In the race for the White House, Donald Trump continues to dominate the political discourse and to keep open the option of a third-party candidacy, telling reporters recently, “We’re going to make a decision very soon, and I think a lot of people are going to be very happy.” With five months to go until the Iowa caucuses, the political landscape remains unsettled, and many of the traditional rules of American politics don’t seem to apply. Bobby Jindal, one of the 17 major declared Republican hopefuls, has called it “the summer of silliness.”
The latest poll, conducted by The Des Moines Register and Bloomberg Politics Aug. 23 through 26, shows Trump surging ahead in Iowa, with 23 percent of likely Republican caucusgoers naming him as their first choice for president. Ben Carson came in second, with 18 percent, followed by Ted Cruz and Scott Walker, with 8 percent each, and Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio, with 6 percent each. On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton is in the lead, with 37 percent, but Bernie Sanders is shrinking her lead, with 30 percent of the vote. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.9 percentage points.
During Al Jazeera America’s Sunday night segment The Week Ahead, Del Walters spoke to Clarissa Martinez de Castro, the deputy vice president of the Office of Research, Advocacy and Legislation at the National Council of La Raza, and Brendan Bordelon, a political reporter at The National Review.
When it comes to potential presidential nominees, Martinez said, “It’s too early for any reading of the tea leaves right now about who’s going to be the nominee for either party. But one fact is that this kind of fueling of rhetoric that only seeks to advance fear and anxiety is damaging to the American community. We’re starting to see evidence of that, particularly in a backlash against Latinos in this country, 75 percent of whom are United States citizens.”
She said that Trump is gaining in the polls by riling up the people who are fearful and anxious and that the subject matter is deeper than immigration. She added that anytime there has been change in our country, there has been “backlash on different groups of people.”
Bordelon also said that it’s too early and incredibly hard to predict who the nominees will be. “I think the Republican establishment in Washington doesn’t know what to do and they’re not happy about [Trump’s surge in the polls], but it’s a mistake to go after Trump too hard because the more they do, the more upset they appear and the more his base rallies behind him.”
As for the Democratic side, Bordelon said it’s déjà vu in Iowa, likening Sanders’ surge to Barack Obama’s there in 2012. “But this time, I really don’t think Bernie Sanders is a Barack Obama. He really has none of the charismatic appeal, even though he seems like an honest person” — a perception that he said Clinton has struggled with her entire career. Bordelon said it will be much more of an uphill climb for Sanders than it was for Obama in 2008.
Martinez said the three leading Democratic candidates — Clinton, Sanders and Martin O’Malley — were well received at a recent conference hosted by her organization in Kansas City, Missouri.
“Definitely, Clinton has a great deal of name recognition, and President [Bill] Clinton was very popular with the Latino community, so she has that going for her,” she said, adding that Clinton and O’Malley have been strong in their proposed solutions for the U.S. immigration problem and that their reform plans align with what Latinos believe is needed. Martinez said Sanders was well received on the topic of economic issues.
Martinez said that in every presidential election and many state elections, “Latino voters feel like they have to brace for impact, particularly during the primary period.” She said voters are not only listening to Trump’s incendiary rhetoric but also paying attention to which candidates follow his lead and which ones denounce him and said that will be more important come nomination time.
“In both parties, there’s a deep-seated discontent with the establishment, with the people in Washington, with the big donors and the big money,” said Bordelon. “Just like Hillary Clinton epitomizes that on the left, Jeb Bush epitomizes that on the right. People are very frustrated with Washington, and they see Donald Trump as someone who’s never held elected office, who doesn’t need any political donations, and I think the anti-establishment push cuts primarily against Jeb Bush.”