Monday, February 29, 2016

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: "Beware Of Rashness"

In the most difficult depths of the U.S. civil war, President
Lincoln had not yet settled on General Grant as the army
commander, and there was widespread doubt that the Union
cause would prevail. In January, 1863 (six months before
Gettysburg), he was so frustrated with one of his top generals,
Joseph Hooker, that he penned a letter to him that concluded:

“......Beware of rashness, Beware of rashness. But with energy
and sleepless vigilance, go forward and give us victories.”

The major U.S. parties are now each in a political civil war.
Although her sizable victory in the South Carolina primary
has made Hillary Clinton’s quest for the Democratic
nomination much more likely, some very dark clouds for her
candidacy remain (including, not the least, a significant
drop-off in Democratic turnout in the four caucuses/primaries
so far held while GOP turnout is dramatically up).

On the Republican side, a garrulous outsider, who continues
to break virtually all the traditional rules of political combat,
seems on the verge of running away with his party’s
nomination. He has caused terror not only in the GOP party
establishment, but with many grass roots conservatives who
find him too profane and too otherwise outrageous.

A common statement now being expressed by many Democrats
and some Republicans is: “If Trump wins, I’m moving to
Canada.” With all due respects to this emotional outburst,
I need to remind everyone that Canada has strict immigration
laws, revised in 2002, and disagreeing with the president of the
United States is not one of the legal categories for immigration
to our neighbor to the north. Don’t plan on going to Canada.

The winner of the presidency in 2016 will be the winner of a
majority of the electoral college. Presumably, he or she will also
be the winner of the popular vote. If there are only two major
candidates, the winner will hopefully have won a majority of
the popular vote. If there are serious independent and write-in
candidacies, the winner will likely have only a plurality of the
popular vote --- a circumstance quite common in post-World War
U.S. presidential elections.

Panic and desperation, either on the left, the right or even in the
center, is not going to resolve the 2016 election (nor are they
going to solve our national problems), Nothing is yet decided, as
I write this. The voters will decide this contest, not endorsements,
editorials and op eds, insults or emotional outbursts.

As I have been writing for months, the 2016 election cycle is likely
to be transformational. All civil wars, military and political, are
transformational. Will either political party find their General
Grant? And if so, who and when?

Those questions need to be answered. But until they are, I think
we need to keep in mind Old Abe’s admonition, “Beware of

No matter who sits in the White House, this is an extraordinary
nation, with an enormous economy, military, culture and vitality
that affects the whole world. In our many crises over the past 239
years, we have had a few defeats, but many more victories, and
even more achievements.

Let the voters speak.

Copyright (c) 2016 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Saturday, February 27, 2016


The 2016 presidential nomination contests could be concluded
much earlier than recently expected.

March 1 is the date of Super Tuesday with about a dozen state
caucuses and primaries, and March 15 is the date of five large
primaries, including Florida and Ohio. In between are numerous
state primaries and caucuses, including Michigan on March 8.

With Texas on March 1, the latter two could provide Donald
Trump a knockout punch against his three major opponents
whose home states they are. Mr. Trump currently leads in two
of them, and is close in Texas. Should he win all three, it would
be most difficult to imagine an argument against his winning the
Republican nomination.

Bernie Sanders is now expected to lose South Carolina by more
than 25 points, but it would be a massive blow if he cannot win
some states on March 1 and March 15, especially outside the
South. Sanders disadvantage to Mrs. Clinton’s huge lead among
non-elected super-delegates then becomes critical.

Of course, 2016 has been a disaster for conventional wisdom
and predictions, and the electorate is remarkably volatile, so
surprises in the next several days are possible. Marco Rubio
clearly won the the most recent GOP debate, especially in his
confrontation with Mr. Trump, and he and Ted Cruz have
enough apparent support to carry on past March 15, but they
need to begin winning primaries soon to remain as credible
candidates at the GOP convention in July.

Bernie Sanders has the campaign funds, grassroots volunteers,
young voters (and Mrs. Clinton’s unpopularity) to stage a revival
of his campaign, but he, too, has only a limited amount of time
to once again surprise the experts and pundits.

Scenarios that lead to brokered conventions in Cleveland and
Philadelphia, once popular internet subjects, are beginning to
look, as they have for decades, to be fantasies.

This could be over sooner than later.

Copyright (c) 2016 by Barry Casslman. All right reserved.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: The Insurrection In The West

Little noticed in the United States, perhaps, is the current
political crisis in Spain that followed that nation’s recent
parliamentary elections. Spanish politics, of course, has its
own idiosyncratic history which is not only very distinct
from U.S. political history, but has had significant contrasts
often with other European nations in the past half

Bur Spain’s past is  not Spain’s present. Following the death
of its long-time dictator Francisco Franco in 1975, Spain
became a constitutional monarchy. Two major political parties
emerged, one on the left and one on the center-right, and they
have alternately governed Spain ever since. In 2015, however,
two new significant parties arose, one on the populist left and
other on the populist right. After the parliamentary elections,
the Spanish body politic woke up with four major parties, and
since that time, the establishment parties, left and right, have
been unable to form a new government.

