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White House Smackdown: Hillary and Trump - their strengths and weaknesses

They couldn’t be more different – but how do the two White House hopefuls measure up?

HILLARY CLINTON AND Donald Trump are part of the same generation, but that is about the only thing they have in common: their careers, personalities and political instincts could not be more different.

Here are highlights of the strengths and weaknesses of the presumptive Democratic and Republican presidential nominees, five months before November’s general election.

Clinton: ready but disliked

DEM 2016 Clinton Source: John Locher

History-making woman

“If Hillary Clinton wins, that would have been two presidencies in a row where it was not a white man in the Oval Office,” American University’s Jennifer Lawless, an expert in women in politics, told AFP.

As she takes on the role of pioneer, Clinton could help inspire Democratic women, and some men, to be more involved in the political process.

“I think it needs a woman’s touch,” actor Ryan Gosling told the Evening Standard magazine.

I’ve always liked women more… They are better than us. They make me better.

Impeccable resume

When she was still known as Hillary Rodham, the young lawyer was already involved in women’s and children’s causes – a worthy calling beyond reproach.

She put her successful career on hold to become the political partner to her husband Bill, following him from the Arkansas governor’s mansion to the White House.

The 68-year-old former first lady then established her own name in politics, as a two-term senator from New York and then as secretary of state for Barack Obama’s first four years in office.

“There’s nobody else right now who is more qualified to be president,” supporter Linda Rosel, a 60-year-old criminal investigator in Las Vegas, said in February.

All those scandals

But Clinton’s deep political experience is not without baggage – the scandals dogging her have provided fodder for Republicans, who have since the 1990s portrayed her as a woman with suspect friendships and poor ethical judgment.

DEM 2016 Bill Clinton Source: Damian Dovarganes

The scandals run the gamut: from the Whitewater real estate investment controversy, in which the Clintons were eventually cleared, to the Benghazi attacks and her use of a private email server while at the State Department, which has made her the subject of an FBI probe.

All of those have made her the most unpopular and polarising Democratic presidential candidate in recent history.

“I think if you’ve been attacked as much as she has for standing up for people the way she has, yeah, you pay a price for that,” her campaign manager Robby Mook told MSNBC television.

Public speaking – not her strong point

“I am not a natural politician, in case you haven’t noticed, like my husband or President (Barack) Obama,” Clinton acknowledged in March.

Her speeches often get bogged down in policy details, and don’t flow. Americans have however elected a president with mediocre oratory skills before… Dwight Eisenhower, in 1952.

On the other side of the aisle… 

Trump: media-friendly but raw

GOP 2016 Trump Source: Chris Carlson

Career in business, not politics

Trump is “not a career politician. Career politicians are killing our country,” defence contractor Matthew Weiner, 55, said in October.

He’s a successful businessman. Our country is set up on capitalism, we are a big business.

Many voters see in the 69-year-old Trump a gifted businessman with the Midas touch who can balance the budget and create jobs. Trump says he is worth $10 billion, but independent estimates say his fortune is less than half that.

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Democrats will pick holes in this image of the consummate, successful mogul, pointing out his failures in the casino business and the controversy swirling around his Trump University.


Trump’s rallies are never boring, he has said. Between the scuffles, the protesters who sneak in to disrupt the proceedings, and the stream of insults and attacks from the candidate himself, the audience is always riveted.

Trump has been a tabloid favorite in the Big Apple since the 1980s, but he knows how to work the media, giving near-daily interviews to television networks, who have offered him more coverage than any other candidate by far.

His ability to captivate an audience, even with his somewhat stream-of-consciousness style, will be a major challenge for Clinton to overcome.

Source: RT/YouTube

Breaking the policy mould

Trump’s campaign has been built on the idea that the establishment needs a wake-up call. But in his quest to keep things most decidedly politically incorrect, the Republican candidate has failed to develop a solid policy platform.

His policy ideas are mainly soundbites – about building a wall on the Mexican border, or making America’s allies pay more for US military assurances – and he often goes for an incendiary remark to make headlines.

By attacking Muslims and immigrants, he galvanised white voters on the political rights, but shocked some of his Republican allies and equally galvanised Hispanic voters against him.

“My advice to the nominee would be to start to talk about the issues that the American people care about and to start doing it now,” Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell warned this week.

It’s time to quit attacking various people that you competed with or various minority groups in the country and get on message.

- © AFP, 2016

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