Wednesday, March 16, 2016

What have we learned?

or, how does the "Dumb Uncle" vote stack up in a General Election?

Another Tuesday chock full of primaries plus two this past weekend leaves us with a clearer indication of what is going on in this election cycle.  John Kasich proved he could defend his home turf, while Marco Rubio showed he could not.  As a result, another GOP presidential candidate bites the dust with more calls for unity in the party coming from both the Trump and Cruz camps.

The Republican establishment has yet to give in completely, although Reince Priebus has stated once again that the party will back whoever wins the nomination.  Given the low scores Politifact gives these candidates, Reince may be putting a little too much faith in them to believe they will actually keep their pledge.  Already, we see a groundswell emerging to run an alternative conservative candidate on the November ballot if Trump is the Republican nominee.

John Kasich still has an outside chance at the nomination, much to Erick Erickson's chagrin, who has put his faith in Ted Cruz.  Erickson doesn't even want to see Kasich as VP, which would help unite the party assuming Kasich would be willing to join Trump on the ticket.  After all the disparaging remarks this past week, John would probably be content to serve out his term as Ohio governor.

Erickson is one of the leading figures behind the Tea Party and wants to see Ted at the top of the ticket, but that is looking less and less likely.  Ted stands to gain either way from the convention as Trump's or possibly Kasich's running mate, as he has the broadest appeal in the GOP, and has racked up quite a few states on the campaign trail.  It is doubtful he would mount an independent run at Erick's behest.

Kasich's victory in Ohio and Ted's strong showings in Illinois, Missouri and North Carolina show that Trump hasn't wrapped up the nomination yet.  He is only half way to the magic number of delegates.  While a great number of the remaining primaries are winner-take-all, we will probably see Cruz and Kasich focus on states they think they can win rather than go at each other and diminish their chances against Trump.

Kasich walloped Trump in Ohio, which means he has a fairly good chance in neighboring Pennsylvania and Indiana.  Cruz is doing very well in the West and Midwest where he could score wins in a handful of states.  This will most likely keep Trump from attaining the outright majority of delegates, leaving the nomination to be decided at the convention in July.

Oddly enough, the Republicans didn't adopt this strategy sooner.  For instance, it would have been in the GOP's best interest if Kasich and Cruz had ceded Florida to Rubio, who might have pulled out the state if not these two accounted for 24 per cent of the vote.  Neither had a chance of winning the state.  This would have denied Trump 99 delegates in the winner-take-all state.  Similarly, Trump may get all 52 Missouri delegates if he holds onto a 0.2 percentage point lead.  He also walked away with all the Illinois delegates despite a narrow win in that state.  The winner-take-all system was set up to favor establishment candidates, but with the vote split like it is, Trump has been the beneficiary in a number of states, thanks to his devoted fan base.

Yet, the Republican Party still believes it can hold itself together despite the chaos Trump has created.  I suppose if you can't beat him, join him, which means a lot of Republican leaders will have a very tough decision to make come July.  Trump claims to have given the GOP new blood with all the new voters he has turned out in primaries, but this is no guarantee of victory in November.  In fact, a Trump candidacy will most likely generate an equal if not greater opposing force, as many Hispanics are seeking citizenship and registering to vote against him.  He has alienated so many persons in his hyperbolic stump speeches that it is fair to say a big turnout in November would very much work against him.  Trump is not the type of person to concede such polls, pointing to ones of his own that affirm his overwhelming popularity.

Trump's great strength to this point has been his ability to project a relatively small voter sampling on the majority.  However, his numbers simply don't add up to a popular groundswell.  His support is very limited, and not likely to result in a great deal of crossover support in a general election.  Something the GOP establishment knows very well.   Are they willing to concede defeat in the presidential race and focus their resources on Congressional and state elections, hoping to maintain the majority here?  However, this strategy took a big hit when Paul Ryan was unable to summon the numbers to pass a Congressional budget.  The forces shaping this political year are clearly not working in the GOP's favor.

The Democrats have steered clear of the maelstrom for the most part.  Hillary has all but iced her nomination by defeating Bernie in all the primaries yesterday. Bernie made it close in Illinois and Missouri, but was walloped in Florida, Ohio and North Carolina.  There will be little problem establishing unity at the Democratic convention in July.  Both candidates have pledged to support each other in the general election, and it is highly unlikely Bernie would pull back on that support, especially with Hillary already adopting many of his key issues.

Their problem is more about generating enthusiasm.  Voter turnout in the Democratic primaries has been much lower than it was in 2008 despite the energy Bernie's campaign has shown.  However, this is largely due to the overblown media coverage the Republican primaries have gotten.  The general election will be an all new ball game.

This badly needed reset will cast a new searchlight on the candidates.  Assuming Trump to be the GOP nominee, he won't be able to get away with the tactics he has employed to date.  The Republicans can't go after Hillary much more than they have done already.  It will be Donald who finds himself facing much more scrutiny, as he will be forced to explain his numerous malfeasances, disclose his tax returns, and offer actual plans to deal with immigration and national security, which he has made the cornerstone of his campaign.   There's also that secret plan to destroy ISIS he hinted at last year.

His naive statements will not go over as well among a much broader electorate.  Stephen Colbert described Trump as "your dumb uncle who only knows what's on the Internet."  This is fine among a narrow base, but how do you convince 60 million people that this is enough to be elected Commander-in-Chief?  It seems Trump and the GOP are counting on a "yuge" anti-Hillary vote that will support whoever runs against her.  However, Trump has a far greater discrepancy in favorability ratings, -33%, than does Hillary, -8 per cent.

Very few persons like the way this election cycle has turned out.  It feels like we got shortchanged, especially on the Democratic side, where we only had two candidates to choose from.  Hillary is largely to blame for this by holding out to the last minute in announcing her candidacy, thereby discouraging other potential candidates to run.  Bernie seemed to throw his hat into the ring as a lark, then realized there were a great many Democrats hungry for an alternative candidate.  One could say the same for Trump on the Republican side.  I doubt he thought he would garner this much support when he descended that escalator back in June, 2015, but here he is now eyeing the ultimate prize.

The Republicans still have a chance to reject Trump if they run a concerted effort against him in the remaining primaries.  Hillary has all  but sewn up the nomination, with Bernie essentially keeping her honest. At this point, I think the two will focus their energy on the enormous differences between what they represent and what the Republicans represent.  One is a vision of the future.  The other a highly charged contrarian view to everything that has taken place the past 50 years -- the "dumb uncle" vision, if you will.  It's pretty easy to see which will win in November.

1 comment:

  1. According to the "Dumb Uncle" there will be riots in the streets if he is not nominated,

    I suppose this is a thinly veiled threat to the GOP establishment that it better go with the "voice of the people" or face his wrath. He tried this similar tactic on donors, who were leaning toward Rubio when Jeb dropped out, and now wants the same donors to think twice before fueling a final stretch drive by Kasich, who threatens Donald in a number of states, including New Jersey where the real estate mogul is not so popular given what has transpired in Atlantic City. Whatever the case, the Donald has no clear path to the nomination. He will most likely fall short of the delegates needed to carry his nomination on the first ballot. At that point, anyone can be nominated, even Paul Ryan,