This is not an isolated occurrence in Europe. In France, a
populist movement on the right now seriously contends for
power. Separatist movements now punctuate the European
map in Scotland, Catalonia, Italy, and The Netherlands.
Czechoslovakia has formally divided into two nations. The
former Yugoslavia has been divided into multiple sovereign
nations. In the United Kingdom, a nationalist party (UKIP)
has intruded on the traditional three-party parliamentary
system, as has the Scottish national party. In Germany, the
most influential and popular European leader, Chancellor
Angela Merkel, at the height of her power, has tried to impose
an unpopular immigration policy on her electorate. She is
now, as a result, in political trouble.The European Union itself
teeters on dissolution.

In short, everywhere in Europe the old established order of the
right and left is under severe challenge from new parties and
younger generations. Old national borders are being questioned
and changed. Centuries of political accommodation between
religious, ethnic and linguistic groups are being questioned,
strained and severed.

Europe has seen this many times before, including after two
world wars and a cold war, but in the past, its insurrections
were accompanied by widespread violence and brutal
militarism. This time the movements, many of them provoked
by the huge recent influx on non-European populations into the
continent, so far are taking primarily forms of political action.

The British prime minister David Cameron recently negotiated
new terms for his nation’s relationship with the European Union
(EU), which had been moving towards more political union, and
not just economic cooperation. When he returned to London, his
“deal” seemed more like that of a Conservative predecessor
who in 1938 returned from Munich  with a “deal” that promised
“peace in our time.” Already, one of the major leaders of his own
party, London Mayor Boris Johnson, has denounced the deal, and
says he will vote for severing British ties with the EU in the
upcoming referendum Cameron has set. The grass roots
“euroskeptics,” once ridiculed, are surging.

It occurs to me that this “revolt of the masses” has now come to
the United States and its current presidential election. Both the
major U.S. political parties, one liberal and the other conservative,
have found their leadership establishments under severe challenge
from their grass roots. Both the establishment leadership and the
establishment media are up in arms over the sudden rise of Bernie
Sanders and Donald Trump. Whether or not both, or one, or
neither of them win their party nominations, it is now clear that
American politics is being indelibly transformed. Populist
movements, of course, have arisen in the U.S. before, but not
simultaneously like this, and not only on the right and the left, but
in the hitherto “stable” political center.

The United States has a quintessential two-party system with a
bicameral congress instead of a parliament. It has always been
that way. But are we now seeing the early formation of an
American multiple party system?  In 1992, the nation had a taste
of a populist insurrection with the candidacy of Ross Perot, who
for a time, actually led both the Republican and Democratic party
presidential nominees in the polls, and who received almost 20%
of the vote on election day. In 2000, a populist independent
candidate, Ralph Nader, won a smaaller percentage, but altered
the result.

The process of the election of a U.S.president has not kept up
with the nation’s changing political communications realities.
The sloppy caucuses are not credible, transparent or democratic.
The extreme differences between the various state’s practices
for choosing  delegates to their nominating conventions create
opportunities for unfair advantages that don’t reflect true voter
choice. The bias of many in the mainstream media is apparently
increasingly no longer tolerated.

Finally, many in the nation’s electorate have apparently had enough
of the old way of saying things and doing things. They have
apparently had their fill of “political correctness” and political
platitudes which lead only to more and more stalemate.
In Spain, the left of center establishment and the right of center
establishment are seemingly facing an insurrection of their own,
particularly from the young and the working middle class. All
across Europe, similar movements, provoked by various causes,
seem also taking place.

Those Americans paying attention to these recent events in
Europe probably saw them as just the chronic problems of the
Old World “over there,” and concluded that our traditionally
stable system had no connection to what what taking place across
“the Pond.” But recent events in our current presidential election
suggest the “contagion” might have spread to the New World.

I have written that I have observed an unprecedented “mutiny in
the center” of American politics, a mutiny where celebrity
endorsements, journalistic editorials, and old political taboos
are being turned on their heads. Voters this year simply are
refusing to be told what they should do and who they should vote

How all of this is now going to play out, I don’t know. But I do
think something has basically changed, and there is no going back
to wherever we were.

Copyright (c) 2016 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016


The Republican Nevada caucus and the Democratic South
Carolina primary are this week, but like their counterparts
last week, they are unlikely to be in any way decisive. The
caucus system is particularly undemocratic (very low
turnouts) and not very credible (informal settings, casual
vote counting, questionable reporting from the political
party organizations).

What’s next that is worth observing carefully is next week’s
Super Tuesday voting which will involve 13 states. The
pressure is on the Bernie Sanders campaign to show some
strength outside New England, and on Marco Rubio to
confirm that he is the only Republican still in the race who
might stop Donald Trump from winning the GOP nomination.

Mr. Sanders has belatedly taken off the gloves on Mrs. Clinton,
and will need to continue to demonstrate his appeal to working
class voters, populist Democrats and young liberals. In spite of
her obvious weaknesses  and controversies, Mrs. Clinton
remains the frontrunner in her race for the nomination.

A torrent of endorsements by prominent Jeb Bush supporters
for Marco Rubio following Mr. Bush’s withdrawal, especially in
upcoming primary and caucus states, helps some, but Mr.
Rubio’s true challenge is to win the support of more grass roots
conservative mainstream voters. With John Kasich remaining
in the race, this task is more difficult, and Mr. Kasich is likely to
stay in until the mid-March Ohio primary. Ben Carson is no
longer a serious contender, but as a non-politician “outsider,”
he is unlikely to withdraw any time soon. Most of his voters,
moreover, might go Mr. Trump. Likewise, the fading campaign of
Ted Cruz also is not likely to end until much later in the season,
but in spite of their recent mutual antipathy, his voter base does
also overlap with Mr. Trump.

