You’ll have to forgive me. Super Tuesday in the US meant a late Tuesday here in the UK and even black coffee has failed to cut through my mental murk this morning. However, a few quick notes and the occasional query regarding the events of last night…
So how was it for you? I can’t say that I wasn’t a little surprised. Before the polls closed, I was sure that it would be one of those Snoopy style romps, all skipping and petal throwing, for both Clinton and Trump, and though the media this morning almost talk in those very terms, I’m not sure it was. Clinton ‘sweeps south’ is the headline over at The Guardian and while that’s not in question, there was so much more to the night. Nobody really expected Sanders to win anywhere outside his home state of Vermont. In the end, he won four states, including Colorado, Minnesota and Oklahoma, and all but the last by a healthy margin. Before the results were known, the expert pundits on CNN suggested that any wins outside Vermont would be a big boost for Sanders. To my eyes, he has three big boosts yet this morning the talk is all about Hillary.
There is, of course, a reason why you’d be foolish to bet against Hillary. The Democrat’s race is also (I hesitate to say ‘largely’) decided by ‘superdelegates’, who are members of the party elite who get to take their votes to the party convention. Their votes are kept separate and are awarded directly to the candidate they select. It’s why Hillary is already so far ahead of Bernie, 1001 to 371. On pledged delegates, they’re closer but nearly half of the 1001 are superdelegates. He might be making gains among ordinary voters but, among the party establishment, there’s still only one choice.
The real talking point, I suppose, is Little Marco Rubio… I’m sorry. It’s so hard not to think of him in those terms now that Trump is working his black magic. Rubio won a state, which was something nobody predicted before the night. Minnesota should keep him in the race but, if it doesn’t, then he probably never really stood a chance. Talk beforehand was that he needed to prove that he can win states. If the establishment now wish to throw their weight behind Cruz, then they would be acting out of desperation. That would itself be a surprise. ‘Anybody but Trump’ has always really read ‘Anybody but Trump (or Cruz)’. Both will produce huge headaches for the Republicans and I’m not convinced that Cruz would be the easier choice. As we all keep repeating: Trump would be a deal maker but Cruz would never ever compromise.
As for Rubio: I wasn’t too impressed by his past couple of days of trash talk. As I’ve previously argued, he needs to attack Trump in a surgical way: pick one flaw and keep hammering it home until it sticks with the electorate. The jokes have grabbed headlines but they were trivial and too scatter-gun. They have risked turning Rubio from a serious candidate into one that sounds lightweight. He remains, however, the only chance the Republicans have of picking a moderate conservative who could win at the general election. He needs to stay in the race in order to be part of a brokered convention, if it comes to that.
[Incidentally: does anybody know if a ‘suspended campaign’ has ever been unsuspended? Speaking of Rubio surviving until the convention, would it be possible for all the others to suddenly reappear as viable candidates? I’ve been reading the rules of the Republican Party and convention rules are only temporary, from one convention to the next. If the establishment wishes, they can fix the rules to favour certain candidates. Or, at least, that’s how I interpret there rules. I’ve been looking for an answer but even the mighty Google has failed to find me one.]
Cruz winning Texas and Oklahoma, which borders it to the north, was expected. He also won Alaska. He’ll now try to convince people that he’s the only viable alternative to Trump but it rings hollow for the reasons I’ve just mentioned. The only way the establishment might wish to back Cruz is if they simply want to give up, rule out any chance of winning in November, and to put this horrible mess behind them. If they want to bring this bush fire under control, then Cruz would be the guy to starve it of oxygen. He makes Mitt Romney seem warm and cuddly.
As for Trump: I couldn’t fail to think ‘Drumpf’ as I watched his victory speech last night. I was pretty sleepy so perhaps I imagined that he was more statesmanlike than normal. Did he really congratulate Cruz? This morning the talk is about Trump being all but confirmed as the Republican’s nomination. I’ve been saying pretty much that for months. Now it’s looking more of a reality, like a true contrarian I’m not convinced the fight is over. Trump currently has 285 delegates, Cruz has 161, and Rubio has 87. All three have a long way to go until they reach 1237.
What makes me start to doubt Trump? I’ve always doubted him. I never doubted that he could win but I’ve also believed that he could destroy himself. I still can’t get over the feeling that such a singular candidate could implode. If that were Cruz or Rubio in the lead, I’d have no doubt that they’d continue to do what they do. Trump, however, is a wildcard. For the first time, the Republican establishment are really going to move against him. Talk on CNN last night was about an anti-Trump SuperPAC that’s being organised. Then there was John Oliver’s ‘Drumpf’ piece on his show on Sunday. I don’t suppose it would have been seen by enough Republicans to make a difference but it showed the amount of dirt that can be thrown at Trump in the coming months. More than anything, Trump himself is prone to gaffs. His refusal to immediately condemn David Duke’s endorsement was one example. Was he being calculated, trying to win over the far right of the party? Was it a mistake? There’s no way of knowing. Most of these gaffs (deliberate or otherwise) have ended up working in Trump’s favour but there need only be one to severely trip him. It’s been the story of the election so far and I have no doubt that the narrative will continue to have the odd twist. Even if Trump wins, the intrigues will continue as the Republicans come to terms with their new reality. It’s why this race remains compulsive viewing. Nothing is settled and nothing is obvious.