The real winners and losers so far in the 2016 campaign

Approval ratings for President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama are soaring.
Approval ratings for President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama are soaring. The Associated Press

Elections are about choices. This year, they’re clear ones: Democrat vs. Republican. Female vs. male. Global/national. Inclusion/white privilege. Facts/conspiracies. Russian hackers/hot mikes.

But elections also are about winners and losers. And though predictions are risky, some victors and vanquished are already emerging. Here is a look at who’s up and down so far in 2016.

Barack and Michelle Obama. Forget the years of racist birther-ism and congressional obstruction. Compared to Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, the president and first lady are having a banner year. His approval ratings, which for most of his tenure hovered below 50 percent – though not as far below as George W. Bush’s – now rival those of Dwight Eisenhower and Ronald Reagan. Hers are even better. “When they go low, we go high,” as she put it in that amazing speech.

Megyn Kelly. Some journalists rise to stardom as war correspondents. Kelly just declared war – on sexist men. The Fox News anchor called Trump out in the primary for the misogyny that should be his undoing. Then her internal testimony to Fox higher-ups helped usher her boss Roger Ailes out the door amid charges of sexual harassment.

When former House Speaker Newt Gingrich sneered last week that she was “fascinated with sex” for daring to mention Trump’s sexual assault problems, she told Gingrich to go work on his “anger issues.” Cue wild applause from women all over the planet. Now she reportedly is demanding pay equity with Bill O’Reilly at Fox News.

Breitbart News. Once Breitbart and the “alt-right” were shorthand for “mean internet crackpots.” Now serious people are talking about their potential to anchor a right-wing populist political party and network. Though Trump’s popularity has tanked since Steve Bannon, Breitbart’s executive chairman, became his campaign manager in August, his 14 million-voter base is ample by cable standards. Stay tuned on Election Day.

Republican National Committee. Whatever the GOP used to be or aspired to become, Trump’s ascendance has wrecked it. That’s the conventional wisdom, and so far, nothing in this election has proved it wrong. Never mind the 2012 “audit” warning of Republicans’ dire need to reach out to minorities and women. Four years later, the party of Lincoln is controlled by a white, male, nativist rump group – and in blue states like California, Republicans are becoming an endangered species. That’s too bad. California needs more than one healthy party, and so, for that matter, does the rest of the country. Pity the GOP establishment.

Trump Nation. Talk about a sucker being born every minute. It’s tragic, the way America’s white working class has been demagogued in 2016.

Real challenges face this nation’s middle class, from shifting demography to global economics, and their frustrated hopes have been palpable in every Trump rally. But their candidate offers thin policy prescriptions, and now he’s priming them for potential violence with talk of a “rigged” election.

Watching Trump defraud his base – and witnessing the likes of Rep. Tom McClintock and former Rep. Doug Ose happily carry his water – has been among the more appalling spectacles of this campaign.

Email. Anyone who doesn’t know that the E is for Evidence has been under a rock this year. Pro tip from the Clinton campaign: Never put anything into an email that you wouldn’t want to see posted on WikiLeaks, read on the national news or investigated by the FBI.

Also? Don’t mix work and personal email. And if you have friends like Anthony Weiner – actually, stop having friends like Anthony Weiner. And Doug Band. And Cheryl Mills. And any number of other political hangers-on whose correspondence – days before Nov. 8 – is now attached, ickily, to a presidential nominee.

Us. Hackers, crotch grabbing, FBI investigations, slurs against immigrants, women and Muslims – never has an election reflected more poorly on Americans. Whether we are really this anxious, or whether it is just taking some of us this long to get over the fact that white men don’t have a lock on the Oval Office, the ugly behavior around this campaign has made us all losers. Let’s do better in 2020. Please.