If Donald Trump does very well on Super Tuesday, not only
winning several contests, but increasing his percentage of the
GOP vote (now about one-third), it would then be quite
problematic to prevent his nomination. This is the “cold truth”
facing the anybody-but-Trump mainstream conservative voter.

I think the “new reality” of American politics in 2016 is that the
whole ideological range of voters, including the center, are upset
and frustrated with politics-as-usual and politicians-as usual.
Both Mr. Trump and Mr. Sanders have figured this out. If Mr.
Rubio is to take advantage of his new opportunity, he will have
to somehow do the same.  His challenge is complicated by the
fact that many of his supporters are mainstream. In short, Mr.
Rubio will have to be a political acrobat and high wire artist to
to achieve his goal in Cleveland.

Such political athleticism is rare, but not unprecedented in
American politics. There is a mountain in South Dakota with
the faces of some who had this ability carved into it.

Copyright (c) 2016 by Barry Casselman. All rights reseerved.

Monday, February 22, 2016

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: What Really Happened On Saturday

If you read the headlines following the Democratic Nevada
caucus and the Republican South Carolina primary on
Saturday, you would think the two presidential nomination
contests are over, and the winners are Hillary Clinton and
Donald Trump.

But that’s not what happened on Saturday.

Yes, Mrs. Clinton eked out another controversial caucus win
as she did in Iowa, but once again the margin was small, and
the turnout was very low. Exit  polls also indicate that
about half of the Democratic caucus electorate do not trust or
like Mrs. Clinton.

She is expected to win South Carolina handily next week, and
is also expected to win most of the Super Tuesday primaries.

Hillary Clinton might well win her party’s nomination in the
end, but it won’t be because of the vote on Saturday.

On the Republican side, Donald Trump won in a six-man field
with his usual one-third of the popular vote. The big story,
however, was the person who finished in second, Marco Rubio.
Mr. Rubio not only beat Ted Cruz (expected to be the runner-up),
he much more importantly established himself as the
Republican mainstream grass roots choice to take on Mr.
Trump in future contests. With Jeb Bush’s withdrawal, and
John Kasich likely to withdraw after Ohio (March 15), the
mainstream grass roots will now likely increasingly reassert
itself in the large states which have yet to be decided.

Donald Trump might still win the GOP nomination, but it won’t
be because of the vote on Tuesday.

Next week, the Republicans will hold their caucus in Nevada.
The GOP senator from Nevada, Dean Heller, has now endorsed
Mr. Rubio. Mitt Romney, the 2012 GOP presidential nominee
who carried Nevada (large Mormon and Hispanic populations)
handily is reportedly set to endorse Mr. Rubio. All over the
nation, Republican officeholders and major figures have
endorsed, or are set to endorse, Mr. Rubio.

Of course, endorsements have their limits, especially in 2016,
but the large majority of Republican voters are mainstream
conservatives, and they will not need much of a push to unite
behind the senator from Florida, especially if the Democratic
nominee is likely to be Hillary Clinton.

The same problems that beset Democrats in their caucus in
Nevada will now confront the Republicans in theirs next week,
that is, informal settings difficult to manage and low eligible voter

I want to remind the reader that Mr. Trump is so far stuck at
one-third of those who are turning out to vote this year. Some of
those voters are not Republicans, and many of them normally
do not vote in presidential elections. Mr. Cruz also receives
support from some of these voters, and as long as he is in the
race, Mr Trump is very unlikely to rise above one-third.

Should Mr. Rubio be the sole credible survivor of the Rubio-
Kasich-Bush-Carson vote (Mr. Bush has already withdrawn;
the others have dim prospects), the contests in April, May and
June will likely produce quite different headlines.

Donald Trump is not going away. His voters are motivated and
loyal, and seem to pay little attention to his verbal controversies.
He has been underestimated by the pundit class, myself included,
for the past year. He is an exceedingly smart businessman, and I
am told, a quick learner. As Newt Gingrich did in 2011-12, he has
dominated the debates. Nevertheless, he has not demonstrated an
appeal to the mainstream conservative majority of the Republican
Party, the most critical element of the party.

Marco Rubio stands to inherit that majority. In order to keep it,
and transform it into a winning majority, he will have to show he
has learned from his past campaign mistakes, including his
confrontation with Chris Christie, and forge  a new coalition
behind his candidacy. He might strategically choose John
Kasich as his running mate.

In 1860, a young political underdog, whose only previous national
elective experience was a single two-year term in the U.S. house
of representatives, had little chance to be nominated by his party,
much less winning the presidency. Circumstances, however,
gave him an extraordinary opportunity and he took it.

He then assembled a team of his rivals, and changed history.

Anything could still happen. Let’s see what the Florida senator
is made of, and what he will make of his opportunity.

Copyright (c) 2016 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: More Results; No Decisions

The results from the Democratic Nevada caucus and the
Republican South Carolina primary did not provide any big
surprises, but they also did not provide the winners with any
big boosts.

