Democrat Hillary Clinton’s brief absence from the campaign trail because of illness accidentally exposed something essential about the comparative state of the major parties.
Despite Clinton’s history of insularity, sidestepping, apologies and baggage, she maintains institutional advantages that would make it all the more remarkable if Donald Trump defeats her Nov. 8.
Her party controls the White House. Her party’s office holders and operatives appear mobilized behind her. A lot has been said about the erosion of party loyalty among voters, but the parties still dominate elections.
President Barack Obama, top Democrat, campaigned in Clinton’s place.
Clinton’s team also includes ex-president Bill Clinton, first lady Michelle Obama and Vice President Joe Biden. For a ground game, she has troops in swing states. For TV, she has many millions of dollars in campaign and super PAC funds, cushioning any lack of a physical presence.
Trump follows a different partisan path. He’s the whole show.
In the right-wing Daily Caller last week, consultant Keith Naughton made a salient point.
“All presidential campaigns have some personality cult to them — support from ultra-loyalists for whom the candidate can do no wrong,” he wrote. “In this campaign, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are polar opposites.
“While Trump has spent a lifetime building a personality cult, Clinton is a collection of interests.”
It would be easy to guess which candidate can better afford to be sidelined.
News items last week illustrated the underlying differences.
CNN reported that Republican donors were “worried” before the latest polls that Trump could endanger GOP House seats. So they poured big money into a super PAC aligned with House Speaker Paul Ryan.
It is no secret that even as they share a ticket, Ryan & Co. and Trump will carry mutual suspicion and separate goals into Election Day.
Clinton, though, has long enjoyed fidelity from the operatives who run her party — which vexed Bernie Sanders’ primary supporters.
Newly surfaced emails show how Clinton and the supposedly neutral Democratic National Committee coordinated efforts as far back as June 2015.
Revealed by mystery hacker Guccifer 2.0, one of the emails suggested strategic contact between Kelly Ward, executive director of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, and Robby Mook, Clinton’s campaign manager.
Compare that to the Republican fracture showed by hacked emails from former GOP Secretary of State Colin Powell. In them he calls Trump a “national disgrace” and an “international pariah” — not a rare notion inside the party.
In the end, the health and unity of the parties may count more than the medical reports on the candidates.