With only three major candidates for U.S. President remaining, we are looking at the unique dynamics of this race for the White House.
I start my conversation with Columbia College political science professor Dr. Terry Smith by asking if he was surprised by Tuesday’s announcement that Ted Cruz was suspending his campaign.
Here is a transcript of our conversation:
Dr. Terry Smith: I kind of was. I thought he might be more like Sanders, and for Several reasons hang in there. I mean Trump has not won a majority yet. There were still plenty of possibilities for him to pick up delegates and go on to contest the convention, as being somebody who can get the nominations. So, when he threw in the towel, and then Kasich right after that, I was surprised, yes.
Joey Parker: Today, Senator Lindsey Graham, who was once a candidate himself, says he won’t support Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton. He’s even describing the entire presidential race as “a race to the bottom.” Do you think the Republican Party is having an identity crisis, or maybe worse?
Dr. Terry Smith: Well, at least an identity crisis. We won’t know what that will look like until after the election. Not just how things go with Clinton and Trump, who will be the nominees, but what happens down-ticket. But it is really fascinating what is happening, because so much of this doesn’t have a precedent. Those of us who pretend to know a lot about this, we’re all wrong. Nate Cohn, who is a fabulous political analyst for the New York Times, he just had this big mea culpa, earlier this week. He said “I was so wrong, and here is why” and it’s really worth reading. It starts off with the size of the Republican group seeking the nominations. I call it “Donald and the Sixteen Dwarfs” because that’s what it turns out to be.
Joey Parker: Regardless of global perception, political correctness, and I guess polish (for a lack of a better word), do you think the anti-establishment push would be for any candidate other than Trump, or do you think it’s Trump himself?
Dr. Terry Smith: Well, I think the answer is both. Because you see the same thing working for the Democrats with Sanders. But Trump is a celebrity. He’s bigger than life. He’s a force of nature. He dominates the media. I think he has really captured something that’s impressive in America politics. You see this in Third World countries, sometimes, but not here, so far.
Joey Parker: We’ve gone from the Dwarfs, as you want to call it, 16, 17, almost 20 people on the Republican side and almost half a dozen on the Democrat side. Now we’re down to three. Why is Bernie Sanders still in the race?
Dr. Terry Smith: Well, why wouldn’t he be? I mean that’s what I thought Cruz and Kasich would do there. I think he’s in it all the way up to the convention. He wants to get his program out there. He wants to keep Clinton honest, and there are a lot of people who are basically saying “don’t get out,” and so he is really not, in a serious way, an impact in the Democratic Party in its long term future in a way. The Democrats will be changed also by this election. Not to the extent the Republicans will be.
Joey Parker: There’s an FBI investigation underway right now, about Hillary Clinton’s private server for State business, that’s still going on. I’m sure the Benghazi situation is going to come back. Do you think that’s going to hurt her as General approaches?
Dr. Terry Smith: You know, I had never thought those were issues that were going to (hurt her). I could be wrong about that too, but those things were never going to get any traction in this campaign. Benghazi? Her and her supporters have probably been saying “please keep talking about Benghazi.” I think to a lesser extent they’re saying this about the server issue, because the more the Republicans talk about these, the less they talk about the fact that she has some flaws as a candidate. So that’s all good for her, for these extraneous issues to be at the top of the discussion still.
Joey Parker: And she is no stranger to scandal. Hillary Clinton and her husband have been dealing with scandals since the 1990s and even before when he was Governor Clinton. What do you think is next?
Dr. Terry Smith: Well, I wanted to be sure, that a contrarian view is going to happen when the Republican Party gets out there. A lot of people think this is the worst thing ever. They could sustain a terrible defeat. I think there is a couple of things that people need to keep in mind. In the 2010, 2014 elections they built up a tremendous reserve. They got dozens of seats in congress. They got hundreds of state legislative seats. They picked up a whole bunch of governors. At the state and local levels, Republicans are very strong. They will still control a bunch of state legislatures. The other real interesting thing about this is what is going to happen with campaign finances, because there is going to be a lot of people who would’ve given to a Republican presidential nominee. They’re not going to give to Trump either because they feel like he doesn’t need it, or because they just don’t support him. But that money is going to get spent. You know the Koch Brothers say “we got 899-million dollars to spend.” They’re going to spend that. The way they are going to spend that is Congressional races, state and local races. So, Republicans could really benefit from that.
Joey Parker: Those local races really makes a big difference, too.
Dr. Terry Smith: Oh, absolutely.
Joey Parker: Dr. Terry Smith, thank you for joining us, we appreciate it.
Dr. Terry Smith: Always a pleasure. Thank you.