In Nevada, Hillary Clinton won a narrow victory in a caucus
that only brought out a small percentage of those eligible
to vote, as is the case in all caucuses. The caucus vote was also
reported to be down one-third from 2008, the last time the event
was competitive. Not only that, exit polls indicated Mrs. Clinton
lost voters who valued “honesty” and “trustworthiness” by an
astonishing 9-1.That Mr. Sanders and his late-surging campaign
came as close as he did to beat Mrs. Clinton can only strengthen
his surging campaign as the contest heads toward Super Tuesday
on March 1. Mrs. Clinton is also expected to win the Democratic
South Carolina primary next week. She remains the frontrunner,
but her lackluster performance and the Nevada exit polls will
continue to provide profound concern for her party and its leaders.

In South Carolina, Donald Trump won but his margin was not quite
as large as expected. Marco Rubio came in second; Ted Cruz, a less-
than-expected third, Jeb Bush, John Kasich and Ben Carson trailed
in single digits. Mr. Bush has now retired from the race. Mr. Kasich
perhaps remains a while longer. Mr. Cruz probably remains in the
race indefinitely. Dr. Carson stays in perhaps until his resources
run out. Barring the unforeseen, however, Marco Rubio is now the
candidate of the Republican mainstream grass roots. As such, he
will again be a prime target of his rivals. Governor Christie might
have done Mr. Rubio a favor before New Hampshire by preparing
him then for what is to come now.

Next week, it will be the Republicans’ turn in Nevada, and the
Democrats’ turn in South Carolina, but the main drama now shifts
to the March 1 Super Tuesday primaries and caucuses, 13 of them.

The Democratic contest remains muddied; the Republican race has
been made clearer, but its outcome is not yet assured.

Copyright (c) by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Friday, February 19, 2016

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: A Subway Series Presidential Election?

New York City is the largest urban center in the U.S.,
and for this reason it holds many unique distinctions in
American political, cultural, economic and sports life. One
of those is the “subway” World Series of baseball that has
occurred when both the American and National League
championship teams were located in New York. The American
League team has always been the New York Yankees (since it
is the only New York team in that league), but the New York
Giants (now San Francisco Giants), the Brooklyn Dodgers (now
Los Angeles Dodgers) and the current New York Mets have
each represented the National League. There have been 14
“subway Series” since 1921 when the Giants beat the Yankees.
The most recent was in 2000 when the Yankees beat the Mets.
The name originates in the fact that a New Yorker could attend
all of the World Series games by using the city’s subway system.

There has not ever been a “subway” presidential election, but
2016 presents an extraordinary, if fanciful, opportunity for that
to happen.

Here is the scenario:

On July 28, Hillary Clinton is nominated at the Democratic
National Convention in Philadelphia after a cabal of
“super-delegates” conspire to defeat Bernie Sanders who has
otherwise won the popular vote and most of the elected
delegates during the primary season. Hillary, a former New
York U.S. senator, lives in Chappaqua, a suburb of New York

Angry at what he feels was being cheated out of the Democratic
nomination, Mr. Sanders announces a nationwide write-in
campaign for president. Although a Vermont U.S. senator, he
was born in Brooklyn.

Earlier, on July 21, Donald Trump wins the Republican
nomination in Cleveland. Mr. Trump is a native of the New
York City borough of Queens.

Meanwhile, anticipating the results in Cleveland and
Philadelphia, former New York City Mayor Michael
Bloomberg has qualified on the ballot in most of the 50
states as an independent. Mr. Bloomberg lives in

This covers only three of the five boroughs and the suburbs,
and would not be complete, but In August, Supreme Court
Associate Justice Sonya Sottomayor, incensed that an
Hispanic-American is not on the November ballot, takes a
three-month leave of absence from the Court, and
announces her independent write-in candidacy for
president in August. Ms. Sottomayor is from the Bronx.

Although this leaves the fifth borough, Staten Island, not
represented in the November election, being surrounded
by the Hudson River, Staten Island has no subway.

On Labor Day, the five presidential candidates, each of them
either native to New York City or residents, appear at a huge
rally at Yankee Stadium, and pledge, with a nod to William
McKinley’s successful 1896 presidential campaign, to conduct
their entire remaining campaigns from their respective back
porches. and not to leave the confines of New York City and its
suburbs (except for Bernie Sanders who returned to Vermont).

New York City  and Vermont tourist business subsequently
booms as millions of Americans travel there to see the
candidates in person.

In November, the winner of the presidential election is, of
course,  a New Yorker.

Only in America.

Copyright (c) 2016 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: The GOP Finalists Will Be.....

As my readers know, I have been very reluctant to make
predictions about the unusual 2016 presidential race.

I did not see Donald Trump coming at the beginning of the
cycle, nor did I see Bernie Sanders amazing rise.

I did predict very early, however, that Hillary Clinton, then
a prohibitive favorite for her party’s nomination, might well
fail again.

We have now gone through the first two voting events of 2016,
the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary. The
Democratic field, originally five candidates, has narrowed to
two. The Republican field, originally seventeen candidates, is
down to six.

This coming Saturday, the Democratic caucus in Nevada,
once thought to be a sure thing for Mrs. Clinton, might mark
the beginning of the end of her campaign. Her firewalls of
super-delegates and of black voters seem to be crumbling. On
the other hand, it might be too soon to count her out. It will
take the results of a few more caucuses and primaries before
any pronouncements can be credibly made.

Turning to the Republican field, however, it would seem the
still relatively large field of six candidates is about to be
narrowed possibly to three.

