(Opinion) — Donald Trump could probably be caught red-handed selling our nuclear codes to Russia or hiring a hit man to get rid of his enemies and he would still win the presidential race in Wyoming and many other states.
This is despite the fact he’s running against former first lady, U.S. Senator and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, one of the best qualified candidates to ever seek the presidency. She made history last week by becoming the first female presidential candidate of a major party.
Trump has no business doing well in the Equality State, even if we haven’t always lived up to that prestigious moniker. Wyoming has seen several firsts involving women and politics, including granting women the right to vote when it was still a territory in 1869 and electing the nation’s first woman governor in 1925.
The Republican nominee is tearing his party apart as he makes progressively stupider remarks about how he plans to “make America great again.” He claims he cherishes women but he’s insulted many by calling them bimbos, dogs and fat pigs. He refuses to refer to Clinton as anything but “crooked Hillary.”
With nearly 100 days left in his campaign, we haven’t even begun to hear the worst of his misogynistic slurs. No one who cares about women should even think about voting for Trump.
So will Wyoming voters to do the moral thing and let him know he and his reprehensible attitude toward women aren’t welcome in the state? We should, but most voters probably won’t. Our past presidential election results combined with the current mean-spirited political climate make it nearly impossible to imagine Clinton winning in Wyoming.
Wyoming’s right-leaning record
Women have been elected to many state offices and to the Wyoming Legislature, so it’s not a question of voters rejecting the idea of females serving in high political positions. But Jim King, political science professor at the University of Wyoming, said he doesn’t expect gender to play a role in the state’s presidential politics this year.
“We’ve not had a Democratic candidate carry this state since 1964,” he noted, referring to Lyndon Johnson’s rout of Barry Goldwater. “You’re basically looking at a consistent 55-35 percent split between Republicans and Democrats. I don’t think it’s really a question of gender one way or another.”
King said research has shown that women vote based on issues like the economy and education, so the fact a female is running for president doesn’t mean other women will flock to her side. Women simply do not vote for a candidate based on gender, although they generally tend to favor Democratic presidential hopefuls.
“I agree that voters here will not be looking at this as a race between a man and a woman,” said Ana Cuprill, chairwoman of the Wyoming Democratic Party. “This is an issues race with two individuals who provide two very different futures for the people of our state.”
But it is a race where gender matters in one important way — Cuprill said many men she’s talked to refuse to vote for Trump because of his horrible treatment of women.
King said he doesn’t think the fact Clinton and Trump are two of the most disliked presidential candidates in history will alter the results. Despite their concerns about Trump’s bizarre campaign, many top Republican officials have accepted him as the party’s standard bearer and King fully expects GOP voters in Wyoming to do the same.
Even though the Wyoming GOP caucus overwhelmingly favored U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, the professor said “as we get closer to the election you’re going to see in Wyoming what we’re seeing nationally. Even Republicans who have doubts about Trump for whatever reason, they still have more doubts about a Democratic candidate, especially Clinton, who is far better known than most Democratic candidates.”
Hard to shed public image
King noted Clinton has been on the national stage more than any candidate since Richard Nixon. “People have made up their minds about Clinton, and she’s not as natural a politician as much as someone like Ronald Reagan or her husband Bill or George W. Bush. These are all people who were able to work the crowds and connect with them.”
I thought Clinton made a great speech at the Democratic National Convention, but most political pundits disagreed. King described Clinton as much more in the Al Gore mold. “You see [Gore] privately and by most accounts he is very bright and personable,” King said. “Put him on a stage and even he makes jokes about how wooden he was. I think some people are more personally gifted politicians, and Clinton doesn’t fall into that category. She’s had a hard time breaking out of some of those images people have of her.”
Republicans and right-wing radio hosts have bombarded Clinton with so many alleged but unproven “scandals” — from Whitewater during her husband’s administration to Benghazi and her unsecure email server as secretary of state — that no politician could survive such ferocious attacks unscathed. It doesn’t matter how many partisan congressional witch hunts have cleared her of any wrongdoing, she’s been branded guilty and untrustworthy by much of the electorate.
What can Clinton do to repair the damage that’s been done to her reputation? “Hillary’s supporters need to make sure folks get to know the real Hillary,” Cuprill said. “Not the trumped-up cartoon version that scared Republicans have been pushing for the past 25 years. Voters need to be reminded that she started the Children’s Health Insurance Program, which in Wyoming in 2013 covered more than 8,000 children.” Nationally, CHIP has insured more than 8 million kids, all due to Clinton’s tenacity.
War in the West
Another problem Clinton must counter is being seen as an establishment politician while Trump offers unhappy voters change, even if they don’t believe what he says.
“I think people in Wyoming are not happy with Washington in a whole lot of ways,” King said. “You go back to the [Bill] Clinton administration in 1994, Washington’s ‘War in the West’ really took hold there. It’s not really changed in the 22 years since that campaign, frankly. There is this general dislike of Washington, and Democratic presidential candidates tend to personify that. So there’s a large percentage of the electorate that’s turned off by those people.
“It’s not so much the current political climate, it’s much more a Washington versus the rest of the country type of view,” King added. “I don’t think the change Wyoming people might be looking for out of Washington is any different than it was four years ago.”
Cuprill said Wyoming’s supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.) will back Clinton and not turn to Trump or any third-party candidate. “We have thousands of young people and new and old Democrats who have been impassioned by Sanders’ message,” she said, “and we aren’t going to let them fade back into the woodwork and let his message die.”
I share Cuprill’s horror and disbelief that Wyoming Republicans so far seem able to overlook Trump’s amorality. “He’s a man who does not display Wyoming values,” she declared. “He’s loud, arrogant and bigoted.”
The state Democratic chairwoman also stressed that Trump’s rhetoric could endanger alliances and increase tensions across an already volatile Middle East. She said Clinton and the Democratic Party are the only ones talking about a strong, steady approach to foreign policy and the use of our military.
“In Cheyenne we have been entrusted by our government as members of the Air Force Global Strike Command and guardians of Minutemen missiles,” Cuprill related. “We understand the impact those weapons of war would have on our world and I do not believe the people of this state could vote for a thin-skinned bully of a man who would send those flying if North Korea’s Kim Jong-un made fun of his hair.”
As Clinton said in the best line of her acceptance speech, Trump is “a man who can be baited with a tweet.”
To Cuprill, it all adds up to a man she can’t believe her Wyoming neighbors would vote for. “Trump seems to sound tough talking about torturing people and killing their families, but Hillary represents the approach that has made the U.S. the most respected nation in the world — principled, tough and predictable.”
Cuprill agrees with King that the contest isn’t about gender, but she doesn’t believe it will be a typical Wyoming presidential election year.
“Look at what we’ve done to our legislative races,” she said. “Over the past two years our leadership team and staff have transformed a party that was in debt and had few if any candidates contesting legislative seats into one of the most competitive races in the nation backed by a party with the resources and infrastructure to help them win.
“No one thought we could do it,” Cuprill continued, “and no one thinks Hillary can win here. I’m ready again to prove them wrong.”
I certainly hope she’s right. All that’s at stake is the safety and future of the world. Donald Trump’s hair and one of his hotels might be able to withstand a nuclear blast, but the rest of us wouldn’t fare so well.
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