The political class holds the view that every successful candidate must go through a Ring of Fire, a test that can sink a campaign. The successful candidate will withstand the Ring of Fire. The candidate must confront a negative and neutralize it or turn it positive.
Frontrunner Hillary Clinton has endured many trying moments in her campaign but has held on to a lead, now dwindling, from the day she declared. The lead withstood the Benghazi Inquisition, the Goldman Bounty, The Global Path to Power, the Email Enigma and even the Escape from Pneumonia. Can she surmount the final and ultimate hurdle: The Flight of the Millennials?
Over the past week, Clinton’s slipping numbers have not been Trump’s increase, but they have been his gain. There is evidence to support the view that, although Clinton beats Trump head to head among Millennials, her support drops substantially in a four-way race that includes Gary Johnson, the Libertarian candidate, and Jill Stein, the Green Party nominee.
Election 2000 Redux?
Ralph Nader’s Green Party candidacy siphoned off enough votes from Al Gore to turn a comfortable margin in Florida into a deficit of 537 and a calamitous recount. We learned about hanging chads and butterfly ballots, a wrongly announced time for poll closing by the five major media outlets, vote scrubbing – the wrongful removal of non-felons from the Florida voting rolls, vote pairing – a vote trade that is meant to alter electoral college results, combativeness during the recount and finally the Supreme Court hijacking the recount process from Florida. The only election result that counted was 5-4, the court split in Bush v. Gore. But Nader’s participation made it possible.
Doing the Math
At this point, the “I’m With Her” team has lost its swagger and is grappling with the departure of Millennial support. Voters that abandon Clinton for Johnson or Stein are taking their votes off the board because only Clinton and Trump are competitive. The smaller total favors Trump. Those departing voters effectively are throwing their votes toward Trump.
Here then is Hillary Clinton’s Ring of Fire, the ultimate challenge to her bid to become President, the first female to hold the office. The challenge folds in the earlier crises that have come to represent a penchant for secrecy, deviousness and legalistic parsing of words. In one sense, she cannot meet the ultimate test without shutting down a lot of the other ones. In another sense, she must make her case to the young constituency directly and convincingly.
People don’t use logic in voting. They vote on emotion, personal attachment to a candidate or, in this year’s pageant, detachment from one or both. The logic is there for Clinton to make her case to the Millennials. She will need to deliver it with sincerity and passion, concern for the lives of our children and our children’s children. When she delivers her message, she ought to be thinking about her daughter Chelsea, who is a Millennial. She should speak to Chelsea or her friends find out how she’s letting them down and move quickly to persuade them – through acts, not words – that she can be trusted to carry out an agenda that holds promise for them. This is her Ring of Fire, the ultimate test of her candidacy. Hillary has always been a top student. Let’s see if she can ace the final.