 13% apiece). Prohibition Party presidential nominee James Hedges came in sixth with 4,462 (10.6%). Surprisingly, the AIP's 2012 presidential nominee Tom Hoefling came in last place with 4,345 votes (10.3%). The results of the primary are nonbinding. The AIP is to nominate its 2016 presidential ticket at its convention August 13–14.
Spears, who uses the slogan "Let's Restore America's Greatness," proclaims on his candidate statement provided to the California Secretary of State, "[w]e [Americans] are at war with Islam!" He focuses his presidential campaign on the issue of Islamic terrorism, advocating the use of "overwhelming force" to combat it. Additionally, he believes the US government "must deal with anarchists hiding behind the First Amendment who seek to destroy our institutions," and supports an eradication of the "Deep Dark Web."
With Wikinews, Spears discusses his primary victory, the AIP nomination, ballot access, and what he hopes to accomplish with his campaign.
((WSS )) What is your reaction to winning the California American Independent Party presidential primary in June? Do you believe this victory will help you secure the AIP presidential nomination?
- Spears: I was shocked and pleasantly surprised I won the AIP's California June 7th Primary. It wasn't by much of a margin, and the totality of the Party's votes were minuscule, but I feel I did make a VERY conservative statement. I pray that it will [help secure the nomination]!
((WSS )) Are you attempting to appear on the ballot in other states? If so, where? If not, why?
- Spears: I haven't a clue how to get on the primary ballots in other states, and I believe it is too late at this juncture.
((WSS )) What do you hope to accomplish by running for president?
- Spears: My ultra-conservative politics are essential to the survival of the Republic. Trump spews rhetoric, but until quite recently his words lack meaning. He has little insight into foreign policy and military matters. God, how I wish I could trade positions with him! I am "on record" The Voter's Self Defense System with policy positions, have spewed much ultra-conservative drivel at www.Facebook.com/aesracingltd, and try to find time to blog to my website at Home - Alan E. Spears, Esq - Independent Presidential Candidate You may vet me at www.Alan Spears.com.
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- "On the campaign trail in the USA, May 2016" — Wikinews, June 13, 2016
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