Can Clinton or Trump be stopped?Bottom Highlights, Politically Aware Thursday, March 3rd, 2016
Commentary: Politically Aware
In February, the presidential primary process crept from Iowa to New Hampshire to Nevada to South Carolina. March 1 the election went national, with 12 states choosing their nominee for at least one party on “Super Tuesday.” By Wednesday morning, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and businessman Donald Trump were the clear frontrunners for the Democratic and Republican nominations.
The Math: 4,763 total delegates. 2,382 needed to win. Clinton 576. Sanders 386. (Estimates from RealClearPolitics.com)
Super Tuesday: A dominating win for Clinton. She won seven of eleven states, including the five largest. She won more delegates. She even won the expectations game by beating Sen. Bernie Sanders in Massachusetts, preventing him from winning the five states he said would keep the overall election close.
What’s next? President Obama beat Hillary Clinton in 2008 in part by mastering the accumulation of the delegates, and Team Clinton clearly took notes. While there are more than enough delegates still available for Sanders to catch her, the fact that they are awarded in proportion to the popular vote of each state makes a 200 delegate deficit “-uge.” Clinton also leads in “super-delegates” – party leaders who aren’t elected in the primaries. It’s unlikely the super-delegates would overturn the results of the popular election, but Clinton can add them to make her lead seem insurmountable (currently 1,033 to 408).
At this point, the only things that can stop Clinton are herself, by way of a complete meltdown, or her past, by way of an email server indictment. Sanders will have the money to keep going for quite a while, but expect Clinton to start fighting Trump and mending fences with Sanders to woo his voters.
The Math: 2,472 total delegates. 1,237 needed to win. Trump 316. Cruz 226. Rubio 106. Kasich 25. Carson 8.
Super Tuesday: Short of sweeping all 11 states, things went about as well as they could for Trump. He won seven states, and his opposition was splintered, with Sen. Ted Cruz winning three states and Sen. Marco Rubio winning one. Even the silver medals were spread around, with Cruz, Rubio and Gov. John Kasich (and Trump) all with second place finishes. Trump’s lead is numerically smaller than Clinton’s, but it may be equally difficult to overcome.
What’s next? Any one of the other candidates might be able to stop Trump head to head, but each of the remaining candidates has an argument for staying in the race. Cruz has won more states than anyone but Trump and is second in the delegate count. Rubio’s victory in Minnesota neutralized the “he hasn’t won anywhere” attack, and with the support of the remaining party establishment, he will claim the right to stay in the race until his home state of Florida votes. Kasich managed Super Tuesday expectations so well that his second place finishes look good, and will claim that his home state of Ohio can launch him to resounding victories in the delegate rich Midwest.
There are counter-arguments for each candidate. Cruz’s numbers are inflated by a win in his home state of Texas that he can’t replicate. Florida’s winner take all primary could help Rubio, but polls show him well behind Trump. Kasich is closer to Trump in Ohio polls, but is so far behind in delegates it would be almost impossible to catch up.
Anti-Trump Republicans are reportedly meeting this week to devise a way to defeat him, but Trump may well be the only candidate who can accumulate enough delegates to win the nomination outright, even if the field narrows. The others are hoping to keep Trump below the 1,237 delegate threshold so they can throw him support in return for the vice presidency or ride the chaos of a contested convention to the nomination.
There hasn’t been a relevant third party or independent presidential candidate since 2000, when Ralph Nader arguably cost Vice President Al Gore a victory in Florida and the presidency. In 2016, there are at least three looming scenarios for independent presidential bids.
Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a billionaire independent, has expressed an interest in running, but only if he can win. His best opening would be as a moderate in a race between Sanders and Trump, and he would probably need to decide by March to be on the ballot in all fifty states. The more inevitable Clinton looks, the less likely Bloomberg is to run.
Trump signed a pledge to support the Republican nominee, but left himself an out: if treated “unfairly,” he would consider an independent bid. If Trump has the most delegates and is denied the nomination, he’ll at least threaten a third party bid. By that time it will be hard to get on most state ballots, but Trump would be thrilled to play spoiler in such a scenario.
Party leaders fear that nominating Trump could cost them their Senate, and possible House, majorities. If Trump wins, Republicans could run a “third party” moderate that down ballot candidates can endorse to distance themselves from Trump, but they will run into the same late ballot access problems. They only do it if they want Clinton to beat Trump.
For now, expect Clinton vs. Trump +/- another Republican. Once that’s settled, let the VP speculation begin!
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