The US election on the face of it is looking closer than most would have thought it to be a month or so back. Based on the electoral college and the key states race it would seem Hilary Clinton does lead the race. However there are a few unique challenges to both sides and the next 50 days is really the make or break. Each candidate has from now on to look more presidential and most of all keep the eye on the ball. It might be worthwhile seeing the issues forward.
For Hilary Clinton:
Plus side: She has kept to her message and her support seems to have galvanised with Obama throwing in more of his weight into the campaign ensure that the Obama factor amongst his die hard supporters comes to the ballot box. In addition Bernie Sanders, in his forceful manner has been imploring his supporter 'to ensure that Trump is not elected' by turning in their support for Mrs Clinton. In addition she has kept the focus of her agenda on educational reform, including reforming college student debt, pushing a fairer tax system, reforming Wall Street, getting immigration reform and controlling gun violence by reforming the gun laws (not eliminating the second amendment). She also continues to play her strong card of a better understanding of world politics compared to her rival and sees a stronger role for the US in world affairs including dealing with ISIS and other terror threats.
Negative side: The email controversy does not seem to go away and while in the scheme of things it is not a major negative it remains to the unfamiliar voter a red herring that she needs to tackle head on. While it cost her the election, perhaps not but she needs to have her camp handle it better.
Her recent short illness while has raised the issue of her health her handling of it so far has been good, but she needs to be careful it does not emerge as a major election issue again. Over all the perception that she is closely tied into with big business seems to have emerged again with questions about the Clinton Foundation. Her camp is not handling this issue with the forcefulness that it deserves and it might continue to stick to her as a smoking gun.
What Hilary Camp needs to do?
Spell out their tax and economic plan in more detail and put forward the numbers to show how they plan to make it work. She needs to close out the email controversy and while she has accepted some responsibility for it, there needs to be a better closure of this matter. The issue is perceptional given that between Congress and other commissions there has been hours and hours of discussion and hearings on this her camp needs to issue a 'common man' white paper so the average american in the street understands the issues. She needs to push more on the issues of Trump revealing his taxes, clearly that is the achilles heel of her opponent and she is not attacking it enough. She needs to make sure that the Bernie Sanders support base also comes to the forefront as that would eat into some of the rivals support base of white workers who feel that Clinton has ignored them in the past. She also needs to formally step down from any role with the Clinton Foundation now, even though it might have academic value it will do her more good than harm.
For Donald Trump:
Plus side; He seems to have realised his off the cuff style has caused more havoc than good and has stuck to the script more effectively than before. His recent move to spell out his economic plan, and his child care reform bring an element to his campaign, which thus far was high on rhetoric and low on details. His recent trip of Mexico to meet the Mexican President while seemingly a good public relations exercise showing him in a more presidential role, actually showed mixed results apart for an embarrassing disagreement with his hosts. The steps he has taken to spell out his policies is welcome sign and he will need to spell out his policies more in detail. The benefits of his economic plan clearly are his trump card (don't mind the pun), however he has to clearly spell out how will be pay for these benefits. As one would say he has to make the numbers add up. His biggest change that has helped him has been his less mercurial attacks on his opponents and in recent interviews answer questions more than retort to a question with a question.
Negative Side: The biggest problem for the Trump camp has been his propensity to shoot from the hip with statements which either reverse his position or make claims that are contrary to facts. His biggest liability is the earlier remarks he made about minorities and he recent attempts, for example, with the black voters seemed insincere and contrived. While he appeals to the uneducated voter (the not so astute) the larger silent vote bank sees his claims that his opponent 'wants to take your guns away' is simply not true. His weakness on foreign policy issues is glaring with praise for Putin and not even knowing that Crimea was annexed by Russia are the pitfalls of lack of knowledge that cannot be quick fixed so late in the game.
What the Trump Camp needs to do?
Fix the perception that there is a racist bias to their campaign, (reinforced with some questionable appointments to his campaign staff). Spell out the economic plan and how he plans to reduce taxes and still have money to pay the debt and pay for the benefits he has promised. Perhaps appoint a respected foreign policy expert to lead the comments on foreign policy issues or hand over that part of the agenda to his running mate, Pence. Come clean on his misstatements (Iraq war, Muslims etc), like he has on the birther issue and be man enough to simply say "I was wrong" and move on. Most importantly he needs to put aside his silly argument about why he is not releasing his tax returns and should bite the bullet and do it as it is what is expected by all.
On balance the Presidential debates will be interesting and for Trump to keep his cool will be important. Apart from the prepared statements how he handles the questions will be crucial to the outcome of the race. Hilary Clinton on her part will clearly be prone to touch his soft spots and his thin skin might just get him to make one of his infamous gaffs. As for the vote bank it would seem that Trump has alienated the black and hispanic vote to the degree that wining them back is a gigantic task. His recent proposal to ban Western Union transfers to Mexico by illegal Mexican workers with the aim to negotiate with the Mexican government to lift the ban if they pay for the wall- its on the Trump website. Credit to the Trump camp they have tightened the race, the question is whether it is enough to make a difference. For the Democrats the big challenge will be to make sure that their vote bank turns out on the crucial day. Many of the Trump die hard supporters may have an edge in that regard and voter turn out in some key states could well be a crucial aspect of the final outcome.