WASHINGTON, D.C. – Primary season is in full swing, and there are now, as of Monday, only five Republicans left running for president. Donald Trump has overcome his initial defeat at the Iowa caucus to Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and has claimed decisive victories in New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada. On the Democratic side, […]
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Primary season is in full swing, and there are now, as of Monday, only five Republicans left running for president.
Donald Trump has overcome his initial defeat at the Iowa caucus to Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and has claimed decisive victories in New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada.
On the Democratic side, the candidate with the most experience, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, has produced results, winning three out the four contests so far. Her opponent, populist candidate and self-described democratic socialist Bernie Sanders, has come out on top once so far, winning big in New Hampshire.
With 14 states set to take to the polls Tuesday, March 1, the larger picture of the presidential race is starting to take shape.
A year ago, most voters could never have imagined the Trump tenor that has overtaken conservatives. The real estate magnate and former reality TV show host has bombastically taken center stage in a race that at one point featured 17 candidates. Trump has continued to set himself apart from serious contenders Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.) and Cruz, an amazing feat for a candidate who could become the first U.S. president to have never held a military or political position. The most recent RealClearPolitics polling average has Trump 15 points ahead of Cruz.
Trump’s tactics are among the most unconventional we’ve seen from a presidential candidate. In the most recent Republican debate, he called his opponents “choke artists” and “liars” while repeatedly interrupting moderator Wolf Blitzer. His policies and positions have become buzzwords. Then there is his proposed gigantic wall and his disdain for lost economic opportunities to China. And he has had no trouble tapping into the anti-establishment sentiment among large portions of the electorate, because in contrast to his opponents Cruz and Rubio, he has never been a part of the Washington establishment.
A brief peek into any one of the recent Republican debates would reveal the sharp turn toward the far right of the conservative spectrum has taken. Outside of the more moderate Ohio Gov. John Kasich, the candidates have taken turns touting their strict immigration policies, their disdain for Obamacare, their plans to annihilate ISIS with increased military force and more. Trump’s natural knack in front of the camera and his ability to say all the right things to all the right people is finally convincing skeptics that this former “Apprentice” host has a real chance to win the nomination.
On the other side of the aisle, the Democratic nomination may end up playing out in a more conventional manner. A year ago, this was a one-candidate race. Clinton was set to run away with the vote; she was extremely qualified, entrenched in the establishment, and practically the only candidate running. Then came Sanders. For years, Sanders was the longest-serving Independent in Congress, but a jump to the Democratic Party created the first truly grassroots campaign to gain real traction in years.
Sanders, with his populist platform, proposes a plan for universal healthcare and free college tuition, and a strong conviction that he will break the trend of political interests being dominated by the millionaires and billionaires of the “1 percent.” His ideas are truly revolutionary. Instead of repeating the same mistakes that have led to a shrinking middle class, Sanders has proposed taking cues from European nations that have successfully reduced income inequality. And he’s certainly not wrong, as the United States is the only fully industrialized nation not to offer some form of free and complete healthcare coverage to all of its citizens.
From not accepting Super PAC donations to his pledge to get rid of Citizens United and end big money campaign financing, Sanders capitalized in his own way on an anti-establishment position. With the backdrop of Clinton’s private email server controversy, her handling of the Benghazi situation and her highly-paid corporate speaking engagements, Sanders was seen as a beacon of light in a campaign season that was previously viewed as a foregone conclusion.
But now, with only a single victory so far in New Hampshire, the Democratic socialist candidate is in danger of falling short just as election season heats up. Sanders’ campaign concerns have centered on his inability to gain votes in the south and from minority voters, and weak results on Super Tuesday could deal a real blow to his chances. While a Clinton sweep of the votes on Tuesday wouldn’t mathematically eliminate Sanders, it would seem to be the first major step toward what has always been viewed as a predictable outcome. A strong showing, especially in the southern states and at the two Democratic debates over the next week and a half, and suddenly Sanders can make this race take another new turn.
A Sanders-Trump general election would be wholly unprecedented, and while entertaining, probably unlikely. Sanders is reinvigorating the young voters, but his lack of minority support coupled with facing up against Clinton’s cemented legacy in the south could cost him this election.