Officially the presidential race in the United States starts on the 1st of February. But in fact it has been a long and even presented a few surprises. For example Jeb Bush who was considered a favorite turned out to be an outsider and a leader in the fight for the nomination of the Republican Party eccentric billionaire Donald Trump. What are the chances of the main candidates from the Republicans and Democrats and that the victory of each of them would have meant for the dialogue between Moscow and Washington?
According to sociologists Donald Trump is well ahead of other potential Republican candidates. However many experts doubt that in the end he will be nominated by the Elephants. And in fact only a few people believe that Trump will be able to become president. Why is that?
Indeed Trump is now ahead of all rivals in the Republican Party by at least 15 percent. Its cumulative rating of summarizing the data of all sociological research – 30.5 percent. The next after Trump is Ted Cruz with the rating of 15 percent.
But Trump – is a completely non-system player. It is highly unlikely that he will get support from the Republican establishment. He managed to quarrel with almost all of the key figures of the party.
His campaign is funded less than all the others'. Trump's popularity stems from his defiance - he articulates things that no one before him ever dared to say. He is constantly accompanied by scandals but Trump never admits that he was ever wrong. This leads to approval by a significant part of the core of the Republican electorate made up by people of the middle of America - and not the residents of big cities of western and eastern coasts.
It turns out that Trump – being a non-candidate of the establishment – uses it not as a problem, but as an advantage. He does not depend on the views of the party leadership, as much as he is independent of the party funds as he owns a multi-billion dollar fortune. Despite the fact that he has not even begun to spend money on his campaign, he has been in the editorials of major newspapers of the United States.
It’s true. He even brags saying “See how efficient I am campaigning – donations are little, I do not spend the money, but I still have the support of the public! If I become the president of our country - everything will be organized so well. ” However we must remember that the Republican establishment has not opposed Trump. If the party decides to get rid of him, the dynamics will be completely different - the tone of press coverage will change and Trump will instantly become a pariah. I think that is exactly what will happen closer to the election of the Republican nominee.
And does Trump have any political program or does he restrict himself to a number of sensational populist statements?
His strategy now is to attract attention by irresponsible promises. If he has a chance to implement them, Trump would find himself in a difficult position. He can neither prevent Muslims from entering the United States nor prohibit migration from Mexico. He was is even unable to keep the promises concerning the reduction of state financing of health care. And in foreign policy Trump will be very limited. He said that we should not interfere with Russia's fighting in Syria, and called the deal with Iran a disaster and so on. All this is extremely irresponsible. I think that because of his wild temper in the foreign policy he will face the same problem as in domestic policies – he will quarrel with everyone that he today considers potential partners in ni time. And he will not be able to find any understanding with Vladimir Putin. Our politicians act on the fact that international relations are based on the rules that must be followed. But Trump's basic the principle is “I am the rules.”
But still -Trump has a clear understanding of where the center of world politics is shifting today. He constantly talks about China …
His tactic is that it focuses on the main stereotypes of public consciousness. Appart from China today it is the Islamic state. And in one of Trump's commercials there were cuts of alternate shots of the IS and Obama. This video is intended to give the viewer the impression that the IS – is a terrible threat, to which Obama responds poorly, and that Trump is the type of person that is needed to fight terrorists. The same applies to China. Indeed Trump talks a lot about this country. But in his discourse China plays the same role as the IS – as a cause to criticize Obama. Trump claims he will be able to cope with the dialogue with China in a much better way than the current president , and will be able to force the Chinese to fulfill the conditions that the United States impose.
Couldn't Trump just hire smart advisers and analysts, who will be able to adjust his foreign policy?
I’m afraid that this cannot be possible. The Republicans have a set of advisers on foreign policy that is so to speak inherited by every Republican president. Once a politician gets nominated consultants that are already familiar to us by both Bush teams gather around him. But I find it impossible to imagine Trump to listen to someone’s advice and to play by the rules.
Since Trump so uncontrollable how likely is it that if he is not nominated by the party he will participate in the electionsas as a self-nominee?
