The UVA Center for Politics’ latest documentary, Ball of Confusion, has begun airing on PBS stations across the nation this week. Check your local listings to see when it’s playing in your area, and click on the image below to watch the trailer. The documentary recounts the three-way presidential contest among Richard Nixon, Hubert Humphrey, and George Wallace held against the backdrop of the Vietnam War and civil unrest at home. That election, decided 47 years ago today, remains amongst the most extraordinary in American history, as Larry J. Sabato writes below.
— The Editors
The third Republican presidential debate, held in Colorado on Wednesday night, was an odd, disjointed affair. The moderators arguably engaged in too much confrontation with the candidates and had a hard time divvying up the speaking time. With 10 candidates on the stage, the problems of the first two debates — too many candidates, too little time — became more apparent than ever.
For months we’ve argued that Kentucky’s increasing lean toward the Republican Party and the state’s antipathy toward President Barack Obama gave businessman Matt Bevin, the Republican nominee, a generic edge in the open Kentucky gubernatorial race. While Bevin is not a strong candidate, we thought that ultimately those inherent advantages — advantages that have nothing to do with Bevin’s campaign — nonetheless made him a small favorite over state Attorney General Jack Conway (D).
Whatever else it is, the Republican presidential contest has become a full employment act for reporters and analysts. With the largest (though gradually shrinking) field of any major party in U.S. history and a Republican electorate that appears mad as hell and isn’t going to take it anymore, the GOP caravan is careening down the highway with drivers hurling insults at one another and racing recklessly to get into position for the voting that begins in a little over four months.
The 2012 nomination battle had plenty of ups and downs, too, but this one has become an expensive multi-front contest in record time. With debates drawing massive audiences and stoking the fires at regular intervals, there’s little chance the race will settle down soon.
It was a debate with winners (certainly Carly Fiorina) and losers (sorry, Scott Walker). Mainly, though, the Reagan Rumble reinforced the strengths and weaknesses that voters already associate with each of the candidates. Already, millions tuned in mainly to cheer for their current choice.
Take a deep breath. It won’t help you understand what’s happening in the contest for the presidency, but it won’t hurt either.
By contrast, many media analyses of the state of the race have reached the breathless level. Supposedly, there’s never been anyone like Donald Trump on the political scene. In fact, there’s a long tradition of anti-establishment outsiders making a splash. Conventional wisdom says Hillary Clinton is close to throwing away her second chance at the White House. Actually, while she’s been very unimpressive as a candidate in this cycle, Clinton’s many advantages still make her a strong favorite to be the Democratic standard-bearer (absent an indictment).
Whatever you think of him, Donald Trump is a stick of dynamite thrown into the presidential pond. All the boats have been rocked, and given Trump’s potential for more explosiveness, the political waters show little sign of settling down anytime soon.
Donald Trump is so special that we’ve created a category (and perhaps a word) just for him in our Republican presidential rankings: “The Un-Nominatable Frontrunner.”
Since we last took a comprehensive look at the 2016 Senate races, a slew of new candidates have jumped in, some promising contenders have dropped out, and intraparty competition has intensified.
Sounds dramatic. Yet what most strikes us is the overall stability, thus far at least, of the Senate picture.
We all know what Donald Trump is saying and the issues he’s emphasizing. Many have noted the strong reactions of the media, pundits, and his business associates, some of whom have cut ties. Now the most recent surveys show Trump in the double digits among Republicans nationally. Two new polls have even found Trump ahead of Jeb Bush, the nominal frontrunner: Economist /YouGov’s survey placed Trump at 15% and USA Today /Suffolk University’s poll showed him at 17%.
The Buzz about Bernie has taken hold on the Democratic side of the 2016 campaign, and it’s easy to see why. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) is drawing huge crowds and great poll numbers in the first two states to vote, Iowa and New Hampshire.