Nevada and South Carolina results need yet to be counted and
evaluated, but it would appear that the three GOP finalists
will be Donald Trump, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio.

There is growing evidence that most of the supporters of
Ben Carson, Jeb Bush and John Kasich would go to Mr. Rubio
if their preferred candidates withdrew. Mr. Carson and Mr.
Kasich do not appear to have the appeal or the national
organization to keep going if they trail in the results in
Nevada and South Carolina. More importantly, the GOP base,
faced with Donald Trump’s continued lead, will likely unite
behind a single candidate. Mr. Trump is likely to keep going,
and Mr. Cruz has both the funds and organization to remain in
the race indefinitely. Both of the latter appeal as “outsiders”
(as does Mr. Carson). Mr. Bush has both the money and the
organization to continue, but if he does not surprise in South
Carolina (where his family continues to be very popular), it will
be difficult for him to justify staying in the race.

Mr. Kasich has been impressive in his race so far, and would be
an odds-on favorite to the GOP vice presidential choice if he were
willing to accept second place on the ticket. A Rubio-Kasich
Republican ticket, many feel, would be very difficult to defeat
next November.

Marco Rubio had a bad debate in New Hampshire. When he did
poorly in that state’s primary voting, he immediately blamed
himself, and then made a strong recovery in the next debate.
There is little doubt about his political talent. His youth was a
potential liability, but this is a cycle when a fresh face seems to
be what the voters want. Should he team up with Mr. Kasich,
it could present the voters with a clear choice when it faces a
presumably aging Democratic nominee (Mr. Sanders is 74; Mrs.
Clinton is 69; Joe Biden in 73). Most importantly, Mr. Rubio
seems so far to be the most likely candidate to appeal to
independent voters in November. These will be the voters who
determine who will be the next president of the Untied States.

None of the intimations I have made above are yet written in
stone. Surprises could happen. The GOP contest could go all the
way to its convention in July. But the forces of political gravity,
like the green plant shoots that will appear soon in the coming
spring, are beginning to poke themselves into this most unusual
and unpredictable presidential election season.

Copyright (c) 2016 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Is Trump Inevitable?

There is now a conventional wisdom, reflected in polls and
promoted by the old (a/k/a mainstream) media that Donald
Trump is going to be the Republican nominee for president in
2016. Having won the New Hampshire primary, coming in a
reasonable second in the Iowa caucus, and leading by a clear
margin in most other state and national polls, Mr. Trump’s
ultimate triumph is no longer the long-shot fantasy it was at
the very outset of this political cycle.

After all, a seventy-four year-old Brooklyn socialist now living
in Vermont could also now become the Democratic nominee,
as fanciful as that might have seemed only a few months ago

Curiously enough, however, Bernie Sander’s chances are
somewhat better than Donald Trump’s.

Conceding that both of them could be nominated or that neither
of them could be nominated, let us examine the reality beyond
hoop-la and hype of these two surprise outsider candidates.

Bernie Sanders’ campaign is soaring because his sole opponent’s
campaign is collapsing. The three other declared Democratic
candidates withdrew from the race, Vice President Joe Biden chose
long ago not to run, and the two or three other potentially serious
liberal candidates didn’t even think about running once the
campaign began. Hillary Clinton’s campaign is not only facing
profound unpopularity, distrust and lack of enthusiasm. She is
beset by seemingly endless controversies and legal problems.
The deadlines for entering most of the remaining primaries and
caucuses are now  past. Her one great advantage, that of so-called
super-delegates now committed to her, are votes that are not
binding, that is, they could change their minds before or at the
party’s national convention. Her so-called “firewall” of support
from women and black voters has begun to crumble.

Donald Trump, on the other hand, has five remaining serious
opponents. One of them, Ted Cruz, competes with him for a
somewhat similar pool of voters. Another outsider, Ben Carson,
has an overlapping base of supporters. The other three rivals,
Marco Rubio, John Kasich and Jeb Bush compete for most of their
votes from a more traditional base of Republican voters. Eleven
announced GOP candidates have now withdrawn. None of them
individually developed much voter support, but their voters
taken together do not seem to have gone to Mr. Trump; instead,
they have seemed to have gone to the other candidates.

Mr. Trump’s support appears to have peaked at about one-third
of those who are voting in the GOP contests. Of course, as long
as he maintains that one-third, and his opponents split the rest
more or less evenly, Mr. Trump will go on winning both the
popular vote and the delegates. Should he continue this pattern
throughout the primary and caucus season, he will be nominated.

So far, Mr. Trump has defied political gravity, just as he has
turned “political correctness” on its head. He dares to say and
do what no other politician in the conservative party dares.
This is obviously part of his appeal. Those pundits who have
predicted his political downfall, myself included, have so far
been wrong. Grass roots voters in both parties are frustrated,
upset and angry, and no one is going to either tell them what to
do, or even presume to predict what they will do.

I remember seeing the great ballet dancer Rudolph Nureyev
perform in Vienna many years ago. When he made one of his
famous leaps, he seemed almost to hang in the air, defying

I no longer try to prognosticate the course and duration of Mr.
Trump’s political saga. That is a story that will be told by the
voters. But I do know the obvious, that is, in order to prevail,
he has to keep on winning. In order to keep on winning, he must
maintain the infatuation of his voter base, and eventually
expand it so that he wins enough delegates to triumph at the
GOP convention in Cleveland. Although there are not as many
Republican super-delegates as the Democrats have, he is not
likely to win many of them. He must endure a likely narrowing
field of conservative opponents, and hope that none of the
survivors draws most of the votes while his own support
remains at one-third or weakens. Many of the later and larger
primaries are winner-take-all (including California, the biggest)
at the end. He must also hope that his performance schtick
continues to appeal to an electorate notorious for its fickleness.