One hundred percent.
And thus he will draw back the votes of a Republican candidate ensuring the victory for Democrats?
Good. If not Trump who could represent the Republicans in the elections?
On a cumulative rating Ted Cruz is currently number two among the Republicans. This is a very remarkable figure but also extremely problematic. If you look at his speech at the Republican debates it is impossible not to notice how incredibly ideologized he is. His political inflexibility is quite an alarming sign. People of this kind of disposition are not usually inclined to compromise in negotiations and are not ready to make concessions for the sake of a mutually acceptable solution. At the same time compared to other Republican candidates Cruz looks very motivated and disciplined.
Many experts – in Russia and in the United States – consider Marco Rubio as the most promising Republican politician. It is supposed that even if he is now does not get nominated, over time he will surely get there. Why does he get such a flattering assessment?
I agree that this is a very promising politician. If not in these elections then in the next elections he will manifest himself as one of the main driving forces of the Republican Party. Rubio is said to be in a bit of a haste – being one of the youngest senators he has made a good bid for the presidency. In recent speeches he is very similar to Obama during his 2008 campaign. And he leaves the impression more than other Republican candidates of a man who understands America. The target of his message is an ordinary American. Rubio himself represents the American dream come true: a son of immigrants, he achieved everythig by himself, he is young, good-looking and is a father of four children. It is also important that he is a descendant of immigrants from Cuba. Because of this on the one hand he may be supported by those who advocate conservative values, and on the other – by those who sympathize with minorities.
In other words he is not opposed among Hispanic voters although traditionally they like other minorities make up the electorate of Democrats.
This is true. Therefore despite the fact that he is young and inexperienced the Republican establishment is willing to stake on Rubio. For the party as a whole it is important to win in the elections, they do not care much about the current ratings. Today the Elephants have achieved a historical maximum: most governors are Republicans, most mayors are Republicans as well, and the majority of seats in both houses of Congress is held by Republicans. To make the president Republican is their cherished goal, for the sake of which the party is ready to get rid of Trump.
Perhaps now the Elephants is at their zenith and in the future they will not be able to achieve such a balance of power. To get the nomination within the party candidates are forced to do more and more harsh statements, to shift more to the political right. But it may scare away the swing voters.
Such a problem does exist. According to many surveys, if in the final elections Trump and Hillary Clinton converge, Clinton wins easily.
Most voters are willing to support anyone just so that Trump does not become a president.
I hope Trump himself is aware of this and as a businessman will address this issue carefully. I think he could make a deal with the leadership of the party publicly expressing support for the other Republican candidate. Imagine how impressive it would look if Trump came out and said - “Rubio is the best, I support him in everything and forget everything that I have said about him”.
Six months ago almost no one had any doubt that in the 2016 elections the two major competitors will be Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush. Jeb is a smart guy, it was him who was supposed to make political career, rather than his brother George. Jeb has had a successful managerial experience (he was a governor of Florida) and he is married to a Mexican woman, which makes him potentially attractive to Hispanic voters. But today Jeb has low ratings and in general has a very little chance of getting nominated by the party. What is the reason for his failures?
He owns a big election fund as well with donations made by the main figures of the Republican establishment, as well as an excellent team of advisors. Big stakes were on him, but he turned out to be a grand disappointment. In debates with representatives of the Republican elite this disappointment is especially noticeable. The reason is that Jeb is a very poor debater. In a turbulent debate he can not catch a wave, he looks pale and unconvincing and in the end he loses to even less experienced politicians like Rubio. An ordinary American seeing this understands that a person who can not stand for himself will not be able to ensure their interests. No amount of money will solve this problem.
Let's finish with with the Elephants, let's move on to the Donkeys. What are the odds of Hillary Clinton winning?
