Notes from the Primaries: Clinton and Trump in control ahead of Super Tuesday

Trump may win the nomination, but his general election prospects are poor


This week’s memo finds Trump and Clinton still in the driver’s seat, with each appearing to have a very commanding lead in their Party’s fight for the nomination.  Both are doing well in the Super Tuesday states and, while neither may win every state, it is hard to see how their current path to victory gets dramatically altered tomorrow.


The most important polling we’ve seen these last few days is in Massachusetts, a Sanders must-win state where two different polls show Clinton ahead.  If Clinton denies Sanders in Colorado, Massachusetts, Minnesota and Oklahoma tomorrow very hard to see a path for victory for him, despite what is shaping up to be a record setting fundraising month for his spirited campaign.  

Clinton continues to improve and grow on the stump, becoming ever more comfortable in the language and terrain of this challenging campaign in an unsettled time.

An issue we’ve been raising for months – the enthusiasm gap – has gotten a bit more attention this week.  See this piece from Zach Carter in the Huffington Post, and this from Rachel Maddow.  Our latest debate audience tally has the GOP now at 158m for their ten debates, and the Dems at 55m for six.  The difference remains vast, and worrisome.    


Today, I’m moving on to the general election for a bit of a reality check on the Trump insurgency.

Using the 2012 Obama map as a guide, we can see how challenging it will be for Mr. Trump to win.  Assuming all the southwestern heavily Hispanic states remain out of reach for him (and that is without Arizona, which could be in play for Dems this time), he has to take 63 electoral college votes from either the 83 in Iowa, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin, or the 112 if Florida is in play.  

Of these states if Dems hold Pennsylvania and Florida, they only need to win one other of the five remaining states to win.  And in some of these states there are 2016-specific winds blowing the Democrats’ way.

In Michigan, the Flint water scandal has weakened the Governor and his party; in Wisconsin, the incumbent Senator Ron Johnson is being routed by his opponent Russ Feingold, and Scott Walker is no longer the same strong governor he was after his washout Presidential bid.

In Pennsylvania, the Democrats were able to reclaim the governorship in 2014 and will have their convention there; and in Virginia, one knows that the current governor, Terry McAuliffe, one of Hillary Clinton’s closest allies, will move heaven, earth and maybe more to get Hillary elected (and there may be a Virginian on the ticket). The path for Mr. Trump is challenging indeed.

It should also come as no surprise that when the choice for Republicans narrowed to these three – a nationalistic Anglo and two Hispanics with recent immigrant roots – we discovered that the Hispanics had a very low ceiling and the Anglo started pulling in all the remaining outstanding votes.

It was just too much of a leap for a party that could produce Trump to end up going for Cruz or particularly Rubio, who has so closely identified with his Hispanic immigrant roots.

Another worry for the Republicans about the fall is the unusual campaign Trump has run.  As he hasn’t raised money, put folks on the ground and bought television ads, he and his team will not have had the experience of working through all this in the primaries as most campaigns do.  

It means that he if begins to put on the trapping of a traditional campaign, which one will assume he will need to do against the Democrats this fall, he will be doing it all for the first time, reducing his chances of doing it well.   

Perhaps he can muscle through the general as he has the primary, but the Democratic Presidential machine has won more votes than the GOP in five of the last six elections, is very modern and sophisticated, and has a built in electoral college advantage.  

A note on the coming ‘GOP crackup’

Last week I wrote at length at why the rise of Trump should be no great surprise.  But I want to add more observation to what is certainly one of the bigger stories in the campaign.  

Looking back over the past generation of American politics, perhaps the starkest difference between the two parties is that Democrats have produced two successful Presidents, and the GOP have given us what were in essence two failed Bush presidencies.   

There simply is far more reason for Republican voters to be angry at their establishment, for it has been almost 30 years since GOP voters have had a leader who they could be truly proud of.

In that time, the analysis goes, the failures of the GOP allowed the Democrats to bring far too much lasting change to the nation. It is literally astonishing that in the past year the House Republicans deposed a Speaker who had given them their largest majority in almost 80 years, and that the three remaining Republicans in the Presidential have all run explicitly against a failed GOP establishment.  

The ‘crack up’ is much bigger than Trump, and where it goes and what it means very hard to tell right now.  Frankly the nominees of both parties this time are going to have a harder time putting it all back together again than is typical in US politics.

Simon Rosenberg is the founder of the think tank NDN/NPI. In the run up to the US election Left Foot Forward will be reposting his weekly analysis of the campaign trail as a UK exclusive. You can find previous columns here

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