By Uche Onyebadi
WHEN Republicans last week held their kitchen-table “debate” for candidates who did not make the top ten in the polls according to Fox News that hosted and televised the event, you would have thought the occasion was specifically designated as a bash-Hillary Clinton affair. Later the same night when the top ten candidates virtually traded insults among themselves, their common theme was how to mount a serious attack at Hillary Clinton’s bid for the US presidency.
From Donald Trump who dominated discussions, to Ben Carson, the only African American candidate on the stage who at one point wondered if the Fox News panel of moderators forgot about him, all but two of the candidates tried hard to
demonize Hillary and inadvertently paid her tribute as the person to beat in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. The only debaters who avoided the name “Hillary Clinton” were Chris Christie, governor of New Jersey and Ohio governor John Kasich.
Here is the post-debate analysis by the National Public Radio (NPR), regarding the “Hillary Clinton” phenomenon during the debate. According to NPR, “Trump got the most call-outs from his fellow GOP hopefuls, but the five times Trump was named by others onstage paled in comparison to the number of times candidates mentioned Democratic primary front-runner Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama. Candidates mentioned Clinton or Obama a combined 44 times, according to our count.
The debate nearly flew off handle when one of the candidates brought up the idea that Trump had in past given money to the Clinton campaign as well as to the Clinton Foundation. Trump did not deny making the donations and went ahead to say that in return, the Clintons were prominent on the guest list at his wedding.
The truth is that Trump and the Clintons have been friends for decades. Last week, it emerged in the news that Trump had called Bill Clinton before he announced his intention to run for the presidency under the Republican banner. President Clinton allegedly returned the call. And that information set the news media abuzz about the purpose of the call. The political rumour mill is full of suggestions that Trump is indeed a mole in the Republican camp; that he is being set up by the Clintons to divide the party in order to pave way for a Hillary victory.
These suggestions about Trump’s real interest in running for office were not defused when, during the debate, the moderators wanted the candidates to pledge that none of them would run as an independent candidate if not nominated as the Republican Party’s choice. Only Trump raised his hand in objection to the pledge. He maintained that he was not ready to make that commitment now, to the chagrin of the moderators and his co-contestants. That stance has fueled the rumour that Trump got into the race as a spoiler for the Republican Party because by running as an independent candidate, he will chips off the party’s votes and indirectly hand over victory to Hillary.
Ordinarily, the GOP political machine is quite adroit as finding a way to ease out candidates who might pose a danger to the party’s electoral victory. One of the ways to do so is to subtly impress upon donors to cut off money for that candidate’s campaign.
But, Hillary remains the focus of the Republican Party. According to a (July) report by Real Clear Politics which calculated the average of six national polls that pitted Hillary Clinton against top Republican candidates, she will beat each one of them in the 2016 presidential election.
Here is what the report shows about Hillary vs Bush (47.2 – 43.0); Hillary vs Walker (47.8 – 41.2); Hillary vs Trump (51.8 – 37.0); Hillary vs Rubio (48.0 – 41.4); Hillary vs Paul (46.8 – 41.3); Hillary vs Cruz (48.3 – 40.7); Hillary vs Huckabee (48.3 – 40.3); Hillary vs Carson (48.3 – 38.0); Hillary vs Christie (50.3 – 39.0); Hillary vs Kasich (48.5 – 39.5).
There is no denying the fact that the Republican Party is far more worried about Hillary than any of the Democratic Party candidates. They must be counting on their luck for Hillary to falter somewhere along the campaign route so that they can pounce on, and discredit her. Seeing no tangible area to attack Hillary, Republicans, both those running for office and those in and outside Congress, are struggling to dig up dirt against her.
Two issues are frequently used as bullets in their political armory. One is the Benghazi affair where they want to link Hillary with culpability over the death of four US diplomats when some bandits and terrorists invaded the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, in 2012.
The next “hot” issue is about Hillary’s use of her private e-mail system for official work when she was secretary of state. Republicans are insisting that Hillary’s use of her private e-mail system is the equivalent of treason, and have vowed to make this a big issue in the 2016 presidential campaign. And, Fox News, which you can arguably call the media wing of the Republican Party, is also at the forefront of promoting and publicizing all forms of calumny aimed at bringing Hillary down to her knees. And, poll after poll, especially those commissioned by or are associated with conservatives, are bent on showing that Hillary has a huge problem of trust among American voters.
There is no doubt that Hillary is the main obstacle on the Republicans’ march to the White House in 2016. That is why the party is doubly incensed that Donald Trump is making the issue of beating Hillary more complex than it should be, as it is not wise to simultaneously fight Trump and Hillary and hope to have an easy ride to the White House.