The Cable

Battleground ’16: Unpopularity Contest

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump's Colin Powell problem: Many voters dislike them both.


With just over a week before the first presidential debate and less than two months before Election Day, both Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and GOP ticket-topper Donald Trump are wrestling over valuable but increasingly rare undecided and independent voters in a tight race, according to the latest polls. But they face a shared challenge; let’s call it the Colin Powell problem. In other words, many voters dislike them both.

Backing by Powell, who is former Republican President George W. Bush’s secretary of state and a decorated general who dramatically crossed the aisle in 2008 to endorse Democratic President Barack Obama, would be a big prize for either of the 2016 main party candidates. But in leaked private emails, Powell called Trump “racist” and “a national disgrace and an international pariah.” Clinton didn’t fare much better — “everything [she] touches she kind of screws up with hubris,” Powell wrote.

Powell’s distaste for both candidates is reflected among the veterans and military community Foreign Policy has spoken to throughout the campaign. That’s a key constituency for each as Clinton and Trump strive to be seen as a strong potential commander in chief and pull undecideds in battleground states. But it’s also a mirror of American voters overall, as a majority view both unfavorably.

Both presidential hopefuls will need to change this dynamic dramatically if they’re to gain an edge in the last few weeks before Nov. 8. Powell, however, seems ready for a write-in.

Sign up for FP’s Editors’ Picks newsletter here to receive Battleground ’16, our take on the presidential race, each Wednesday through November.


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Sign up for FP’s Editors’ Picks newsletter here to receive Battleground ’16, our take on the presidential race, each Wednesday through November.

Photo credit: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

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