Most of all, he must avoid the eternal pitfall of any political
egotist, that of believing his own press notices.

Like even the most remarkable ballet dancer, he must finally
land on his feet.

Let’s see where this story goes next.

Copyright (c) by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: This Year A Surprise Is No Surprise

Through many presidential election cycles, I have consistently
pointed out that political “surprises” are to be expected during
the campaign season. Most of these surprises have historically
occurred outside the campaigns themselves. Many of them
took place outside the U.S. (European war in 1940; the Suez
crisis and Soviet invasion of Hungary in 1956; the Iran hostage
crisis in 1980) or in the economy (the depression in 1932; the
mortgage banking meltdown in 2008), or in the Congress (its
shutdown in 1995-96). it might be argued that the timing of
these surprises was precipitated or intensified by the fact that a
presidential campaign was imminent or occurring.

Less frequently, surprises occur during a presidential campaign
which are not devised by political forces, but which are in the
category of “natural phenomena.” Such a surprise just occurred
with the death of U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin
Scalia. Conventional wisdom had it that the next vacancy would
likely be to replace one of the most liberal justices (an elderly
associate justice had been seriously ill), but Nature is not
predictable, and although he was 79, Justice Scalia appeared in
good health.

President Obama has the right and the duty to nominate a
replacement. The U.S. senate has the right and duty either to
confirm or reject any presidential appointment. With the
conservative-liberal balance of the court at stake, however,
the senate might well delay action on the nomination, and
allow Mr, Obama’s successor to make the appointment. The
precedent for this was the Abe Fortas nomination in 1968
when the senate delayed action until after the presidential
election. Democrats will complain; Republicans will cheer;
but a delay seems inevitable.

Thus, Supreme Court appointments, always an issue in a
presidential campaign, become an even more immediate issue
for voters in 2016. It is not clear which side is helped more by
Mr. Scalia’s death; both sides have much at stake in this
prerogative of the U.S. president to appoint all members of the
Supreme Court.

As in 1956, the political surprises are not limited to one event.
This year in particular, the world scene seems vulnerable to
surprise occurrences.

Two remarkable political surprises have already occurred in
the 2016 cycle. Their names are Bernie Sanders and Donald
Trump. Virtually no one saw their rise in presidential politics

The 2016 presidential campaign has defied many of the
historical rules so far. It is five months until the national major
party conventions, and eight months until Election Day in

Who knows what is next? This year, a surprise is no surprise.
Buckle up your political seat belts.

Copyright (c) 2016 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: The Center In Mutiny

As a long-time champion of the preeminence of the political
center in U.S. presidential elections, I am wondering aloud
what is the mood of most voters in the 2016 cycle.

In the recent past, we have had the “radical” center, the
“moderate” center, the “silent” center, and even the “populist”
center. None of these epithets seems to fit in the current cycle,
although there are radical elements, moderate impulses,
silent voters and populist trends visible in the campaign so far.
These tendencies might exist, but they do not seem to be the
primary quality of the majoritarian center of the American
electorate today.

The term “angry” has already been applied to the more leftist
and rightist elements of both parties, but I think that the
so-called establishments of each major party have missed the
essential reality that it is primarily the center of the American
electorate which is most importantly “angry” about politics
“as usual.”

What’s so critical about this observation is that it is usually the
political center of the electorate, and of both parties, which
normally counterbalances the “anger” of the left and the right,
and eventually produces candidates with broader appeal than
just the party bases --- that is, candidates who have some appeal
to the growing number of so-called independent voters --- the
voters who usually decide who wins the presidency.

The crisis for each party is that their major candidates so far
do not seem to understand the true nature of voter “anger” in
2016. The Democratic establishment made the crucial mistake
of conspiring to have only one major candidate for president this
cycle. This arrogance deprived most Democratic voters of their
right to choose their own nominee. Not only that, the anointed
candidate was a figure from the past, embroiled in constant
controversies, unlikeable and not a skillful campaigner. No one
is entitled to a presidential nomination, much less the presidency,
without the consent of the voters, and the Democratic voters
were not consulted. It was a relatively few party leaders who
decided this. Virtually every credible poll indicates that most
voters no longer trust or like Hillary Clinton.

The Republican establishment made a similar mistake. Many of
them rallied behind a bright and competent former governor
who, once the campaign began, did not fit the expectations of
Republican voters. In the recent past, this establishment
support might have been enough, but it is becoming quite
apparent it is not enough in 2016. Unlike the Democrats, there
were a large number of Republican presidential candidates,
most of them with serious credentials and political experience.
But it is not resumes and past offices that the voters seem to
be seeking this year.

The nomination contests in both parties are not over, but their
cast of candidates has probably been finalized (unless Vice
President Biden makes a late entry). Conventional wisdom has
now asserted that Bernie Sanders cannot be nominated, and
Donald Trump cannot be stopped.


But with a center in mutiny, an angry left and an angry right,
anything is possible --- even now.

