History is like the weather --- unpredictable, ruthless and
quickly changing. The 2016 presidential campaign has turned
into a sudden storm on all sides, and is taking the nation into
new political territory.
Although the mathematics of the Democratic nomination race
had indicated that this race was concluded, the voters are
signaling they are not convinced of this finality. Bernie Sanders
crushing victory over Hillary Clinton in the Wisconsin primary
defies conventional political thinking. Coupled with six straight
caucus victories, Mr. Sander’s campaign is apparently not dead.
The contest now shifts to New York state where Mrs. Clinton
lives and represented as a U.S. senator for two terms. Mr.
Sanders, however, was born and raised in Brooklyn, so both
candidates can claim home field advantage. As she did in
Michigan and Wisconsin, Mrs. Clinton once had a lopsided
lead in the polls in New York, but her lead is down to single
digits, and narrowing. If Mr. Sanders were to defeat Mrs.
Clinton in New York two weeks from now, it could have a
profound effect on the Democratic race.
The voter “mutiny” in the Democratic Party is mirrored by a
Republican “mutiny’ in their presidential nomination contest.
At least until Wisconsin. Ted Cruz defeated Donald Trump
there by a huge margin. John Kasich came in third with 15%
of the vote. Most importantly, Cruz won almost all the
Wisconsin delegates, further distancing Mr. Trump from the
needed 1237 delegates he needs to win the nomination on the
first ballot. The Wisconsin vote might be the beginning of a
“counter-mutiny” against businessman Trump who hitherto
has dominated the GOP debates and caucus/primary season.
Wisconsin might have also marked a turning point in the race
that leads to the first genuinely open and contested GOP
convention in many decades.
Complicating this race is the fact that the two men with the
most delegates, Trump and Cruz, have extraordinarily high
negative popularity poll ratings, and lose to Hillary Clinton.
Although Mr. Kasich trails in committed delegates, and has
won only one state outright, he is the only Republican who
consistently defeats Mrs. Clinton or Mr. Sanders in the
national polls. In a stalemated convention, after three or
four ballots, he could easily be nominated, and would be
the heavy favorite to win the presidency in November.
A technicality in the GOP convention rules would bar Mr.
Kasich from being nominated in Cleveland in July, but it is
difficult to imagine that a Republican convention in Cleveland,
Ohio would risk certain defeat in November if it prevented
Ohio’s very popular governor from even being nominated.
The rule can be changed by the party organization.
Both parties might be tempted to insert a non-presidential
candidate into their conventions. For the Democrats, that
might be Vice President Joe Biden. For the Republicans, it
might be Speaker Paul Ryan. But either of those actions
would be desperate moves. The weather produces its own
climate change, but bypassing Bernie Sanders or one of the
GOP candidates would be such drastic human-made climate
change that the great partisan storms and cold electoral winds
that would result could change American politics indelibly.
Copyright (c) 2016 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.