Barring the Unprecedented, It’s Clinton vs. Trump

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Photo (unmodified) by Gage Skidmore used under a Creative Commons license. http://bit.ly/1jxQJMa

On Tuesday night, Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton managed to sweep all 5 primary contests in an astonishing turn of events that has left her challenger, Senator Bernie Sanders, with an even narrower path to the party nomination.

The former Secretary of State now maintains an over 300 pledged delegate lead over Sanders – a gap that is likely to prove unsurmountable. Despite this deficit, the Vermont senator is continuing to reiterate his intention to take his campaign all the way to the convention in July.

With the upcoming states looking to be more friendly to Sanders, the campaign’s chief strategists have hit the airwaves detailing their plan to steal the nomination from the now undisputed frontrunner Clinton. Sanders’ strategy involves winning huge victories in states from Arizona through California and then convincing a number of superdelegates to change their loyalty from Clinton to his own camp.

In order to clinch the nomination before the convention, Sanders would have to win a whopping 66% of the remaining delegates. Clinton, on the other hand, only needs to garner 33% of delegates from the outstanding primary contests. This daunting delegate math for Sanders has led many in the Democratic Party to all but declare Clinton the nominee.

Some outlets have even reported that President Barack Obama is privately urging donors and establishment members to coalesce around Clinton, without specifically stating that Sanders should suspend his campaign. Clinton’s increasing lead among pledged delegates allows the Democratic establishment to start focusing its resources on the upcoming general election.

On the Republican side, Donald Trump was able to win Florida and force Senator Marco Rubio to end his presidential bid. The Sunshine State was a must win for the home state senator whose loss reflects his unpopularity in the state as well as Trump’s dominance.

Ohio Governor John Kasich was able to stave off Trump in his home state, giving him a reason to stay in the race for the time being. Despite Kasich’s victory, it is statistically impossible for him to clinch the nomination before the Republican convention. Kasich seems to be banking on the possibility of an open convention where he could be part of a so-called “unity ticket” between he and Senator Ted Cruz, which could deprive Trump of the nomination.

Going forward, the race for the Republican nomination will hinge on whether Trump can earn enough of the delegates to reach a majority. In order to do so, Trump would have to win about 54% of the outstanding delegates – something that he is arguably on track to do. Cruz, for his part, has received the backing of the “never Trump” movement of the GOP establishment. Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican nominee, went so far as to state that he intends to vote for Cruz in the forthcoming Utah contest.

Who would have thought? The notion of the establishment lining up behind Ted Cruz is certainly not something that would have been predicted at any point by any logical person. This is only the latest in a series of surprising occurrences that have constituted the 2016 presidential election. What happens next is anyone’s guess.

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Bernie’s Delegate Problem

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Photo (unmodified) by Evan Guest used under a Creative Commons license. http://bit.ly/1ryPA8o

Last week, Democratic presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont pulled off a huge upset in Michigan as he defeated former Secretary of State and party frontrunner Hillary Clinton – by 2%. Yes, the polls forecasted at least a double digit victory in the Wolverine State, but at the end of the day Secretary Clinton actually ended up with the most of what really matters at this point – delegates. With her landslide victory in Mississippi, Clinton netted 24 delegates despite what was clearly a disappointing loss in Michigan for the candidate.

Looking ahead, it is going to be difficult for Senator Sanders to make up what is already a very sizable deficit between the two candidates’ accumulated pledged delegates. Clinton’s over 220 delegate lead, not even counting superdelegates, creates the type of gap that then Senator Barack Obama was never able to create in the 2008 Democratic primary when he was looking to put away Clinton. The rules of the Democratic primary state that pledged delegates are to be allocated proportionally. This has two effects.

First, it allows Senator Sanders to stay in the race as a viable candidate accumulating delegates even when it is obvious and even mathematically impossible for him to clinch the nomination. This allows him to keep rallying his supporters around his ideas and get his message out while pushing Clinton to the left (something he has arguably done quite effectively).

