- - Thursday, June 9, 2016

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

America’s two major political parties have chosen their presidential nominees and, for good or for ill, are mapping their strategies for the general election.

Whatever the outcome, it will be, in many respects, like no other election in U.S. history. The first woman who has won the nomination of a major party. And the first time, at least in the modern era, that both candidates are drawing extraordinarily high unfavorable ratings from voters, even from their own parties.

Yet, polls show the electorate closely divided between the two, even as surveys suggest that many voters not only dislike their choices, but may write in someone else or skip the presidential race entirely, casting votes only for House or Senate races.

It’s not just the nation that’s divided, which it is in virtually all elections, but the parties as well. In both cases, they’re more bitterly split than at any time in modern memory.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, a down the line, unreconstructed, political liberal, has captured the Democratic nomination. But her only rival, self-described socialist Bernie Sanders of Vermont, won the hearts of her party’s younger, more radical generation, including many minorities and older voters.

As of now, Mr. Sanders isn’t throwing in the towel, and is mum on what course he will take as he approaches this summer’s Democratic convention that will likely be packed to the rafters with his diehard supporters.

Mrs. Clinton won the support of her party’s establishment by promising them another four years of Obama’s policies. But Mr. Sanders won the party’s hard-left by promising them a cradle-to-grave welfare state where everything is “free.”

Bernie will address the convention with a typically fiery and combative speech, and his legions of supporters will likely leave Philadelphia believing the party has nominated the wrong Democrat. But what then?

Mrs. Clinton will need Mr. Sanders’ supporters to defeat Donald Trump, but the party’s younger electorate may not turn out for her in November as they had for Bernie in the primary contests and for Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012.

She certainly cannot run on the last eight years of the lackluster Obama economy, about which she has never uttered a single, serious complaint since she left office.

Indeed, she’s running at a time when the economy has all but stopped growing, significantly slowing down in the fourth quarter in 2015, and barely growing by more than 1 percent in the first three months of this year.

Last week’s Labor Department report that the economy created just 38,000 jobs in May shook her campaign to the core. Private jobs were up by a meager 25,000.

Another few months of employment numbers like that, and weakening economic growth this fall, and Democrats can kiss the White House goodbye.

True, the jobless rate fell to 4.7 percent, but that was because 458,000 people left the labor force because they couldn’t find jobs.

There is talk of a recession in the air, and the Democrats haven’t lifted a finger to deal with a slowing economy, least of all Mrs. Clinton whose anti-growth, anti-job campaign agenda is all about increased spending and higher taxes.

That gives Republicans and Mr. Trump the political opening they’ll need to run flat out against the weak Obama-Clinton economy, if they seize it.

This is a no brainer. With nearly 60 percent of Americans telling the Gallup Poll that the economy is “getting worse,” jobs, incomes and the economy are the chief issues in this election.

Mr. Trump should abandon his focus on immigration — which polls show is not an issue voters worry about most — and pivot to getting the economy growing again.

He needs to drop the incendiary, name-calling, bullying race-baiting, ugly rhetoric and begin reaching out to voters on the issues that are among their paramount, day-to-day concerns.

Mr. Trump can begin by lashing out at President Obama, Mrs. Clinton and their party’s leaders on Capitol Hill for giving us eight, long, painful years of a weak, part-time, low income economy where full-time, good-paying jobs are in short-supply and struggling small businesses are overtaxed and overregulated.

He can start by declaring that the first order of business in a Trump administration has to be a complete overhaul of our dysfunctional income tax code, lowering the rates on businesses, investors, capital gains and workers.

That bill has been on Republican drafting tables for months and Mr. Trump should say he will sign it into law as soon as it reaches his desk.

No other measure will do more to move our economy forward and lift our country to a higher plateau of growing incomes, declining deficits and full employment.

In short, Mr. Trump needs to reinvent himself, drop the petty attacks, and litigious threats of libel suits against the news media, and stop the nauseating, egotistical bragging.

Right now, he’s in a potentially close race with Mrs. Clinton, but has the chance to open up an insurmountable lead by aggressively dealing with the issues that matter most to the American people.

Donald Lambro is a syndicated columnist and contributor to The Washington Times.

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