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announced GOP candidates have now withdrawn.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.