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Deciphering the US Presidential Primaries

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By Nikola Kedhi.

“It is the most amazing campaign I have ever covered. I have never seen anything like this.” This is how Bill O’Reilly — one of America’s most renowned political commentators­ — described the primaries currently taking place in the US. It is a race in which polls, previous elections and quite frankly common sense have not been any help in predicting who will be the nominee for each party.

On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton, the current frontrunner, has found a tough adversary in Bernie Sanders, a self-proclaimed socialist from Vermont. To the astonishment of many, Senator Sanders has gained a lot of momentum and has even won a few states. His latest victory was in Michigan, a state the polls had predicted would be won by Mrs. Clinton by a huge margin.

However, the socialist senator is not the only obstacle the former first lady faces. She is currently under investigation by two governmental bodies: the FBI and Congress. The first institution is investigating the private e-mail server Hillary Clinton was using when she was secretary of state. She may have exchanged confidential information while using the unsecured server instead the one operated by the Department of State. This has also put her on the radar of a congressional committee tasked with investigating the 2012 Benghazi terrorist attack. From the e-mails discovered by the FBI it was deduced that the former secretary lied to the families of the four victims of the attack. The official version was that the attack on the US embassy was spontaneously provoked by an anti-Muslim YouTube video. In fact, Mrs. Clinton knew that people died because of a pre-planned terrorist attack. Some even say that the tragedy could have been avoided if the embassy had been closed, since radicals had warned of an attack on the anniversary of 9/11. Hillary Clinton will most likely win against her Democratic opponent in the primaries, but these charges will certainly be front and center in the general election.

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The Republican race has been the most interesting in recent American elections. Even though there have been 17 candidates initially, the field has now been reduced to only four. The front-runner Donald Trump is perhaps the most known and the one who has caused the most irritation internationally because of his idea of the US taking a more protectionist position and leaving world affairs to other countries.

Donald Trump is not a life-long Republican. In fact, until three years ago he continuously donated money to Democratic politicians. Mr. Trump has also defended Planned Parenthood, gun control and Obamacare — all issues which conservatives are completely against. Furthermore, he is accused of scamming students through his university as many have filed lawsuits against him for this.

Naturally the question arises: why he is leading in the Republican race? The answer lies in President Obama’s term in office. It has not been a very successful one especially in foreign policy and many Americans are very displeased and angry. Under Obama’s presidency, many feel that the US has abandoned their allies like Israel and are helping dictatorships and autocracies like Iran and Cuba, while doing nothing about the looming threat of radicals and extremists. Moreover, they consider the establishment from both parties to be very out of touch with the average citizen. Mr. Trump has tapped into that anger and has exploited it for his own political gain. He has denounced everyone in the two parties. What he has not done, however, is to present any reasonable policies regarding the economy and foreign affairs. In no debate until now has he talked about what he will actually do on his day one as president. Not only that, but he has continuously changed positions on Obamacare, immigration and H-1B visas. Nevertheless, by throwing political correctness aside, he has appealed to the disappointed citizens who have waited for a long time for someone to acknowledge their frustration. According to the results of the voting up to now, Donald Trump has successfully garnered votes among people without a college degree or a high school diploma, whereas his opponents perform better in urban areas.

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For the first time in American politics, the party is against its frontrunner. Many important conservative figures such as Mitt Romney and John McCain have openly denounced Trump as a “conman”. The other GOP candidates have also warned that the businessman will divide the Republican Party and will lose to Hillary Clinton in November. Donald Trump has so far been winning only about 30% of the votes in the state primaries, while the other 70% remain divided among three candidates. Marco Rubio is seen by his fellow party members as the only who can unite and foster the Republican Party. He is a moderate conservative and a follower of President Reagan’s economic and political ideas. Moreover, if the polls are any indication, he is the only one to beat Hillary Clinton. However, Mr. Rubio has won fewer states than Mr. Trump and Mr. Cruz and his main challenge will be to win Florida, his home state. Ted Cruz, on the other hand, is considered to be a right-wing extremist and is disliked by his Senate colleagues. The last one is the Ohio Governor John Kasich who has not won any states and is expected to gain Ohio only.

The republicans have two paths ahead of them. They can either rally behind one of the three opponents of Donald Trump in the primaries, hoping to win the 1237 delegates needed to claim the party’s nomination outright. Alternatively, they can proceed to a brokered convention. The latter is becoming more likely with each state primary as none of the remaining contenders seem likely to drop out. A brokered convention means that if by July no candidate has achieved a majority, the delegates will not be bound to any of the competitors and can vote for whomever they want. March 15th , the day of Florida and Ohio primaries, will be a very important test in deciding who will remain and who will drop out.

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As the field continues to narrow down, it will become clear that the chances of Donald Trump being the Republican nominee are not that big. He is definitely a first-class entertainer, but the Oval Office of the White House is not The Apprentice boardroom and requires far more than great showmanship.

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