So more primaries yesterday. Clinton won at least four. As of this morning, she’s also leading in Missouri but it’s too close to call for sure. Kasich won Ohio, but Trump won three states, including Florida and is currently 0.2% ahead in Missouri. Depending on how the delegates shake out, Trump could be on the path to a clear majority in the delegates, which would give him the nomination outright. Projections now have him at 691, just a shade below the 700 he needs to be on track for majority.
After losing Florida, Rubio dropped out and gave a speech that was a reminder of why he was the candidate the Democrats feared most. With Rubio out, Cruz is now the clear NotTrump. But it may be too little, too late. Rubio and Kasich split off enough of the vote for Trump to win several states. Unless Cruz really starts surging, it won’t make a difference.
It’s not over yet. Arizona and Utah are next. Arizona is a closed primary and Trump had not done as well in closed primaries. Utah is a caucus and Trump’s support among Mormons is very low. You then have a bunch of contests stretching into May, including New York (where Trump should clean up) and Pennsylvania (a closed winner-take all primary). But, if Cruz starts winning some states, I suspect this will go down to California with its closed winner-take all 172 delegates on June 7. That will be the final battleground to stop Trump.
So yeah, we may have another three months of this. And then, maybe, another two months while we slug out the convention. Of course, even then, Trump will probably still have a plurality of delegates. And if he’s denied the nomination, it could get ugly.
Hold on to your britches, folks. It’s not over yet.
One of the many reasons Trump is winning? This one.
Last night we had another early primary, this time in New Hampshire. It went pretty much as the polls predicted. On the Republican side, Trump won, Kasich came in second and Rubio a surprisingly distant fifth. Sanders beat Clinton handily.
A few points:
It tells you a lot about the Democratic Party that Sanders walloped Clinton, beat her by twenty points. And yet Clinton actually won more delegates, according to CNN. The reason is that New Hampshire has eight “superdelegates” — party bigwigs who will vote with the establishment. In 2008, you may remember that the superdelegates became a big deal. For a while, it looked like Clinton would lose the primary vote but win the nomination due to the superdelegates. It will be interesting to see if that dynamic plays out again. I predict a rebellion at the convention if Clinton wins because she locked up the party establishment early. Sanders still trails nationally so I still expect Clinton to win outright. But the gap is closing, as you can tell by the increasingly desperate cries of the Clinton supporters (e.g., Steinem and Albright castigating young women for supporting Sanders).
If the GOP doesn’t get their act together, there’s a very good chance Trump will be the nominee and a very good chance Clinton will be the next President. Last night’s tally was a paradigm of everything going on right now. Trump only got a third of the vote. His negatives among GOP voters are actually very high. But the difference is that the faction supporting Trump are supporting Trump. The non-trump vote is divided among seven different candidates. So Trump walked away with the state and nine of its twelve delegates while getting less of the vote than Clinton did.
So who is the non-Trump candidate? Rubio was supposed to be surging. He finished fifth. Was it the gaffe at the debate? Everyone is claiming it was and I’m happy to eat some crow on that. But we tend to get too wedded to narratives in political season. Throughout this election cycle, Rubio has always been the candidate of tomorrow and tomorrow never seems to come. He may just not be that good a candidate, debate gaffe or no debate gaffe.
Kasich finished second but that’s because he bet everything on New Hampshire. He has minimal national presence and will almost certainly be finished by Super Tuesday.
It’s time for Fiorina to drop out. She’s going nowhere. It’s also time for Christie to drop out. I like the big guy and think he’d be a formidable national candidate, potentially swiping blue states from the Democrats. But New Hampshire was supposed to be his big breakthrough and it wasn’t. I also think it’s time for Carson to drop out. Carson is a nice man but he’s not happening.
That would leave us with a field of Trump, Kasich, Cruz, Bush and Rubio. It would free up 15% of the vote and give a Trump alternative a real chance to emerge. Will the GOP man up? Will the non-candidates drop out? On such decisions will the fate of the 2016 election turn.
Well, take is perhaps a generous word. Bernie Sanders finished the night neck-and-neck with Clinton. Clinton will win slightly more delegates (based partly on winning six straight coin flips). But this is a big blow. A large part of Clinton’s campaign has been, essentially, “This is happening. Stop squirming.” Sanders’ tie disrupts that narrative. He’s likely to win New Hampshire going away. But I think he will have a problem winning Super Tuesday. In the end, this is still Clinton’s nomination to lose.
So why did Bernie win? Two reasons, I think. One, Clinton is a lousy candidate, as I’ve noted many times. This is the third time she’s been handed an election on a silver platter and blown it. But second, Bernie is … and I hate to say this … running a very enjoyable campaign. He’s positive, he’s refusing to mudsling and he’s running impressive patriotic ads. I still disagree with every iota of his economic policy. But I can see why a lot of Democrats are supporting him.
On the Republican side, Cruz won by several percentage points, with Rubio placing a surprisingly strong third. Trump’s numbers plunged in the last week. That might be because he skipped the debate. But it also might be because people are getting serious about voting. And I’ve said many times, the Republican Party may flirt with crazy. They may get in the backseat of a car with it and unhook its bra. But in the end, they will go with a nice sensible candidate they can take home to meet their mother.
Trump’s campaign has also been built a lot on his inevitability. And he still hold big leads nationally and in the upcoming primary states. Iowa is, at best, a shaky predictor of Presidential elections. But this is a sign that Trump is not inevitable.
PS – Oh, Huckabee and O’Malley dropped out. I note that just in case you forgot they were running.
Update: Lee loved this Downfall parody when Clinton’s 2008 nomination went up in flames. I still find it hilarious. I think Clinton is still going to win. But I imagine something like this played out in Clinton HQ last night.