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Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a primary night news conference, Tuesday, May 3, 2016, in New York. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

Democrats faced the 1972 presidential election with foreboding when it soon became clear that their nominee, South Dakota Sen. George McGovern, was doomed to defeat in Richard Nixon's bid for re-election. But that pessimism was nothing compared to many Republicans' dread now that Donald Trump is their party's presumptive nominee.

The claim that this year's campaign is uncharted territory for voters is a cliche, albeit an ominous one. It is apparent the November contest will pit Trump against Hillary Clinton, candidates with enough baggage between them to keep a regiment of porters busy. A landslide victory by either is unlikely but the only certainty that governs presidential elections is uncertainty.

Both Trump and Clinton are flawed individuals (as are we all) but in different ways.

Clinton is a former secretary of state, and Republicans long ago began mining her years in that post for information to use against her. Did Clinton make mistakes during her tenure? Sure. But if her critics think the Benghazi and email controversies will pave a road to victory, they will find that most Americans are more concerned about issues that affect them directly. Jobs, for instance.

In November, Huffington Post reported that GOP debate candidates could not answer a key question from Wall Street Journal Editor Gerard Baker. He noted that in the Obama years the U.S. has added 170,000 jobs a month, compared with 240,000 a month under President Clinton — and under George W. Bush, only 13,000 a month. As moderator, Baker reasonably asked, "How are you going to respond to the claim that Democratic presidents are better at creating jobs than Republicans?" How indeed.

Trump's problem is mostly of his own making and, it could be argued, of the GOP hierarchy itself since 2012.

He consistently insulted not just his opponents but entire blocs of voters, notably women and Latinos. OK, insulting the former is the political equivalent of a venial sin. But when your party is trying to regain the votes of major voter demographics, the sin becomes politically deadly. Clinton's opposition researchers are no doubt reveling in the rich feast of "Donaldisms" that will fuel a lot of campaign ads.

As for the GOP itself, look no further back than 2013. After Mitt Romney's loss, party chairman Reince Priebus ordered an "autopsy" intended to identify why the party lost and how it could win in 2016. That did not go well.

Researchers for Priebus's proposal cited a major flaw in the losing campaign even a novice political scientist could have spotted immediately. They concluded that the party needed to reach out to women, blacks, Latinos, young people and gays — the voter blocs who largely rejected Romney. The proposal died for lack of political sustenance, due either to procrastination or a cynical conclusion that most voters would share the party's anti-Obama animus and vote Republican. What could go wrong?

Many party members' response: a lot. One political consultant posted a video showing him burning his Republican registration. Another announced his intention to vote for Clinton. Countless others repulsed by Trump's embrace of vituperation, and cynical about his current effort at self-rehabilitation, have said that rather than voting for Clinton, they'll simply stay home on election day.

Were they still alive today, my faithfully Republican parents would be among the latter. Where they are now, however, they are surely unconcerned about politics.

Michael Loftin is the former editorial page editor of The Chattanooga Times.

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