NEW YORK: Perhaps the only guarantee in Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump’s epic fight for the White House is that Americans will get their first New Yorker president since World War II.
On a likely freezing Jan. 20, 2017 either the adopted daughter who served twice as state senator or the Queens-born, Manhattan billionaire will be sworn in as the 45th president of the United States.
Their campaign is the first time in 72 years that two New Yorkers are facing off in a US general election since Franklin D. Roosevelt defeated then Republican governor of New York, Thomas Dewey, in 1944.
Clinton and Trump are two extraordinarily different personalities who once socialized together but are now political enemies. Yet both come from the same place in a country that straddles four time zones.
New York’s pulling power is one answer.
“New York attracts very aggressive, high quality, high performing individuals,” says Sharyn O’Halloran, professor of political economy and international and public affairs at Columbia University.
“Sometimes you’ve got to have that oomph that only a New Yorker can bring,” joked Will Liu, a 30-year-old working in finance who took his husband to celebrate Clinton clinching the Democratic nomination. “I know that if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere.”
Diversity might be another reason. New York is the largest city in the country, where more than 200 languages are spoken and nearly 35 percent of the 8.55 million residents were born overseas.
Clinton, who launched her historic bid to become America’s first woman commander-in-chief from the FDR memorial in New York, exemplifies the affluent, intellectual Democratic elite in the state.
Born in Illinois and an Ivy League-educated lawyer, New York elected her twice to the US Senate, allowing her to escape her husband’s shadow after serving as first lady in the White House and first lady in Arkansas.
Trump on the other hand comes from the cutthroat world of Manhattan real estate, a celebrity and former reality TV star whose messy divorces and outlandish opinions were tabloid fodder.
Far removed from Republicans in the southwest, Trump can be considered a monied, northeastern Republican—fairly liberal on social issues and conservative on economic issues, O’Halloran says.
But while Clinton has a New York constituency, Trump does not. His skyscrapers may dot the city, but in the Republican primary he lost Manhattan to his moderate rival John Kasich.
Instead he speaks for white, often working class Republicans who feel disenfranchised and fed up. He has pockets of support upstate, but New York as a whole has been Democrat for more than 30 years.
The state has twice as many registered Democrat voters as Republicans, but does have conservative counties that prevent an extreme Democrat from winning—which helped Clinton hone her electoral skills.
“To win a position in state politics in New York you have to be able to go across the lines to really win and that’s an important exercise for a potential presidential candidate,” O’Halloran told Agence France-Presse.
Nationally, New York is an important source of donations to political campaigns and influential as the capital of a largely liberal media.
If Trump pulls off what much of the world regards as the unthinkable and wins on November 8, he will also become the first president born in the city since Theodore Roosevelt took power in 1901.
Theodore, incidentally the name of Trump’s newest grandson, was also larger than life and lavishly wealthy. But while Trump would be the oldest elected president at age 70, Theodore was the youngest.
Stephen Hess, senior fellow in governance studies at the Brookings Institute, says Clinton and Trump’s hometown is trifling at best.
“It doesn’t really mean anything,” he told AFP. What’s more important, he said, is Clinton being the first major party female nominee and Trump an unusual party nominee with no prior background in politics. “They are unusual candidates in that regard, but the fact that both happen to come from New York is almost a fluke.”