Those leaders in the political center, both liberal and conservative,
Democrats and Republicans, need to take a very deep breath,
remain calm, and then make some useful sense out of what the
majority of voters want today.

If they do not, the two party system, at least for this cycle, will not
hold together. A mutinous political center, temporarily allied with
the right and the left, is poised to replace the captains and officers
of these two ships, and should this happen, no one knows what
their destinations will be.

Copyright (c) 2016 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Now It Gets Really Interesting

The New Hampshire primary vote results are in, and they
provided some useful insights into the 2016 cycle in both

Bernie Sanders did not just defeat Hillary Clinton (as
expected), he demolished her Granite State effort by a bigger
margin than anyone expected. Sanders is the senator of a
neighboring state, but he is a Brooklyn-born 74 year-old socialist.
New Hampshire is not as left-liberal as Vermont is, and Mrs.
Clinton is well-known in the state, having campaigned there in
1992 and 1996 for her husband, and in 2008 for herself (when she
won the primary).

The Donald Trump “phenomenon” was thought to be partially
illusory when the Iowa caucus results came in, and the New
York businessman finished in second place. In New Hampshire,
however, he not only finished first, but he beat John Kasich (who
came in second) by more than a two-to-one margin.

Mr. Kasich had put all his resources  in New Hampshire, and his
runner-up result keeps his campaign alive. Ted Cruz and Jeb
Bush closely followed, and their campaigns are likely to go on to
future caucuses and primaries. Marco Rubio, whose most recent
debate performance clearly hurt him in New Hampshire, remains
a formidable candidate, and is expected to do well in South
Carolina and on Super Tuesday.

Both Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina did poorly in the first primary.
Prior to the voting, each of them vowed to continue, but it is
difficult to see how they might suddenly surge in later primaries.

The biggest question mark after New Hampshire is whether or not
Chris Christie will remain in the race. He came in sixth on Tuesday,
not that far behind Rubio, but it was not a positive result for
someone who had spent so much time and money in the state.
If Christie is excluded from the South Carolina televised debate,
that would be a very serious blow. Christie has excelled in all of
the previous debates. For all his political talent and
communication skills, Mr Christie has not had much “luck” in
this cycle, and it might turn out that this just wasn’t his moment
on the national stage.

The next several days in the 2016 presidential campaign will be ones
of reassessment in both major parties. After New Hampshire, a
third party campaign by former New York City Mayor Michael
Bloomberg, still not probable, is nevertheless more likely than before.

So far, this cycle has been dominated by the unease on the left in
the Democratic Party, and on the right in the Republican Party.
The centers of each party have been largely “silent.” Lacking
standout center-left and center-right candidates to this point has
also drawn many independent voters to Sanders, Trump and

The 2016 nomination contests, however, are far from over. The
initial four caucuses/primaries will have provided an overture, but
several acts of serious drama lie ahead.

Copyright (c) 2016 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: What Will New Hampshire Say?

Now that the final pre-New Hampshire debates are over, and
the last credible pre-primary polls have been taken, there is
an aura of mystery about what judgments New Hampshire
voters will make on Tuesday, February 8.

Neither Iowa nor New Hampshire infallibly predicts the
presidential nominees; in fact, Iowa rarely does.

Iowa did provide some unpredicted insights, however.
First, it showed that the national polls indicating Donald Trump
with a big lead can be very misleading. It also demonstrated once
again how desperate the Democratic Party establishment is to
protect Hillary Clinton from bad news. A confusing and
complicated Iowa Democratic caucus voting system resulted in
a virtual mathematical tie between Bernie Sanders and Hillary
Clinton, but hid the almost certain fact that Sanders had outpolled
Clinton in the popular vote. Iowa also demonstrated that
Republicans are more energized this cycles than Democrats, but
that young liberal voters are energized, too, and overwhelmingly
prefer Sanders to Clinton.

Conventional wisdom has Sanders and Trump winning in New
Hampshire, but with uncertain margins. Until the debate, Marco
Rubio had been surging into second place in the Granite State.
The mainstream media then judged that Rubio had been the
biggest loser in the pre-New Hampshire debate, and that Chris
Christie, John Kasich and Jeb Bush had been the biggest winners.
But will New Hampshire voters see it that way?

Conventional wisdom has Sanders winning in the first primary
by at least ten points, but then sees little positive opportunities
for him in South Carolina, Super Tuesday and beyond. If the
Iowa precedent of high youth turnout is repeated, however, what
will happen in the rest of the states, each of which have numerous
college and university campuses? Why are there now renewed
calls and efforts being made to bring Vice President Joe Biden
back into the race month after he decided not to run?

Can Rubio recover? Might Christie finally break out? Does Jeb
Bush still have a chance? Is it too early to write Ted Cruz off?
Will Kasich show staying power?

All these question are now up in the air. New Hampshire voters
are likely to pull a few surprises of their own in answering some
of these questions, and raising new ones.

It’s beginning to look more and more like a very long political

Copyright (c) 2016 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Did Bernie Sanders Win The Iowa Caucus?

It could well be that Bernie Sanders won the Iowa Caucus
popular vote, and not Hillary Clinton, as originally reported.
The difficulty in determining this is the result of the Iowa
Democratic Party refusal so far to disclose the popular
Democratic vote at the February 1 caucus. Instead, the party
reported the totals of who won the individual precincts across
the state. (The Republican Party reports the popular vote in
their caucus.) This produces a situation similar to the
electoral college in the November elections. The person who
is elected president then, according to the U.S. constitution,
must win a majority of electoral votes cast by the states in
December. Several times, most recently in 2000, the person
receiving the most votes did not win the election (cf. Bush vs.

