GULC Panel Split Over 2016

Despite Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s growing momentum in polls two weeks ahead of Election Day, there is still a possibility for Republican nominee Donald Trump to win the election, argued several panelists during a Georgetown University Law Center discussion Oct. 24.

Moderated by CNN Washington Bureau Chief Sam Feist (GRD ’99), Decision 2016: What’s Trending — #ImWithHer or #MAGA?: A Panel Discussion, featured seven political advocates for both Clinton and Trump, who offered their predictions of Trump’s prospects following recent allegations of sexual misconduct and leaked audio featuring Trump making lewd remarks about women, which have resulted in sliding poll numbers and establishment Republican politicians withdrawing their support from the nominee.

Polling data aggregator Real Clear Politics gives Clinton 262 electoral votes to Trump’s 126, excluding “tossup” states, which displays an improvement of over 60 electoral votes for Clinton since late September. Over 10 national polls included in the aggregator highlight Clinton’s current lead, some by margins as large as 13 points.

Brookings Institute Senior Fellow E.J. Dionne, a professor at Georgetown’s McCourt School of Public Policy, expressed confidence in Clinton’s lead.

“My basic view of the election is that, unless between now and Election Day we repeal both women’s suffrage and the remaining parts of the voting rights, Donald Trump will lose,” Dionne said. “Trump is caught in a bipartisan narrative of defeat.”

Washington Post National Political Correspondent Karen Tumulty said her publication’s release of Trump’s private audio was instrumental in changing the tide of the election by bolstering Clinton’s support among white women.

“If the race is not over, it is close to over,” Tumulty said. “Nothing else affected the race as much.”
However, GOP political commentator Paris Denard said he believed Trump’s campaign was still salvageable if he focused on his policy points for the remainder of the campaign, specifically concerning the economy and the North American Free Trade Agreement.

“He needs to stay on message and talk about his strengths: jobs, the economy, NAFTA, trade, the business leader he is,” Denard said. “If he stays on message and continues to message directly to the people, he will win this election.”

Lieutenant General Joseph K. Kellog Jr., foreign policy adviser for Trump’s campaign, counseled voters to focus less on candidates’ personalities and more on their stances on political issues.

“I don’t think you need to count anybody out in the election,” Kellog said. “I think it’s foolish to do that, because you just never know. To me, it’s come down to something very simple. The election is either status quo or change.”

Tumulty agreed that the 2016 election cycle presented voters with a choice between Clinton’s pro-establishment stance, which builds on the previous work of President Barack Obama, and Trump’s narrative of dramatic reform.

Denard suggested current polls may be misleading, as certain segments of the population, including black Americans in urban areas, may publically express disapproval of Trump but privately support him on Election Day.

“There is a growing sense that the black community are left behind in the economy,” Denard said. “If you have more black people owning homes in the Great Depression than we do now, we have some real problems.”

Celina Lake, president of Democratic polling firm Lake Research Partners, challenged the dichotomy between the two candidates and contested that Clinton, too, advocates change.

“Clinton has to make sure that her exceptional qualifications and leadership do not become an argument for the status quo,” Lake said. “But I think if you look at the number of plans she has put out, she is for change as well, and America is for change.”

George Dobbins (GRD ’19), who attended the event, said despite their differing views, the panelists provided a civil discourse otherwise absent from the election.

“I was really grateful that they were so civil during the whole thing, because so much of the problem with this year’s election is that people aren’t able to talk civilly to one another; but these people were, and they had very different opinions,”  Dobbins said.

Marina Smith (GRD ’19) said the conversation alerted her to the importance of students turning out for the election.

“I think after [Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)] dropped out, large potentials for students our age thought their vote wouldn’t matter, but I think one of the biggest issues is voter turnout,” Smith said. “It all depends on who’s turning up to the polls.”

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