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Former White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer: Trump's Chances of Winning "Extraordinarily Slim"

Scott Willis

Former White House spokesperson Ari Fleischer was in Syracuse Tuesday where he offered his unique perspective on the presidential race.  Fleischer was also a campaign spokesperson for candidate George W. Bush leading up to the contested 2000 election.   He says this probably isn’t the ugliest cycle in political history, but it certainly does stand out. 

"What you have this cycle, which you've never had before, is the most unpopular person in politics running against the second most unpopular person in politics," Fleischer said.  "That's why it feels so bad.  Voters want to be inspired, they want to have people they can look up to.  And, when they look at the top two, there's nobody they really look up to anymore."

As a Republican, Fleischer says he can’t look up to Donald Trump, who’s chances of winning he says are extraordinarily slim in what should be a very winnable race for the GOP.  Instead, Fleischer says Trump has resorted to making statements questioning the integrity of the nation’s elections.

"In an extraordinarily close race like the 2000 race, it's entirely legitimate for both sides to try to wage a contest to win those remaining close votes.  I get that," Fleischer said.  "But to say in advance of the election that the entire system is rigged...I just think that's dangerous.  That's not our country.  Our country is better than that."

Fleischer says the other unusual dynamic of this already unconventional presidential campaign is neither candidate is likely to have any impact on down-ballot races for congress or senate.

"Whoever wins, if Hillary wins by 5 or 6 points,  she doesn't have any coattails, bringing other candidates into office," Fleischer said.  "There's such a separation between who Donald Trump is and who the regular republican party is, that people don't seem to be voting 'throw them all out, they're all like Trump.'  People get it that the candidates in Upstate New York are different from Donald Trump in temperament, appearance, and policy."

Credit U.S. National Archives
President George W. Bush speaks to press secretary Ari Fleischer, left, and Karl Rove on Air Force One on September 11, 2001. Fleischer was White House Spokesperson from 2001 to 2003.

For that reason and more, Fleischer says if Hillary Clinton wins, she’ll have a terrible time re-uniting the country.  He says she’ll have to race back to the political center to be successful.

"She has jettisoned virtually all the policies of her husband, and she had to get to the left of Bernie Sanders to win the primary," Fleischer said.  "So, we have seldom had such a liberal left-wing candidate as we have in Hillary Clinton , particularly with the policies she's taken, to the point that she's repudiated previous stands that she took just 18 months ago."

And what will happen to the Republican party if Trump doesn’t win?

"If he returns to 5th Aveneue and goes back to business, the party will start to naturally reset after a pretty bad reign of terror when people turned on each other,"  Fleischer said.  "It will iron out over time.  If Donald Trump stays deeply involved in politics in a public way, the party will remain fractured."

If Clinton wins, Fleischer predicts nothing will change, and that there will be four more years of the same inaction.

Fleischer was the keynote speaker at Syracuse I-day, the region’s largest insurance trade show.  He spent 21 years in Washington before starting a communications strategy company.

Scott Willis covers politics, local government, transportation, and arts and culture for WAER. He came to Syracuse from Detroit in 2001, where he began his career in radio as an intern and freelance reporter. Scott is honored and privileged to bring the day’s news and in-depth feature reporting to WAER’s dedicated and generous listeners. You can find him on twitter @swillisWAER and email him at