Proportional allocation also creates a situation where it becomes extremely difficult to fight back once a large pledged delegates deficit has been created. This phenomenon has already started working against Sanders. On Super Tuesday, where when voters in a number of Clinton-friendly southern states turned out in droves for her, she was able to open up what could turn out to be an insurmountable lead.

The Sanders campaign is banking on having a great showing in a string of largely white states that will follow Tuesday’s primaries in more diverse states such as Florida and Illinois, where Clinton is expected to be dominant. But even if he is able to win a lot of these states, proportional allocation will make it so that Clinton will still be garnering delegates and adding to her total.

Especially if Clinton has a good night on Tuesday, Sanders will have a very steep hill to climb as the nominating process gradually winds down. As he continues to campaign, Democrats will begin to turn their attention to the general election and who is increasingly likely to be none other than businessman Donald Trump as their opponent.

Ahead of Super Tuesday, a Bruising Two-Man Race Emerges for GOP Nomination

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Photo (unmodified) by Gage Skidmore used under a Creative Commons license. http://bit.ly/1jxQJMa

Since the most recent Republican presidential debate, where Senator Marco Rubio made it clear that he was setting his sights on his party’s frontrunner Donald Trump, the two have engaged in a bruising back-and-forth while emerging as the two top candidates.

As soon as the debate ended, it was apparent that Rubio and Trump were dead set on obstructing each other’s path to the nomination, at all costs. In an interview with CNN’s Chris Cuomo in the immediate aftermath of the fiery debate, Trump repeated his attacks on Rubio’s character and temperament. Rubio has since developed a piercing line of attack where he has called Trump a “con man” who is attempting to hoodwink the Republican electorate into believing that he is a true conservative for whom they should cast their vote.

We not only have a fight between two candidates on our hands, but we are also witnessing the wrangling between the wings within the GOP. Rubio and Trump are representatives of the two major factions of the Republican Party, the establishment wing and the outsider wing, respectively. As a result, the other major candidate in the race, Texas Senator Ted Cruz, has taken a backseat as Rubio and Trump launch attacks at each other.

The brawl between Rubio and Trump became inevitable as soon as the Florida senator placed second in both the South Carolina and Nevada primary races. Trump, who has essentially been the frontrunner for his party’s nomination since June, naturally has set his sights on his new closest competitor.

In terms of the delegate fight, which begins in earnest on Tuesday, it appears Cruz will struggle to garner enough delegates to keep him competitive through March. It is quite possible, and probably likely, that Cruz will come out of Super Tuesday with just one state to show for – his home state of Texas. Although the state boasts a trove of delegates, it simply will not be enough to claim even a moral victory.

If Trump sweeps all or the vast majority of the states tomorrow, the rest of the candidates will no doubt be compelled to reevaluate the strategies, and in some cases, the viability of their campaigns.

Those who have been waiting for the field to winnow down need not wait much longer, especially with the Super Tuesday contests occurring tomorrow, when a huge chunk of GOP delegates will be awarded and the fate of all candidates involved will become much clearer.

Trump’s Momentum Continues with a Landslide Victory in Nevada

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On Tuesday night, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump won the Nevada caucuses in a landslide, besting second-place finisher Senator Marco Rubio by over 20% of the vote. Coming off two solid victories in New Hampshire and South Carolina, the Trump campaign confidently rolled into Nevada, where the candidate’s message of angry dissatisfaction with the status-quo resonates well with a population still suffering from many effects of the Great Recession.

Last night marked the end of the first phase of the 2016 primary season. If the four early states give us any indication as to who will ultimately emerge as the party’s nominee, we can bet on seeing Trump facing off against Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton this November. After all, no Republican has ever lost the nomination following victories in New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada.

Trump’s success can be attributed to exceptional timing, a mastery of media manipulation, and a colorful personality. In a time where Republican voters have grown weary of 7 years of a Democratic president, Trump’s anti-establishment, Tea Party to-the-extreme, no-nonsense persona perfectly fits the needs of a GOP electorate that feels betrayed by its own party.

