America braces for the ugliest, dirtiest presidential campaign in history

With their nominations in sight, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton will likely run 'scorched earth' campaigns

Andrew Buncombe
Indianapolis
Wednesday 04 May 2016 14:55
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Donald Trump is the presumptive Republican nominee after his 3 May win in Indiana <em>Jewel Samad/Getty</em>
Donald Trump is the presumptive Republican nominee after his 3 May win in Indiana Jewel Samad/Getty

Get ready. America is bracing itself for what may well be one the ugliest, most unpleasant presidential elections in history.

In addition to his populist appeal, Donald Trump defeated his Republican rivals by a mixture of attacks and personal slights, by employing nicknames that stuck and looking for vulnerabilities that he could cruelly expose.

Her termed Ted Cruz “Lyin' Ted”, he dismissed former Florida Governor Jeb Bush as “low energy”, and mocked Senator Marco Rubio for constantly sweating. This past weekend, he continued to poke fun at his sole remaining rival, Ohio Governor John Kasich, by attacking his eating habits.

“Two words best describe what's coming: scorched earth,” Larry Sabato, Professor of Politics at the University of Virginia, told The Independent.

“Both candidates have unfavourable ratings so high that the obvious tactic will be to destroy the opponent. Both may succeed, though one has to win - absent a surprising, unifying independent entry.”

Anyone looking for a flavour of just how unpleasant the 2016 showdown - all but certainly a battle between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton - will be, need look no further than last December as the two candidates were campaigning ahead of the Iowa primary.

First, Mr Trump claimed the former secretary of state had “got schlonged” when she lost to Barack Obama in 2008. Ms Clinton then hit back, saying Mr Trump had “a penchant for sexism”.

10 of the scariest things Donald Trump has ever said

The abrasive tycoon then took it to another level when he brought up some of the more notorious aspects of Bill Clinton’s personal behaviour while he was both president and governor of Arkansas.

Mr Trump later bragged that he had silenced the Clinton campaign by targeting her husband.

“For the last week she’s been hitting me really hard with the women card and I had to say, 'OK that’s enough'. And we did a strong number,” he said.

He later added: “You look at whether it’s Monica Lewinsky or Paula Jones or many of them…there were certainly a lot of abuse of women,” he said, referring to Mr Clinton’s affair with then-White House intern Ms Lewinsky and various allegations of sexual misconduct that riddled his presidency.

With an eye to the general election, Mr Trump has already started attacking Ms Clinton.

After suggesting to a crowd that he start calling her “Incompetent Hillary”, he instead spelled for “Crooked Hillary”, a name that he can use to raise the issue her use of a personal email server, something that is still being investigated by the FBI, as well as allude to the many controversies surrounding the Clintons, from the Whitewater incident to donations from foreign government to the Clinton Foundation.

Mr Trump will also raise questions about Ms Clinton’s physical ability to serve as president (last month he suggested she had little stamina), and given that most of his supporters are men, the tycoon will likely also question whether a woman is up to the job, something that will also turn many people off him.

“Trump has proven he will say absolutely anything. No proof required,” said Mr Sabato.

Yet Mr Trump had better expect to prepare to receive some attacks himself. Reports have suggested that Ms Clinton will avoid going overly negative herself in order to seek to retain a more positive, presidential image.

But she will use surrogates or other senior Democrats to attack Mr Trump and raise questions about his temperament, his lack of experience and his own controversies.

There is plenty to get into. Those looking to go negative on Mr Trump would be able to examine his failed businesses, including a series of casinos in Atlantic City and his failed Trump University, which is currently the subject of at least one lawsuit.

Mr Trump will also be attacked over the controversial comments has made about women, Muslims and immigrants from Central America.

One area Ms Clinton will take personal aim at Mr Trump is over his lack of readiness for the job. Indeed, in an interview this week with MSNBC, she said that raising questions about Mr Trump’s suitability for the White House “will be a big part of my campaign”.

“We’ve seen lots of rhetoric, we’ve seen lots of insults. He has given no indication that he understands the gravity of the responsibilities that go with being commander-in-chief,” she said.

She added: “We’re going to have a tough campaign against a candidate who will literally say or do anything. And we’re going to take him on at every turn on what’s really important to the people of our country.”

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