In effect, the individual Democratic precincts in Iowa act as
electors. But the precincts do vary considerably in size. Thus,
a small rural precinct with 20 voters count as one vote as does
an urban precincts which had a turnout of 500 voters. In fact,
Bernie Sanders carried young Iowa voters by a large margin
over Hillary Clinton, and turnout was reported as very heavy
in Ames (Iowa State University) and Iowa City (University of
Iowa), not to mention the many other college and university
campuses throughout the state.

The only reasonable conclusion that can be drawn from the
Democratic Party’s refusal to disclose the popular vote, in
light of the very close vote (a virtual tie) counting only precincts,
is that Mr. Sanders did indeed carry Iowa on February 1.

The state’s largest and most important daily newspaper, the
Des Moines Register, has now called on the Democratic Party to
conduct a recount. (There were also 6 precincts that were
reportedly tied.)

In 2012, in the Republican Iowa caucus, it was initially reported
that Mitt Romney won the election, but a recount revealed that
Rick Santorum had actually won it. This recount was finished
too late to help Mr. Santorum’s campaign.

The Democratic Party and its voters were understandably
upset in 2000 when their presidential candidate received more
than half a million votes more than the Republican nominee,
and lost the election. In light of Mr. Sanders request for
disclosure of the popular vote, and the Register’s call for a
recount, the integrity of the Democratic Iowa caucus is at stake.
A recount and disclosure of the popular vote is the only way now
to resolve the doubt.

Copyright (c) 2016 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: A Showhorse, And Not A Workhorse?

Iowa’s first-in-the-nation votes in the presidential
nomination contests are now in.

The biggest stories of the night were about those those
candidates who failed to meet expectations, Hillary Clinton
(who seems to have barely won over Bernie Sanders by the
narrowest of margins) and Donald Trump (who came in
second to Ted Cruz, but only slightly ahead of a surging
Marco Rubio). The winners, as sometimes happens, were
those who did not have the most votes, but exceeded
expectations. In this case, it was Bernie Sanders who
actually turned out young voters, and Marco Rubio whose
surge was perhaps the first step in rallying mainstream
Republican voters to his side.

Nonetheless, both Mr. Sanders and Mr. Rubio face serious
challenges ahead. Vermont Senator Sanders will now
probably win New Hampshire easily, but faces tough odds
in states beyond that. Florida Senator Rubio faces an
immediate test in New Hampshire where rivals Chris
Christie, John Kasich and Jeb Bush will compete with him
for the mainstream mantle.

The biggest story of the pre-primary/caucus stage of the
2016 cycle was the headline domination of businessman
Donald Trump, and of his subsequent huge lead in most
national polls. Mr. Trump’s political inexperience, however,
led him to compete in Iowa without a real political
organization. Iowa voters live in a farm state, and when it
came to actual voters, they seem to have preferred the
workhorses over the showhorse. If there was a fear in the
Republican mainstream of Mr. Trump’s inevitability prior
to Iowa, that has been significantly dampened. Should
Donald Trump now fail to win New Hampshire, his
campaign could be in trouble.

Candidates Christie, Kasich, Bush, Fiorina, Carson and
Paul will now presumably go on to New Hampshire, but each
of them will need to do better than expected there, or in the
states immediately following, to remain viable. Already, Mike
Huckabee has withdrawn; Mr. Santorum and Mr. Gilmore
are likely to follow soon after.

With the first votes now in, much of the ballyhoo of Stage 1
evaporates, including the foam that came from less-than-
instructive national polling. Campaigns will need funds and
organizations in place if they are survive the grueling process
which will now take place.

The advantage of winning all or some of the first four
primary and caucus states is almost purely psychological.
None of these contests are winner-take-all, nor do any of
them have a large number of total delegates to the national
convention where the presidential nomination is formally

In fact, it will not be until the March 1 Super Tuesday when
13 states, most of them in the South, choose a substantial
number of delegates, again proportional to the vote. Then,
on successive weeks, one by one, the rest of the states,
including big ones such as New York, Florida,  Pennsylvania,
New Jersey, Ohio, Illinois and  California will hold their
elections. Many of these will be winner-take-all, others will
be proportional, and others such as Pennsylvania will be by
congressional district.

In addition, each party has created a large number of at-large
(or super-) delegates which are not chosen by the voters, but
by the party organization. These include ex-officio delegates,
many of whom hold federal or state office, and most of
whom are expected to vote with their party establishments.
They act as a partial firewall to protect Hillary Clinton on the
Democratic side, and anyone-but-Trump-or-Cruz on the
Republican side.

Even when all the delegates are known, state rules vary as to
whether they must vote for whomever won that state, and if
they must, for how many ballots they must do so. It’s a very
uneven, often clumsy, usually messy arrangement ---
something which has endured principally because in most
prior cycles, the nominee was determined relatively early in
the primary/caucus process.

Then at the national conventions, the party’s rules will
dominate, possibly further complicating the outcome.

Iowa was always intended only to be a beginning, albeit one
often with interesting surprises. In 2016, that has been the
case once again. But the most intense competition lies ahead.

Copyright (c) 2016 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.