One could not be blamed for looking at the Republican primary results over the past 10 days and questioning how someone could stop Donald Trump from being the Republican nominee.
Let’s get the easy part out of the way first. Bernie Sanders went into the New York Democratic primary with essentially no path to catching Hillary Clinton in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination, and he leaves it with even less of a path after Clinton’s victory. Despite some national polls showing the race effectively a tie, Clinton has a lead in pledged delegates and superdelegates that Sanders cannot catch. Unless Clinton is somehow forced from the race, she will be the nominee. Sanders assuredly still has some victories to come, but the eventual outcome really is not in doubt.
Pennsylvania’s Seventh Congressional District, which forms a misshapen U linking Greater Philadelphia in the east to the outskirts of Lancaster and Reading to its west and north, provides a vivid example of the challenges Democrats face on the current U.S. House map.
About a month ago, after Donald Trump won the South Carolina primary and all of its delegates, we headlined a piece “The Hour is Growing Late to Stop Trump.” Well, the hour has grown later, and we have to ask the question: Has Trump been stopped?
As we’ve suggested, the past few weeks have been defined by increasingly-loud talk of a contested convention and the possibility that the presidential contest will go beyond the first ballot, something that has not happened in either party since 1952. The highly unusual circumstances on the Republican side, where the polarizing Donald Trump has finished first in the majority of contests so far and has won more than a third of the delegates he needs for a first ballot nomination, make the outcome impossible to predict with precision at this point.
This is the second part of a two-part series analyzing the flood of primaries and in both parties from now through March 15. Last week we looked at the Republicans, and this week we look at the Democrats.
Unlike the Republicans, who give states some leeway to come up with their own rules for allocating convention delegates, the Democrats have uniform guidelines that apply across their caucuses and primaries. Delegates are apportioned proportionally both at the congressional district and statewide level, and in order to receive delegates at either level, a candidate must pass a 15% support threshold. Given that the Democratic race is now just a two-person contest among Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, both candidates will meet the threshold in nearly all states and congressional districts.
The atrocities in Paris over the weekend show that events can and will inject new issues into the presidential contest or intensify ones that already exist. But it’s important to remember that what dominates news today might not be what dominates it a month from now, and we still have two and a half months until the primary season begins and nearly a year before the general election.
The decision by Vice President Joe Biden to pass on the presidential race confirms what would have been true even if he had entered the contest: This is Hillary Clinton’s race to lose.
Biden’s exit strengthens her position, because it has become clear that Biden was taking more support away from Clinton than from the more liberal Bernie Sanders in polls. For instance, Clinton leads Biden and Sanders 45%-29%-18%, respectively, in a CNN poll conducted after the first debate. But it’s 56%-33% Clinton over Sanders when Biden was removed. Note that Sanders only gained four points without Biden but Clinton gained 11. A new Monmouth University poll showed effectively the same thing (as do others).
Last year at this time, Democrats were in the final month of their losing battle to hold the U.S. Senate. But while licking their wounds after the election, they consoled themselves with a 2016 comeback vision. Democrats already had a candidate so credentialed she was likely to sweep to the nomination and be in a solid position to bury the eventual GOP nominee. Demographics and destiny were on Hillary Clinton’s side, and she’d help the party recapture the Senate too.
What a difference a year makes. It’s hard to recall much of anything that has gone Clinton’s way in 2015. She has four opponents but has run mainly against herself — yet steadily lost ground.
Republicans working to maintain the party’s historically large House majority appear relatively confident about the aspects of the next campaign they can control: incumbent performance, recruitment of challengers, staffing, fundraising, etc. What concerns them are the aspects of the campaign they do not control.