Well, at least it’s going to be interesting, isn’t it?
On the Democratic side, we’ve had a tie in Iowa and a Sanders win in his backyard New Hampshire. This promises to be a long battle. I suspect that this will work to their advantage. For the most part, Clinton and Sanders are espousing the same values; their disagreement is largely about how to achiever their goals, not what the goals are. A long primary will keeps both of them in front of the camera for a long time.
Neither primary result was a big surprise. Sanders has the momentum right now, but if I were a gambler, I’d bet on Clinton’s support within the party, her big supporters, and her near-monopoly of the super-delegates to win the race. Sanders will probably keep her from being able to tack to the center until after the convention. She’ll say a lot of progressive things, although I think it would incredibly naive to put too much faith in her desire to deliver on them*.
The Republicans are a lot more interesting because there’s a good deal more in the blender at this point. Cruz won in Iowa, but managed to turn that in to a plunge in the polls. Rubio finished surprisingly well in Iowa and appeared poised to assume the mantle of “establishment candidate.” Trump, whose entire campaign is based on being a “winner,” desperately needed a big win in New Hampshire, which he got. Kasich took second in NH, and Cruz finished third, less than a thousand votes ahead of Rubio and Jeb!.
So, the front-runner is…who knows? I guess Trump is. Maybe? It’s a very fragile position because he doesn’t really bring anything to the table other than being a bully, and a bully who loses a fight or two isn’t much of a bully. Cruz is trying to position himself to take Trump’s support if Trump implodes by being “the other anti-establishment candidate.” Rubio had a disastrous debate, but he’s still close enough that I wouldn’t write him off. The rest are just jockeying for jobs on Fox News.
How does it look on a national level? The Republicans have to be absolutely salivating at the opportunity to run against either Clinton or Sanders. Sanders is far enough left that the “socialist” tag will stick to him. Clinton, of course, is a Clinton and the Republicans would love to finally beat a Clinton. The second-worst place on the web refers to her as “Hitlery” so you know that they’ll eager to get at her.
You’d think it would look grim for the Democratic party as well, but this is a strange cycle. The best-case for the Democrats would be for Cruz to get the nomination. The more he talks, the more damage he does to the Republican party. There’s a reason that the Democrats were happy to let his faux-filibuster run as long as he wanted. Trump’s easier to attack, but harder to hurt. He’s a very different animal and it’s tough to know how much support he’ll draw from women and minorities when he’s been so openly hostile to them. With both of them, do not underestimate the blow-back against their positions on Roe v. Wade, Obamacare, and women in general.
Rubio’s probably the best bet in a general election in that he has the fewest obvious weaknesses. The base might be tepid towards him now, but when he’s up against Clinton or Sanders, bet on a big turnout. If I were going to put a fiver on it, I’d bet on Marco Rubio being the next President. It’s way too early to have any confidence in that prediction. I’m not especially happy about it. The only one of the candidates I really like is Sanders, and there’s essentially no chance he’d be effective if he were elected. I’m not a fan of Clinton as she seems to be ethically compromised.
Trump is a Trump. If that strikes you as presidential, then you’re probably not reading this blog. And Cruz? Cruz is special. He’s as ethically challenged as Clinton, panders like Trump, is as wacky as Rand Paul, and has the charisma of Richard Nixon. I don’t think that Christie’s criticism of Rubio as an “empty suit” was unfair, but that makes him the frightening of the Republicans. I’ll take an empty suit over a suit full of Ted Cruz or Donald Trump any day of the week.
P.S. I hate election season.
P.P.S. I really, really hate election season.
* If Sanders winds up winning the nomination, he’ll have all kinds of desire to follow up on his progressive promises, but “desire” and “ability” are two very different things.