Looking forward, it becomes difficult to imagine realistic scenarios where Trump’s momentum comes to a halt. On next week’s Super Tuesday, also known as the SEC primary, Trump is expected to outperform his competitors in the mostly southern states. Not too long after, the race will move to winner-take-all states such as Florida on March 15th, where Trump can take advantage of an opportunity to snatch an overwhelming and perhaps insurmountable lead in the delegate race.

As it appears now, the only case in which Trump can be stopped would be if Senator Ted Cruz suspends his campaign, making the race essentially a showdown between the establishment candidate, Rubio, versus the outsider candidate Trump.

Super Tuesday will answer many of the outstanding questions regarding the state of the race going forward. For example: Can Trump really outperform Cruz in the southern states where Cruz has based his entire strategy on? Will Cruz drop out and endorse Trump? Can Cruz win his home state of Texas?

The next Republican debate is held on Thursday night and may provide some indications as to the strategies of the remaining candidates going forward. It will be particularly interesting to see if Rubio becomes the latest candidate to attack Trump, seeing as how he is his main obstacle to capturing the nomination. Perhaps he will give it a shot, or maybe he will look at what happened to the candidates who attempted that strategy and reconsider.

With Loss in Nevada, Sanders’ Path to Nomination Is Complicated

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Photo (unmodified) by Michael Vadon used under a Creative Commons license. http://bit.ly/1jxQJMa

On Saturday, Hillary Clinton won her first clean victory of the 2016 race for the Democratic presidential nomination. The former Secretary of State defeated Bernie Sanders by about a 6% margin while garnering 19 delegates to Sanders’ 15.

Nevada was the first test of the primary season for whether each of the two Democratic candidates could appeal to large numbers of people in minority communities, particularly Hispanics and African-Americans. Going into this campaign, Clinton, who has decades-deep ties with both communities, was expected to far outperform Sanders with these groups. However, the insurgent appeal of the Sanders candidacy led many – namely young millennial voters – to take a second look at the Vermont senator.

The Hispanic vote on Saturday has been claimed by both campaigns. CNN entrance polls suggest Sanders won this crucial group by an 8-point margin, however a spokesman for the Clinton campaign points to Clinton winning over 60% of the delegates in majority-Hispanic precincts.

Far more clear was Clinton’s wining 76% of Nevada’s African-American vote as opposed to Sanders’ 22%. While Sanders has gone to great lengths to court the black vote, his efforts have yielded only marginal gains. Especially looking forward the majority-black Democratic electorate of South Carolina, which votes this Saturday, it will be vital to both campaigns that they secure their share of this group’s vote.

With momentum being the respective candidates’ currency at this point in the race, it is hard to imagine how Sanders will be able to realistically claim that the wind is at his back after his disappointing loss in Nevada and expected trouncing in South Carolina. That being said, Sanders is looking forward. In his concession speech in Nevada, Sanders focused on Super Tuesday, the crucial date when nearly a fourth of the delegates to the national convention will be awarded.

However, with his loss in Nevada, Sanders’ path to the nomination has become far less straightforward. In order to garner the needed amount of delegates, it is imperative that Sanders outperform expectations in a number of Super Tuesday states, including Minnesota, Colorado, and Massachusetts. Sure, he can claim a moral victory by getting close to her in these contests, but eventually he will have to start earning more delegates than Clinton if he can actually upset the candidate who has once again become the party’s uncontested frontrunner.

Clinton Earns Des Moines Register’s Endorsement

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Photo (unmodified) by Gage Skidmore used under a Creative Commons license. http://bit.ly/1jxQJMa

Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton on Saturday evening received the coveted endorsement of Iowa’s most influential newspaper, The Des Moines Register.

With just over a week left until the February 1st Iowa caucuses, the endorsement is sure to come as welcome news to Clinton, who has been weathering a late surge in the Hawkeye State from her chief competitor, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders.

