York forum explores 'craziest' election in modern history
- G. Terry Madonna, a pollster a Franklin & Marshall College, spoke in York on presidential election.
- Madonna: First election where both major party candidates more unfavorable than favorable.
Many York County officials and businesspeople spent their Tuesday lunch break listening to a political expert break down the issues in the "craziest, weirdest, strangest" election in modern history.
York City Mayor Kim Bracey, state Rep. Kevin Schreiber, D-York City, and County Commissioner Doug Hoke were among those in attendance Tuesday to hear from G. Terry Madonna, director of the Center for Politics and Public Affairs at Franklin and Marshall College.
Madonna opened his speech by telling attendees to forget their political affiliation before he symbolically split them up based on whether they were sitting to the left (Democrats), right (Republicans) or center (independents) of where he was standing.
Divided: Madonna said that while both major party candidates — Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton — have flaws, the biggest difference in this presidential campaign season is how American voters have changed.
The Republican and Democratic voters are more divided than ever, Madonna said, pointing to a recent national poll that suggested 70 percent of voters in each party had an unfavorable view of voters from the other party.
"As pollsters, we're having trouble finding anything the two parties agree on," he said.
This election is also unique, he said, because both major parties' presidential candidates are consistently polling with a larger percentage of unfavorable views than favorable.
Clinton was able to win the Democratic nomination, Madonna explained, by being the establishment's clear-cut choice and moving just far enough to the left to outlast Bernie Sanders in a primary election she was expected to win in a landslide.
Trump was able to win decisively over a large field of qualified Republican candidates by dominating media coverage and, early on, capturing a third of Republican voters who "didn't care what he said" because he was the most anti-establishment, Madonna said.
As a result, Madonna said most people polled in Pennsylvania are voting against the other party's candidate instead of for their party's candidate.
"It's about the lesser of two evils," he said.
Problems: Clinton's main problem, Madonna said, is her inability to relate to people.
"We've had controversial candidates before that people like," he said, pointing out that Bill Clinton was one of the most liked politicians in the country when he left office. "It goes back to that old saying of 'Who would you want to get a beer with?' ... She's just not likable."
Trump's biggest issue, he said, is that the Electoral College's structure currently favors Democrats, as Republicans must win a majority of battleground states to get to the necessary 270 votes.
Madonna said Trump has appeared to target Pennsylvania, Ohio and Florida. He believes that if Trump wins Pennsylvania, which Madonna called the most Democratic of the three, he will win the other two and the presidency.
Down-ballot races: Attendees of the forum, which was co-hosted by the Pennsylvania Economy League and the York County Economic Alliance at the Yorktowne Hotel, asked Madonna questions about the election's long-term impact and effect on down-ballot candidates.
Madonna said, long-term, he wouldn't be surprised to see the anti-establishment Republicans break off into a third party.
On the down-ballot question, he said that because of the polarizing nature of this presidential election, many candidates could ride the coattails of their party's candidate to a win.
Madonna pointed to the U.S. Senate race in the state between Democrat Katie McGinty and Republican incumbent Pat Toomey.
"When Hillary takes a big lead (in Pennsylvania), McGinty has also," he said. "I think if one of the presidential candidates carries a state by more than six points, it will be hard for an opposing party's candidate to win (down-ballot)."
Franklin & Marshall College's most recent poll, released Sept. 1, has Clinton up 7 percentage points over Trump in the state.