Close to one hundred percent. Hillary has been playing a perfect long game. Her campaign is focused not on the competitors from the Democratic Party, but on the Republican candidates. But Clinton has some serious problems that she cannot solve. For example, she is too far from the ordinary Americans. She is a representative of the elite and the candidate of the establishment, and at the same time she is a person with whom people associate all the troubles coming from Washington. She has been in politics for a long time, and many mistakes and failures that affect ordinary Americans are associated with her name. And if Barack Obama was a symbol of hope for change for the better, Hillary does not have this trump card. This is why her team focuses on things that distinguish Clinton and look as an advantage of her - which is her being a woman.
You said that as part of her campaign Clinton argues not only with other Democrats, but also with the Republicans. Does she criticize anyone specific?
She has been positioning herself as an antipode to Trump. So if the latter believes that Muslims should be denied entry into the United States, Clinton immediately says that there are three million followers of Islam in the US, and to impose a ban on entry of representatives of this religion is wrong, besides America in general is a country of equal opportunities. But the steps she takes are very predictable. It is possible that the electorate will grow tired of this.
The struggle for presidency between Bush and Clinton is the worst case scenario. If the Americans had to choose between them the elections would have the lowest voter turnout in the US history, because the disappointment that the system can not create new politicians iwould be very strong.
Maybe in this case Democrats should nominate Bernie Sanders? He is not someone the public has grown tired of yet. Besides he turned out to be a great surprise to everyone – his approval rating is much higher than one would assume.
His platform is also quite predictable – he criticizes the American political mainstream. It is a new edition of Obama’s theses but under a different sauce. Sanders does not shy away from calling himself a socialist and claiming that he is in favor of an increase in government spending and of the development of the Obama healthcare reform, and said that the main problem in the United States today is inequality. All this really provided him with good rating – 30 percent (in comparison with Clinton's 50), which was a great surprise for political analysts. But I do not think that he is seriously thinking of becoming a candidate for the Democrats. For Sanders it is important to draw attention to issues that he considers important. Americans like that Sanders tells the truth, but on a direct question “Do you want to see him as a head of the state?” their answer is negative.
The last question: does the election of anyone whom we have discussed promise any good for US-Russian relations?
The election of each of these politicians in principle does not promise us anything good. So I would put the question differently: whose victory is the least bad news for Moscow. Based on this logic the worst seem to be the three candidates – Trump, Cruise and Clinton. Trump – because he is not willing to play by the rules and look for compromises. Most likely he will try to improve relations with Moscow at first, but when he realizes that the problem is much deeper, he will be disappointed and claim that Russians are bad that he down not want to have any business with them. Cruz is so inflexible that there is nothing to talk about with him. And he will speak from the positions that are unacceptable to us from the start. As for Clinton she is a person of very strong beliefs in personal relationships. If there is someone whom the considers her personal enemy, she will not be able to overcome this feeling for the sake of pragmatism. And it is a well-knpwn fact that that she has had quite sharp and even offensive statements towards the Russian leadership.
However we must remember that good relations between Russia and the United States are not normal. There is simply no objective basis for this. Trade turnover between the two countries is minimal, there are no major investment projects and no lobbying groups that would suffer if the relationship degraded. Therefore a realistic goal is not to make relationship good, but to to make them constructive and predictable so that mutual interests are taken into account. If there is a US President who will be ready for a dialogue on these terms, then we can get out of the current crisis.
So we will be rooting for Rubio?
Yes, this is probably the least bad option for us.
One thing has become clear: the ‘Crimean question’ has at least two dimensions – the international and the internal. The ‘return to its home haven’ has not solved any of Crimea’s many problems; on the contrary, Russia’s leadership now faces an urgent need to find an adequate solution to them.
In general, the new bill should not be seen as something out of the ordinary. Republicans, even when they were the minority in the Senate, used to lobby tough resolutions against Russia. Today the Republicans set the agenda in both Houses, and this fact is to be taken into consideration by Obama.
The president may be playing a strategic game to gain benefits from both the EU and Russia by continuing to manouevre between them, as Ukraine has done for some time. But there are also two short-term electoral imperatives.
The Russian reaction depends on the reaction of the United States and the European Union. At his press conference Putin said annexation is not an option for Russia. I think he is waiting to see what happens. If you want Russia to be more aggressive, please, behave more aggressively to Russia.