Experimental feature

Listen to this article

Experimental feature

Super Tuesday marked a critical point for US presidential candidates’ bid to win their party’s nomination. Earlier caucuses and primaries set up a fierce battle between Democrats Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama and established John McCain as the Republican front-runner.

So who came out ahead?

To make sense of Tuesday’s vote and what it means for the presidential hopefuls, David Frum, former speechwriter to George W Bush and resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, answers your questions.

Who is the real winner of the Super Tuesday primaries?
Viktor O. Ledenyov, Ukraine

David Frum: The real winner is the Democratic party collectively. Thus far in the primary process, more than 15m ballots have been cast for Democratic presidential candidates and only about 11m have been cast for Republicans.

Can Barack Obama translate all his campaign promises into a reality?
Joaquin Blanco, Miami

David Frum: Barack Obama’s most important promises are so hazy, vague and general that it will be impossible for anyone to say that he has succeeded or failed. When a candidate is promising to “realise our hopes”, without ever being specific about exactly what those hopes are, how does one measure success or failure?

What will it take for Hillary Clinton to win?
Lacretia Atkinson, Clovis, US

David Frum: Aligning herself with credible figures on national security; getting to McCain’s right on immigration; making clear that she’ll be cautious in domestic issues - other than healthcare - and generally avoiding losses of temper of other mistakes on the campaign trail.

Do you think that John McCain’s nomination as the Republican presidential candidate would significantly change the Republican party? I think it could, and hope it does.
Jason Davis, Columbus, Ohio

David Frum: Any nomination brings change. But enduring change in a party only comes from the experience of a successful presidency. Ronald Reagan’s changes to the Republican party, for example, proved permanent . Bill Clinton’s changes in the Democratic party, have proved less so.

At this stage, what key points would be in your memo to Obama?
Charles Nsekela, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

David Frum: Less rhetoric, more specifics. Separate yourself from the dreamy and isolationist factions within your party’s national security establishment and make clear you have a specific plan for your first 100 days in office. Hillary Clinton’s warning that talking about change is different from executing change is well founded.

A Clinton-Obama ticket - in either order - would almost guarantee the election with big wins amongst women, African Americans, and Hispanics. Will they go for that, or is it going to be a slugfest up to and including the convention (like Ford/Reagan in 76 or Carter/Kennedy in 80) and give the election to McCain?
Ian Gent, Cupar, Fife, UK

David Frum: Believe it or not, there still remains quite a lot of white males in America and I think it will be difficult for the Democratic party to ignore them entirely. That said, the negative chemistry between Ms Clinton and Mr Obama makes it difficult to imagine such a ticket. It’s certainly difficult to imagine her accepting the number two spot and if she wins, I wonder whether Obama’s ambition would not lead him to think about running independently in 2012 rather than accepting a secondary position.

You have written that John McCain is desperately and dangerously wrong on immigration. How come so few Republicans seem to believe this, and what are the implications for voters like yourself assuming McCain goes on to capture the nomination?
Ed Maydon, London

David Frum: Lots of Republicans believe it. In fact, probably a majority of Republican voters believe it. Certainly it is the big issue among primary voters. The problem is not that Republicans don’t believe it, it is that the highest ranks in the Republican party leadership do not agree. And they are driven I think by three concerns. First is a mistaken belief that they can win the vote of Hispanic Americans by offering a soft line on immigration. The evidence strongly shows that this is unfounded.

Second, there are powerful special interest concerns within the Republican party – agro-business, restaurant owners, that push the party in this direction. And third there has been a long-term concern that a largely open border with the US is essential to the stability of Mexico. And this last idea, whatever its merit in the past, has long outlived its usefulness.

With an unpopular war abroad and no solid long-term plan to remedy the nation’s economic woes, what do you feel the Republicans will have to do to salvage the elections?
Miguel, California

David Frum: I continue to believe that this is a winnable election for the Republicans if they do the right thing. The party needs to put its healthcare ideas front and centre. It is healthcare concerns above all that are depressing the wages of middle-income Americans and casting so much pessimism on people’s assessment of the economy.

Second, the party must commit itself to a serious plan for border security and the control of illegal and unskilled migration.

There is unavoidably a foreign policy component to this election and Republicans must drive home the correct message - that the Democratic party as an institution is not capable of dealing effectively with national security.

Do you think that anything Clinton or Obama could propose would be more costly and counterproductive than the Iraq war?
Kurt Bayer, Vienna, Austria

David Frum: The present value of the projected costs of the prescription drug benefit introduced by President Bush in 2004 is approximately 15 times as much as the Iraq war.

Do the candidates have any policies in place in case oil prices keep increasing? Japan and the EU seem prepared for reduced oil dependency, while US presidential candidates avoid the issue. Are peak oil and rising food prices on the agenda at all?
Martin Frid, Tokyo, Japan

David Frum: The best policy for dealing with oil prices is the policy of “supply and demand”. The oil market and the energy market - like all markets - obey those laws.

Rising oil prices in the 1970s led to sharp reductions in the consumption of oil and big increases in the supply to the point that America did not return to 1979 levels of oil consumption until 1996. A similar process is underway today. If oil prices continue at present levels, we will see a hybrid car revolution in the US over the next four years without a president having to lift a finger to make it happen.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2018. All rights reserved.

Comments have not been enabled for this article.