Sunday, March 20, 2016

Trump v Clinton – likely, but not yet assured

The party nomination process for this year’s presidential election set a clear direction last Tuesday.  The probability is now very high that Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump will represent the Democratic and Republican parties respectively in November.   However, each faces threats to their nomination.  For both candidates these threats could end their pursuit of the nomination, and in Clinton’s case continue into the general election cycle.

The 2016 presidential election was to be a battle of titans between the Clinton and Bush families.  Nothing has gone according to expectations.   Donald Trump flipped the Republican Party on its head and Jeb Bush suspended his campaign. On the Democratic side, an avowed Socialist who chose the Soviet Union as the place for his honeymoon posed a serious threat to Hillary Clinton’s coronation.  Something is stirring in the body politic and further surprises can be expected.

On the Republican side the traditional party leadership is trying to build a case for a contested convention at which an alternative to Trump will become the nominee.  Republican delegates are pledged to vote in accordance with the primary or caucus results within their state.  But if there is no clear winner with 1237 delegate votes in the first round of convention voting the delegates are released from their pledge on the second round.  Then the horse trading occurs.  The leadership hopes this will happen and they will be able to install an alternative as the party’s nominee.

This plan is very close to wishful thinking.   Trump currently has 678 delegates.  Cruz, Kasich and Rubio currently have a combined 730.   The hope is to prevent Trump from acquiring 53% of the remaining 1049 delegates to be decided in the remaining primary contests.   But that is going to be very hard.  Most of the remaining contests are winner-take-all.   Trump will likely win every one of those contests.  Even in states that are proportional distribution of delegates based on vote percentages Trump will do well.  For example, in New York, polls indicate Trump may exceed 60 percent of the vote tally.

If before March 15 Trump’s Republican opponents had publicly supported a single alternative to Trump there was a chance to disrupt his pathway to victory.   They did not do that.   In fact, two who have dropped out (Christie and Carson) have endorsed Trump.  Kasich holds on.  He waved a flag of victory for having won his home state of Ohio.  He won with 46% of the vote.  That means 54% of Republicans did not vote for their sitting Governor.

Ted Cruz believes that he will be the alternative in a second ballot.   His campaign is working within states to shape what the Republican convention delegation will look like.  His hope is that he can get the state Republican Committees to appoint delegates who will on a second ballot vote for him.   This scenario also assumes Trump does not gain enough delegates to win in the first round.

Polling and math indicate very strongly that Donald Trump will win enough of the remaining contests to become the Republican nominee on the first ballot of the convention.  If he achieves the required number of delegates and is somehow thwarted at the nomination there will be a massive revolt within the Republican Party that will cause it to fracture.

On the Democratic side Bernie Sanders did a good job temporarily disrupting the coronation of Hillary Clinton.   However, process, polls, and math indicate Clinton will be the Democratic nominee.   Yet, Sanders is holding on and staying in.  Why?  Well, he has a lot of cash and a lot of grass roots support.  But why not coalesce around Clinton and begin the battle against Trump now?  Sanders is hedging his bets.

Despite a lack of mainstream media attention and a head-in-the-sand approach by the party faithful, the FBI investigation into Clinton’s use of a personal email server and related mishandling of classified information can derail her nomination.  The recent immunity provided to former State Department and personal Clinton employee Bryan Pagliano should send chills throughout the campaign.  If the FBI recommends charges to the Justice Department, and that seems probable based on what information is available in the public domain, the outcome will be negative for Clinton and could force her withdrawal from the nomination process.

Sanders likely remains in the fray because he believes the classified material issue, or a health problem, or some other issue can waylay the Clinton march to the nomination.  If it happens he wants to be waiting in the wings for the nomination.  However, even if Clinton withdrew Sanders will not automatically become the Democratic nominee.

The Democratic Party nominating process is different from the Republican process. There is more flexibility for alternatives to be introduced should Clinton withdraw for any reason.   Party leadership may overlook Sanders because they feel he cannot win the general election and instead take the necessary actions to nominate a trusted party member such as Vice President Joe Biden or Secretary of State John Kerry.


  1. Hi Dan! Thank you for the explanation and providing some clarity to this confusing election season.

  2. Hi Dan! Thank you for the explanation and providing some clarity to this confusing election season.


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