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
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
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.