John Bruton: Who would win in a contest between Ted Cruz and Hillary Clinton?

Donald Trump is likely to lose to Ted Cruz in the race to be Republican presidential nominee, writes John Bruton

John Bruton: Who would win in a contest between Ted Cruz and Hillary Clinton?

TED CRUZ may soon take over from Donald Trump as the Republican frontrunner. Hillary Clinton is in a good position on the Democratic side, but there are worries about the ongoing FBI investigation into her emails.

The news that Texas senator Ted Cruz, is beating Donald Trump by 10% points in the latest polls in Iowa, increases the possibility that he will be the Republican presidential nominee. Iowa hosts the first contest of the primary season and Cruz may gain momentum from an early win there, as President Obama did eight years ago.

Iowa will be followed by New Hampshire, where Donald Trump still leads the Republican field by a large margin, but leading Democrats are now predicting publicly that Cruz will be their opponent.

While Hillary Clinton is well ahead in most Democratic contests, she could lose to Bernie Sanders in New Hampshire because Sanders is from the neighbouring state of Vermont.

Who would win in a Clinton/Cruz contest? According to the latest research, Cruz would be 2.5 percentage points behind Hillary Clinton in a general election contest confined to the two of them, and probably further behind if Donald Trump were to enter the race as a third-party candidate. Trump would be even further behind Clinton in a two-candidate race.

Some other Republican candidates might have a better chance against Clinton. Ben Carson, as a black candidate, could draw voters into the Republican column who would, in all other eventualities, vote Democrat.

He is unlikely to be the eventual Republican nominee. Senator Rubio of Florida has a better chance and has also been ahead of Clinton in some polls. However, he is only getting 13% support among Republicans in Iowa, and only 12% in New Hampshire.

Trump would be almost certain to lose to Clinton in a two-candidate race. However, what would Cruz’s policy be were he to beat Clinton? He has a poor record of working with fellow senators, and some Republican leaders have suggested they might not even vote for him in November. He might have some of the same problems, working with Congress, that President Obama has had.

Cruz has said he wants to build a wall between the US and Mexico, and raised the spectre of “terrorists swimming across the Rio Grande”. He says 40% of illegal immigrants in the US are visa overstays, which suggests he would not do much to regularise their position.

He says the US needs “moral clarity” in it foreign policy. “That starts with defining our enemy,” he says. This is a questionable view. Moral clarity starts with defining one’s own values, rather than with defining one’s enemy’s. Defining one’s own values is, of course, harder work than picking an enemy.

He argues for a foreign policy based on pursuit of America’s interests, and against making democracy promotion a central goal. In this, he differs from former president George W Bush. He is critical of US support for regime change in Egypt, Libya, and Syria.

“We do not have a side in the Syrian civil war,” he states frankly. Here he may have a point.

However, he has also claimed that the “scientific evidence does not support” the thesis that there is global warming. A Cruz presidency would bode ill for the implementation of the Paris climate agreement. Ted Cruz is thus appealing to the same core constituency as Donald Trump.

Both are addressing anxieties among the America’s white middleclass. They worry that their country’s standing in the world is declining. The global standing of America, as the pre-eminent power in the world, goes to the heart of their identity. This sense of decline is accentuated by the fact that their own incomes have stagnated, while people in other countries and the top tier of society has gained.

These linked phenomena explain their discontent with President Obama, and politics generally.

Hillary Clinton would like to address this income inequality issue, but many of her financial backers would lose if she did so. She may also have to cope with the conclusions of the FBI investigation into her use of a private email for state department business.

Disclosure of classified information to outsiders would be a serious matter if it occurred, inadvertently or otherwise. Evidence of any subsequent attempt to cover up mistakes would also add to this. The FBI is anxious to show that its investigations are independent of politics, so the outcome of this matter is hard to predict.

One has the sense, at this stage, that while the presidential election next November will be important, it will not settle things. The US will remain deeply divided, and at least one house of the Congress will continue to resist the president of the day.

Democrats might regain control of the Senate, but there is little chance that they will win the House of Representatives. America, and the world, will thus have to continue to live with what they call “divided government” in Washington. Americans are much more comfortable with that sort of situation, than Europeans would ever be.

John Bruton, is a former Taoiseach and a former EU ambassador to the US. He has recently published a collection of essays entitled ‘Faith in Politics’.

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