- - Thursday, May 12, 2016

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

America is at a political crossroads in its long and sometimes tumultuous history, trying to decide who is the best candidate to lead our country for the next four years.

No one can predict with any certainty how this election is going to turn out in November. The only thing we know for sure is that the two presumptive nominees are viewed very negatively by more than half the electorate.

Recent polling averages tracked by RealClearPolitics show Donald Trump draws an unfavorable rating of 65 percent followed by Hillary Clinton with 55 percent.

Mrs. Clinton’s unfavorables match those of George W. Bush in his close 2004 reelection bid. And Donald Trump’s big negatives among nonwhite voters haven’t been seen since Barry Goldwater’s disastrous 1964 campaign.

Republican Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska, who is very unhappy with the likelihood of Mr. Trump becoming his party’s standard-bearer, wants a third-party candidate to enter the race.

“There are dumpster fires in my town more popular than these two ‘leaders,’” Mr. Sasse wrote in a recent note to a fellow Republican.

To be sure, this election has been marked by scandals, incendiary racial issues and often ugly, vulgar, insulting language unheard of in modern American history.

Let’s begin with Mrs. Clinton who is under a sweeping FBI investigation into her mishandling of classified information that she sent out over a private, unsecured computer while she was secretary of State.

A review of the publicly released messages that Mrs. Clinton sent through a secret home server showed that she wrote more than 100 e-mails that included classified information, according to investigators.

The FBI says the investigation is continuing, and that federal charges have not be ruled out, possibly before the November election.

Federal prosecutors and FBI officials say they intend to interview Mrs. Clinton at some point in the weeks to come, as well as other top aides to the former secretary of State. Insiders say there isn’t any sign that a grand jury has been convened in this case, but that has not been ruled out.

Could the investigation produce a bombshell discovery that would irreparably damage her reputation in the midst of her campaign? Possibly.

But however it turns out, Mrs. Clinton’s reputation has already been hurt by the scandal that has exposed her obsessive penchant for secrecy, her dishonesty and poor judgment in dealing with national security information at the highest level of our government.

Mr. Trump has broken all the rules of political campaigning: His use of insults, bullying and X-rated language to attack his opponents. Playing fast and loose with “facts” that fact-checkers have shown to be utterly false, earning him Four-Pinocchio scores for statements that are untrue.

For example: “There are scores of recent migrants inside our borders charged with terrorism.”

The Washington Post’s scrupulous fact-checker Glenn Kessler dug into this. It apparently came from a list compiled by Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama — of 30 foreign-born people arrested on charges related to terrorism.

“The majority of the 30 cases involved naturalized U.S. citizens, — people who came to the U.S. as children or had arrived before 2011,” he found. “We reviewed similar lists of cases from 2014 and 2015, involving 76 people charged with activities relating to foreign terrorist organizations.”

Nearly 60 were U.S. citizens and seven were legally permanent residents. The rest were visa overstays. They were of Caucasian, African-American or Hispanic descent, and many of them had come here as children and their arrival certainly could not be defined as “recent.”

But Mr. Trump’s candidacy raises other deeply disturbing problems besides his juvenile temperament, name-calling and disregard for the truth.

That is his weakness among key political sectors of our electorate that Republican leaders fear could lead to scores of losses in House and Senate races and further down ballot.

Let’s start with Hispanics. The Republicans cannot win without a sizable percentage of this voting bloc. Ronald Reagan drew more than 40 percent of them. George W. Bush did a bit better.

President Obama captured 73 percent of them in 2012 against Mitt Romney who wanted Hispanic illegals to self-deport.

Mrs. Clinton is expected to do much better with this voting bloc, with estimates of 80-to-90 percent, or more, of all Hispanic voters turning out to vote for her.

Indeed, with Mr. Trump campaigning on rounding up and deporting 11-to-12 million undocumented Hispanics and erecting a wall along the Mexican border, he’d be lucky to draw their support in the single digits.

Meantime, there has been a surge of voter registration among Hispanics and a record number of citizenship applications, too.

“Hispanics are flooding into citizenship workshops and congressional offices and jamming hotlines on how to become U.S. citizens or register to vote. Many say they are primarily motivated by the rise of Trump,” the Post reports.

And what about women? Mr. Romney won 53 percent of the women’s vote. Polls show Mr. Trump trailing Mrs. Clinton by 19 points (35 percent to 54 percent) among female voters.

Mr. Trump has a large and energetic political base that’s going to turn out in very large numbers, too, in traditionally Democratic states where job losses are being blamed on free trade agreements and Obamanomics.

But will it be enough to offset the Democrats’ traditional voting blocs, including a record-breaking surge among the Hispanics’ growing electorate? Stay tuned.

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

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