Can presumptive nominees Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton unite their respective parties and build campaigns that produce coattails that benefit other candidates?
Rooney: It is clear after Indiana that Sen. Bernie Sanders intends to continue to campaign and, as he says, take his candidacy and delegates to the convention. That is all fine and fair. As it relates to Clinton putting the party back together, it is imperative that everyone be mindful of the frayed feelings that exist right now. That’s a normal thing. It’s campaigns. You run them, you expend everything you’ve got, and when you come up short, it hurts.
While I am sure Clinton’s campaign wants to go fast and prepare for the fall election, they have to resist the urge and temptation to call on Sanders to “get out of the way.” That kind of thing will make the process of putting the Democrats back together again all the more difficult. As the presumptive nominee, they must keep in mind that they are dealing with folks who are coming to grips with the fact that their campaign hasn’t succeeded.
Novak: In a certain sense each of the opponents will help unify the other’s base. Democrats will look at Trump and unite around Clinton. Republicans will look at Clinton and unite around Trump.
Rooney: Trump will do more to unite the Democratic Party than anybody else is humanly capable of. As fervent as the Sanders support is, these men and women also would find the prospect of a President Trump just completely unacceptable.
Novak: There are two things that are just irrefutable at this point. There is still six months to go and there are going to be two valid choices for president. One or the other is going to be the next president. There is a lot that is going to play out that will turn the “never” people back into begrudgingly supporting one or the other because there are only two choices. The protest vote is a wasted vote. The write-in vote is a wasted vote.
People are really unhappy with the direction of the country and with the failure of both established parties and government to listen to their needs and understand their issues and their struggles. The party establishment figure that says, “I don’t like him so I am not supporting him,” looks more selfish and feeds into the narrative of Donald Trump. Then, the people who are supporting Trump say, “Well that’s my point, those guys don’t care about me; they only care about themselves.” That’s why I think the number of people who are going to sit this one out is being over exaggerated right now.
Rooney: While that may be all well and good for Trump, what about Patrick J. Toomey? How does an incumbent member of the United States Senate running against a woman begin to differentiate and separate himself from a person who has said some of the most vile and crass things imaginable about women? How does anybody running for Congress divorce themselves from the things that their nominee has said and the ridicule he has foisted upon people with disabilities? That is a much more difficult task for those men and women than it is for Trump.
Trump takes care of Trump, but leaves everybody else holding a bag of something that doesn’t smell so good. These candidates have to figure out how to run like the wind away from their party’s nominee for president and at the same time not alienate the very same people who are allegedly registering in droves to support Trump.
Novak: I think everyone has to acknowledge that Trump has branded his way to success, by branding his opponents and branding this election: Making America Great Again. Read it as: Make American Strong Again, because I think that’s how people who support him think of it. Trump understands how brands work with this electorate and their strong belief that the country is on the wrong track. That’s why he talks about trade deals and coal miners. He’s hyper-disciplined on jobs messaging, and that’s how he aligns issues with people.
For Toomey, or a member of Congress, they must understand the brand of these issues. They have to understand the way people are buying into the issues and that groundswell of support and align themselves on the issues. Even if they are not standing next to Trump, they must be aligned on the issues. That’s a delicate balance, but the ones that figure it out successfully will do OK.
Rooney: The political world is standing on its head at the moment. All my life I’ve been taught that, in politics, there are three types of people who run for office, but only two win. There are the folks who think with their ears and their brains – the intellectual, high-minded types. They win. There are the folks who are all gut and heart. They win, too. And then there are the ones who are supposed to have no chance at all – they’ve always been categorized as a something we can’t say in the paper, but let’s just say, they never win! But now there is Trump and he’s made it a time in our politics that we have never seen before!
Novak: He’s turned the political world upside down because he hasn’t relied on polling, fund-raising operations, campaign operatives, or a speechwriter – go figure. We are in a different time!
Trump is offering fearlessness at a time when the people who are supporting him want fearless leadership. He is also offering them what he is not: He is not a politician and he’s not part of any institution that public doesn’t like or trust anymore like big banks, big government, or big politics. To me, that’s what has staying power.
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Editor’s Note: This piece first appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Currents section on May 8, 2016
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