Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton represent ticking time bombs for their respective political parties. With both predicted to make significant delegate gains in Super Tuesday voting today, the Republicans and Democrats seem likely to take a giant step toward nominating individuals who bring many unanswered questions that could sink their candidacies.
In a general election matchup between Trump and Clinton, it would not be at all surprising to see a bombshell revelation that would dramatically alter the landscape. The question for partisans on both sides now is whether that’s an acceptable risk – and, if not, what can be done about it at this late hour?
The Clintons’ sense of personal entitlement and ethical flexibility comes as no surprise to voters. Indeed, the concerns that their attitude and behavior raise are already baked in to the poll numbers and results in the early states.
On some level, it’s hard to be surprised by just about anything that Hillary Clinton does. And yet.
The entire email server debacle remains a cloud looming over the Clinton campaign’s head. It may yet amount to a big fat political nothing-burger. Democratic leaders certainly hope so.
Many questions continue to be asked by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and other federal agencies. Will they conclude that the server situation was nothing more than another example of arrogant disregard for common sense? Or might they determine that it amounts to something worthy of judicial action?
Of course, the content of the emails themselves could yet pose a problem. And that doesn’t even take into account all of the other potential pitfalls of the Clinton Foundation and other aspects of Clintonland. Nobody knows what might be out there.
That’s a great risk for Democrats if, as is likely, they nominate Hillary Clinton.
With Republican voters poised to give a big boost to Donald Trump, the GOP might not be in much better shape. Just this past weekend, the bloviating reality star once again demonstrated that every time he speaks he stands ready to firmly insert his foot in his mouth. Just how hard is it to clearly and unequivocally denounce David Duke and the Ku Klux Klan?
Thus far, it has done no appreciable damage, but that could easily change if the public tires of his vaudeville act.
But Trump’s mouth probably isn’t the biggest risk. For a man who seems all too willing to share just about any thought that crosses his mind or answer any question (please don’t anyone ask about his underwear preference), he seems absolutely petrified of the prospect of releasing his tax returns.
Ever since Mitt Romney challenged the GOP frontrunner to fess up on his taxes, Trump has been dismissive. Using his trademark style of derisive personal commentary coupled with self-centered declarations, the real estate magnate seems to be holding firm in his insistence that he’ll decide what to do about his tax disclosures sometime this summer.
What does Trump have to hide? It seems likely that there’s something hidden in those documents. If it showed how huge his wealth is, he’d want to rub it in our faces. If it showed how generous he has been with veterans and others, he’d want everyone to know. If it showed how ethical he is, he’d want to prove the naysayers wrong.
Of course, Clinton’s email server and Trump’s tax returns only represent the most visible ticking time bombs. Perhaps the real risk for both parties lies in the pitfalls completely unknown to the public. The opposition research machines on both sides no doubt have a wealth of revelations prepared to debut this summer and fall.
If the two frontrunners continue to pile up primary victories and the delegates that go with them, party elders must hope that the worst of any possible revelations come to light before the nominations become final. If we go into the fall and only then find out that Hillary Clinton faces indictment or Donald Trump gets revealed, finally, as a fraud, the political fallout will be significant.
That’s why it’s so problematic for the two parties to move ahead with these political ticking time bombs. It’s hard to imagine a pair of potential nominees who have carried greater risk than Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.
Tick, tick, tick.
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