Super Tuesday is Almost Here: How Did This Happen?
In January, a GOP presidential candidate told a New Hampshire crowd, “We are not electing an entertainer-in-chief. Showmanship is fun, but it’s not the type of leadership that will truly change America.” The sentiments of these comments have been shared by many throughout the political media and by those of us who enjoy rational thought, and yet we look ahead to Super Tuesday, just hours from now, with Donald Trump as the Republican frontrunner in most of Tuesday’s 13 delegate contests. To confuse matters more, the ‘entertainer-chief’ sound bite is from New Jersey governor Chris Christie. The same Chris Christie that enthusiastically endorsed Donald Trump for president on Friday. We are living in strange political times, beware ye who enter here.
It remains to be seen whether Governor Christie made a savvy political move by endorsing Trump or further alienated himself from the political establishment if Trump fails to win the presidency, but the so-called primary momentum appears to be in Mr. Trump’s favor. That would assume, however, that this primary election season was following the script of past years, which it most certainly is not. Find me a candidate that actually got into a quarrel with the Pope himself and emerged unharmed in the polls. Find me a candidate that skipped a debate and only earned himself more time in the spotlight. I won’t even bring up the offensive, shortsighted and generally horrifying things that have been uttered to applauding crowds because I cannot pretend to understand why a Trump supporter is a Trump supporter. And maybe that right there has been the issue with this primary season.
I empathize and support many causes, but I cannot pretend to truly understand the sentiments of many in the Trump supporter base. I am not angry. I think America is already great. I do not view Washington, D.C. as the great big beast. But many people are angry. Many people blame the “D.C. establishment” for a lot of things. That is what many of us missed during the past few months of Trump’s rise because living and working in D.C. can create a bubble and a disconnect with sentiments shared in other states and towns around the country. The political media initially viewed the Trump candidacy as a joke. One journalist even asked Trump during one of the Republican debates, “Is this a comic-book version of a presidential campaign?” further emphasizing the complete disconnect of the people covering our elections with many of the people voting in these primary contests.
This primary season has taken an unconventional path so far, with Trump-mentum showing no signs of tapering off, but we rarely see a candidate take so many controversial and sometimes contradicting positions on key issues, so all I will offer is that there is still a lot of time left for him to lose. Right…?
Of the 13 Republican primaries and caucuses on Super Tuesday, March 1, most (if not all) states proportionally allocate delegates based on voting thresholds and locality breakdowns. That is part of the reason why a candidate can still remain competitive if they are not the outright winner in some of the states. That logic will likely remain true after Tuesday’s contests, but if Mr. Trump has a voting performance similar to last week’s results in South Carolina, the math becomes harder to anecdotally talk our way out of why Trump will not be the Republican nominee.
I haven’t even mentioned the Democratic race because last night’s South Carolina primary results confirmed what we have thought since the 2008 primary ended: Hillary Clinton will run and win the 2016 Democratic nomination. Who knows, there may be a Sanders resurgence coming on Tuesday, but I’ll get to that if we see such results. There are similar themes with why voters identify with Sanders and why he has had a stronger showing than most people expected at the start of his campaign, but it’s hard not laugh when making comparisons between Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders. They couldn’t be more different if you tried.
I vote for and support policy platforms from both political parties. I think many people do not clearly align with one party on all of the issues, but they identify with a party and a candidate based on those larger issues that they view as more important in their lives and for the country. That logic is especially true for presidential elections. Voters tend to focus more on the candidate’s story and views and less on the candidate’s party affiliation. Party platforms can often contradict many voters’ views, which partially explains why voters are identifying more as “independent” than with one of the major political parties. Even in Congress, an especially polarized institution, certain policy views can break down by regional differences and party ideology might have less impact on voting behavior. This shift in party identification can make for a volatile election season, especially as we shift from the more extreme primary positions into the centered general election platforms. Conventional wisdom would suggest that a Trump-like candidate would not fare well in a general election contest, but conventional wisdom holds very little weight this election year. Remember Jeb!?
In a few days, Super Tuesday will have come and gone, and we will have a clearer picture of whether voters confirmed what the polls suggested: the Republican nomination is Trump’s to lose. We might see some deal making and maneuvering if Rubio has a strong showing on Tuesday and can forge an alliance to get other candidates’ delegate allocation. It may sound like a bad episode of Survivor, but Rubio’s campaign will be looking for ways to keep their chances alive and survive. I know better than to make bad predictions when I don’t need to, but it’s safe to say that the anti-Trump wing of the Republican Party will not let Mr. Trump ride into Cleveland this July without a fight.
If you’re voting on Tuesday, have fun. If you’ll be playing the role of spectator, I’ll see you out there: #LetsMakeTuesdaySuperAgain.