‘Hillary’s experience will ensure she becomes Democrat nominee’

Essex MP Simon Burns with US presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton

Essex MP Simon Burns with US presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton - Credit: Archant

It only seems like yesterday that President Obama was seeking re-election for a second term in office and yet four years on the United States is embroiled in yet another Presidential election to find his successor in the Oval Office.

This time it will be different because it will be an ‘open’ election as the US constitution states that the incumbent president cannot serve more than two terms in office so whatever happens we know that at a minute past noon on the 20 January 2017 the next President of the United States will not be Barack Obama.

The process to elect a president is long and time-consuming and costs a shed-load of money – it has been estimated that in 2012 the various candidates seeking to be the next president spent a total of $5billion.

America is basically a two-party state and between now and June the two parties – the Democrats and the Republicans – will use caucuses and primary elections in each state to elect delegates to their national conventions in July to select their candidate to be the nominee to fight the general election for their party to elect the next president on the first Tuesday in November.

For the Republicans, the process so far has been tortuous. They control both the House of Representatives and the Senate with commanding majorities so their hopes of gaining the White House in 2016 have been high.

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However, it has not been going to plan for them. They started with 15 candidates who have spent the last eight months debating around the United States and tearing themselves apart.

In addition, some of the candidates like Donald Trump and Ted Cruz are on the far right and have made all the running while moderates like Jeb Bush (brother of the toxic President George W Bush) have hardly managed a look-in.

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The first test of Republican opinion was last Monday in the Iowa caucuses where Republicans in that state met to caucus for who they wanted to be their candidate in November’s election.

Contrary to opinion polls the frontrunner, Donald Trump, came a poor second to the equally outrageous Ted Cruz but ironically the winner seemed to be the moderate (in Republican terms) senator from Florida who was just beaten in to third place, Marco Rubio.

It highlights the cockeyed situation in the Republican party, whereby after the first test of opinion someone who comes third can be perceived as the winner. I suspect that this vicious internecine war will continue throughout the primary election season and the party will emerge battered and damaged.

On the Democratic side the situation is more straightforward. Last summer there were six candidates but three withdrew long before the Iowa caucuses due to lack of support and one withdrew immediately afterwards.

There are now only two candidates left – a Socialist senator from Vermont and the former Secretary of State and frontrunner, Hillary Clinton.

I suspect that by June Hillary will have won enough votes to be the Democratic nominee, especially as Senator Sanders is far too left-wing for mainstream American voters and, although he has captured the hearts of young voters with his attacks on Wall Street, he certainly frightens the horses and older voters with his lack of experience in foreign affairs or making America secure from terrorist attacks.

As both a former Secretary of State and First Lady of the United States, Hillary towers over her rival in experience. She is a flawless and impressive debater and it is her bad luck that the first caucus was in Iowa, a state that has never been kind to either Clinton, though last week she was the first Clinton to win an election there when she barely scraped through to be the winner in the caucus, securing 29 delegates to Sanders’ 21. This week is the New Hampshire primary which will be tough for Clinton to win as Sanders is a senator for the neighbouring state.

I visited New Hampshire immediately after Christmas to find both campaigns fully engaging with the voters through extensive telephone canvassing and visits by the candidates.

Hillary arrived on the first Sunday of the New Year for a series of town hall meetings to be followed by Bill the next day.

Town Hall meetings are the purest form of democracy in action where voters have an opportunity to listen to and question the candidates without any filtering of the audience to ensure only supporters are there.

I attended Hillary’s first town hall meeting of the New Year in a small town called Derry. The meeting was held in a middle school on the outskirts of town and attracted about 10,000 voters. The room was laid out in a semi-circle, with a huge backdrop proclaiming Hillary: Fighting for US.

The pre-speech entertainment was a mixture of Katy Perry’s Roar and a local troupe of majorettes followed by Hillary, who spoke flawlessly for 30 minutes.

She then took questions for 40 minutes and spent 25 minutes meeting voters along the ropewalk that separated her from the audience, answering further questions, laughing, joking and taking the ubiquitous selfies.

The whole performance was flawless and, frankly, awesome. There was a woman completely in command of her brief and a class one act. This week New Hampshire will be very tough for her but as the elections move to the South and West, with large African American and Hispanic voters, she will pick up the delegates she needs to become the Democratic nominee against a damaged Trump, Cruz or possibly Rubio.

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