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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 16 January 2016
DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 16 JANUARY 2016 21 OPINION OPINION THEO ZOGRAFOS Trump a pretender For political observers, there's nothing more exhilarating than an American presidential election. Early on, 2016 was to be the dynasty election. Clinton v Bush, gearing up for the same contest when Chelsea and Jeb Jnr go at it in 2036. However, what we have seen in recent months is a fade from that prospect. The shedding that happens every cycle has begun. A drop out here, a scandal there and voila, Americans have themselves a new political superstar. American presidential candidates can rise and fall pretty quickly. We had Gary Hart, Jesse Jackson Jnr, Pat Buchanan, Herman Caine, Jerry Brown, Paul Tsongas, Howard Dean, John Edwards, Rudy Giuliani and countless others who for a few weeks were the next president of the United States. Today, half a dozen or so people who will never be president have that title. So let's take a quick look at the field on the Republican side of the major parties. Hold on, I will come to Trump soon. Let's not dwell on pretenders too early. What we are seeing on the Republican side is a historic event: the changing of the elite guard of old. The one associated with presidents past such as Nixon, both Bushes and the great Ronald Reagan. Like any political organisation, the GOP is largely made of factions aligned to the statesmen of old. Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Rand Paul and to a smaller extent, identities like Paul Ryan, Susanna Martinez and Nikki Hayley are casting a new movement within the party machine that is the GOP. Like any major election, campaigns are used to build political power, capital, networks, coalitions and movements. There's a lot of that going on here on the Republican side. With no clear frontrunner heading into 2016 (I said I'll come to Trump), it's literally on for young and old. So let's start with the young. Marco Rubio, or the Republican Obama, is photogenic, telegenic, articulate, energetic and, as we said, young. He seems to have all the trademarks of a successful candidate. In the modern political contest these points matter. As a senator, Rubio has not been afraid to tackle some tough issues such as immigration and gay marriage. Another somewhat young man, Texan Ted Cruz, who is amazingly not an Americanborn citizen, is a great public speaker and counts the Tea Party movement as a political base. Another senator, he used his position to stare down Democrats and other Republicans in debt ceiling negotia- OPINION ALEXIS PAPACHELAS A big challenge for Mitsotakis Kyriakos Mitsotakis scored a significant victory on Sunday. The truth is that pundits thought him the outsider and had estimated the odds of him winning as very small. The election for a new leader at New Democracy, however, showed us two things. First, that being underestimated can be a huge advantage in politics and, second, that it is a mistake to underestimate how voters think. Mitsotakis’ candidacy drew the interest of peo- ple who are serious about politics but abhor petty party workings. It also drew the core of those who voted ‘yes’ in July’s referendum over whether Greece should agree to another bailout deal with creditors or not. Many of those people would never vote for New Democracy and cast their July ballot with a heavy heart, but they understand the need for a strong opposition. Those two groups were, of course, joined by traditional supporters of the conserva- tive party who were concerned about the party joining forces with leftist Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras. Mitsotakis’s contender, Evangelos Meimarakis, did himself harm by giving the impression that he was not interested in reaching real consensus with the government but was engaging in tactical manoeuvres instead. The new chief of New Democracy faces a lot of challenges ahead. He has already come under fire on numerous fronts and the blows will con- tinue, both above and below the belt. So far he has shown he can take it, but the higher you get, the more your true mettle is tested. While Mitsotakis can draw voters from the centre and middle ground, he could just as easily lose support from a portion of New Democracy voters who consider him to represent the country’s political elite. In this respect, it is important that he was not elected in the well-heeled Athenian suburbs of Kifissia and Glyfada, but in places like Thes- saloniki and Kastoria. What Mitsotakis needs to do now is rid the party of the rot that has built up, but without making its supporters feel that he is tearing it apart. His election, moreover, has been seen favourably abroad, as the young politician is regarded as a credible alternative to the leftist-led government. The notion that Tsipras is the only game in town will gradually fade even though his honeymoon with Brussels will likely continue a while longer. Mitsotakis has taken on a huge responsibility. There is no doubt that he has the systematic approach, the knowledge and the sensibility required by the circumstances. He also scored a success that few thought he could achieve. Now he needs to win the support of voters beyond the party base and secondly, he must brave the next few months, which promise to be very troubled indeed. * Alexis Papachelas is the editor of Kathimerini. Donald Trump popular incumbent president and no large field like that of today. tions since 2012. Both of these two will go far, either now or in decades to come. Then there is my smokey and the biggest fella in the race, Chris Christie, governor of New Jersey. If you win a blue state twice, you know how to win an election and Chris Christie has this strong record. Christie infamously undermined Mitt Romney in the final days of the 2012 general election campaign, positioning himself as the presumptive 2016 nominee. He would have continued on this path, but New Jersey domestic politics have tested him, and weakened his national profile. Christie has cleverly (at time of writing) focused on a good old-fashioned retail campaign in New Hampshire and this will pay off, pushing him into the top tier in the primary campaign. He won't win, but he really wants to. I can tell. So, as promised, let's now get to Biff. Tannen. I mean The Donald. One of the first biographies I read as a nine-yearold was one on Donald Trump. I've been following him for years. I've been to Trump Tower. I can tell you one thing with certainty. Donald Trump is no politician. He is first and foremost a businessman. He is second a businessman. After his numerous bankruptcies, he wants to expand. In my view, from Trump's perspective, a presidential election campaign is the perfect endeavour to attract free media, build on the brand, then when the campaign is over, sell more books, produce more television shows and give more paid speeches, all the more while seeing the asset value base of an extensive property portfolio rise and rise. Trump has been doing this for decades. Why not spend the last quarter of his life having the time of it pretending to be serious about being presidential. Furthermore, facts, statistics and history are simply not on his side. Not since 1940 has someone who has never held public office been the nominee for president of a major party and that was against a The fact he is where he is is a validation of his campaign already, from Trump's perspective. He has proven his point, that although he is a businessman, he wants a place at the political table. He wants to be listened to. Carly Fiorina, Ben Carson, John Kasich, Rick Sanotrum and Mike Huckabee are all honourable people but won't come close to winning a primary in 2016, let alone the nomination. Each will drop out at some point, helping one of the other stronger candidates along the way. Finally, the man who left his run one cycle too late, former Florida governor John Bush (Jeb!) will drop out too, mainly because he couldn't shake the rust off himself, not having contested an election since 2002. However, Bush will stay in long enough to become a kingmaker, and my money is on Jeb being the VP nominee, just like his father convinced the great Ronald Reagan at the 1980 convention. Finally, whoever the nominee is, they must defeat Billary. The future of the world depends on it. * Cr Theo Zographos has worked on several American political campaigns.
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