Sanders has registered within the margin the margin of error, and even lead Clinton, in recent Iowa polls.

While the endorsement may not change any Iowan’s minds, it is certain to give Clinton some much-needed positive news coverage, especially heading into the Sunday morning talk shows and CNN’s televised town hall featuring the Democratic candidates on Monday night.

On the Republican side, Florida Senator Marco Rubio was the recipient of the Register’s endorsement for the GOP nomination. Rubio is currently polling at a distant third place in Iowa, behind businessman Donald Trump and Texas Senator Ted Cruz.

Key Takeaways from Last Night’s GOP Debate

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Photo (unmodified) by IowaPolitics.com used under a Creative Commons license. http://bit.ly/1jxQJMa

The expectations were high for last night’s penultimate Republican presidential primary debate before the first votes of the election cycle are cast in the February 1st Iowa caucuses. With Senator Ted Cruz and businessman Donald Trump fighting for first place in Iowa, the first state to have its say in this primary, analysts predicted a fierce, personal battle between the two on the debate stage – that’s exactly what we got.

Here are some of the main takeaways from the South Carolina Republican debate:

1. The gloves are off in Ted Cruz vs. Donald Trump. As the polls are tightening, so is the tension between these two top tier candidates. Trump, as expected, was asked about his comments regarding the eligibility of Ted Cruz, who was born in Canada, for the presidency. Cruz shrugged off Trump’s statements as a non-issue, but it remains to be seen whether they will have any degree of salience among the Republican primary electorate.

Cruz, for his part, was confronted with his criticism of what he calls Trump’s “New York values”. Trump skillfully retorted with an invocation of the September 11th attacks, saying that Cruz’s statement was offensive. We should expect the battle between these two far right candidates to continue as long as Cruz remains a threat to Trump’s victory in the early states and beyond.

2. Marco Rubio is failing to stand out as the establishment favorite for the nomination. Although he had a modestly strong performance last night, Rubio’s responses to questions seemed canned and robotic in delivery. With so many other candidates vying for the establishment vote, namely John Kasich, Jeb Bush, and Chris Christie, Rubio is finding himself embroiled in a tight race for third place in Iowa and second place in New Hampshire.

A strong showing in either state could propel Rubio into the crucial states of South Carolina and Nevada as perhaps the chief opponent to Donald Trump. Rubio, who has repeatedly declared his intention to not seek re-election to his Senate seat if he fails to win the presidency, is seen by many as the Republicans’ best chance to defeat Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton in the general election.

3. The Republican primary is more about strength than it is about substance. Last night, Jeb Bush, who is today being endorsed by former candidate and South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, offered quite a bit of detailed policy positions but failed to accomplish much in terms of anything that would potentially broaden his base of support. Trump, on the other hand, had arguably his best debate performance by delivering rhetorically powerful responses to his critics despite not giving viewers much in terms of details.

The stark contrast between the Democratic primary and the GOP primary with regards to rhetoric and worldview will be once again brought to the forefront when the three major Democratic contenders face off on Sunday night in what will be their final debate before the Iowa caucuses.

Overcrowded GOP Field Benefits Trump, Cruz

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Photo (unmodified) by Marc Nozell used under a Creative Commons license. http://bit.ly/1mhaR6e

With less than four weeks left until the first votes of the 2016 presidential race are cast in the Iowa caucuses, the candidates are hitting the trail in a last minute dash for support.

Although a few have suspended their campaigns in the couple months, twelve Republicans candidates still remain vying for their party’s nomination. Among them are Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, the candidates with the most momentum heading into the early primary voting states.

Such a crowded field, especially in the establishment wing of the party, has made it difficult thus far for a single candidate to emerge to take on the outsiders Trump and Cruz. With Chris Christie, Marco Rubio, John Kasich, and Jeb Bush splitting this vote, it remains to be seen who will be the favorite to take on Trump as the primaries go on.

Many analysts cite Rubio as the GOP’s ideal general election, noting his youth, Hispanic heritage, and status as a senator from the key swing state of Florida. Rubio, however, has failed to break out of the pack and many insiders are beginning to doubt that he will as the first primaries and caucuses swiftly approach.

The outsized Republican field also has implications in terms of the financial aspect of the race. The main issue that campaigns are currently concerning themselves with is not only what states they should spend their time and efforts in but also which candidates they should focus their attacks on. New ads are popping up all over the airwaves in early voting states, with candidates from all factions of the party directing their jabs at those whom they believe most stand in their path to the nomination.

In a campaign where Republican Party officials specifically stated their desire to avoid intraparty attacks, it appears that dream will not be realized any time soon. Starting with Donald Trump, who has caused undoubtedly the most chaos of any in the field, the candidates are engaging in whatever it takes to stand out from the pack, including personal insults, inflammatory advertisements, and highly controversial proposals.

 

Trump Frustrates GOP Establishment

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Photo (unmodified) by John Pemble used under a Creative Commons license. http://bit.ly/RaejCi

Donald Trump. He’s all the media (and anyone for the matter) is talking about. He’s been leading the race for the Republican nomination for five months virtually uninterrupted, despite a series of controversial comments that would have ended the campaign of any other politician. But Trump is different, and he’s not going away.

All of this has become increasingly clearer to the brass of the Republican National Committee (RNC) as summer has given way to fall. The establishment has realized that their strategy of waiting it out will leave them with a Trump nomination and a Clinton presidency. In a race where a significant percentage of the GOP base is supporting unelectable outsiders and radical candidates like Trump and Senator Ted Cruz, the RNC has essentially lost control of their party. So things are not exactly going as planned, and the Democrats could not be happier with this state of affairs.

At a time when the Democratic race is taking a back seat while the Republicans, with a highly anticipated debate coming up next week, continue to dominate news cycles, Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton has found herself in a favorable position. Remember the emails? Remember the Clinton Foundation controversy? Remember the speculation surrounding a potential campaign announcement from Vice-President Joe Biden? All of these issues are now but a distant memory, and that is welcome news to a campaign whose candidate’s main weakness is a propensity for being targeted with one scandal or accusation after another.

It’s hard to prognosticate about how long Trump’s reign will last, but if the past is any indicator of the future, we can expect that it will last longer than we think.

Democratic Primary Update: Clinton’s Lead Expands Nationally

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Photo (unmodified) by WisPolitics.com used under a Creative Commons license. http://bit.ly/1dsePQq

A Quinnipiac University poll released on Wednesday gives Democratic presidential primary frontrunner Hillary Clinton a 30 point lead over her closest competitor, Senator Bernie Sanders. Clinton’s showing in this month’s iteration of the institution’s poll is her best since July, when she led Sanders by 38 points.

This news comes at a time when Sanders’s momentum that extended from spring through late summer has largely died out. Ever since Clinton’s strong performance in the first Democratic primary debate, Vice-President Joe Biden’s decision to stay out of the race, and the former Secretary of State’s extended testimony before the Benghazi Select Committee, she has enjoyed a healthy lead while appearing to be taking steps to lock down her party’s nomination with less than two months left until the first primaries and caucuses.

Additionally, Clinton leads in the key early voting states of New Hampshire and Iowa, although by a lower margin than nationally. For now, Sanders is continuing to receive support from the liberal, white wing of the Democratic Party, however, despite continued efforts, he has failed to chip away at the key voting blocs that formed the Obama coalition (the youth vote being the exception) and that currently overwhelmingly support Hillary Clinton: African-Americans, Hispanics, and women. Without appealing more to these groups, Sanders will have a great deal of difficulty winning beyond the mostly white states of Iowa and New Hampshire. Clinton’s 50 point lead in South Carolina, an early-voting state with a high percent of African-American Democratic primary voters, is an example of the challenges that Sanders will face later on in the primary season.