Yesterday was an inflection point for both the Democratic and Republican primary races. (More)
“We are moving closer to securing the Democratic Party nomination and winning this election in November”
I’ll start with the Democrats. Yesterday Hillary Clinton went five-for-five, with landslide victories in Florida, North Carolina, and Ohio and narrow wins in both Illinois and Missouri. The Midwest sweep was a major boon to the Clinton campaign after Bernie Sanders’ upset win in Michigan last week:
For Mrs. Clinton, Tuesday’s double-digit victories netted her so many delegates that her lead over Mr. Sanders is now about three times what Barack Obama’s was over her in 2008. On a personal level, too, she and her advisers were reassured that regardless of her Michigan defeat, her political arguments about jobs and the economy had potency in states that will be major battlegrounds in November.
Mrs. Clinton was bullish and beaming at her victory party in West Palm Beach, Fla., after the first three states were called in her favor. “We are moving closer to securing the Democratic Party nomination and winning this election in November,” she said to cheers from a rowdy crowd of 1,300 people.
More than in any other primary night speech, Mrs. Clinton aimed her remarks in South Florida at the leading Republican candidate, Donald J. Trump, who boasted of his own victory just miles away.
“When we hear a candidate for president call for rounding up 12 million immigrants, banning all Muslims from entering the United States, when he embraces torture, that doesn’t make him strong – it makes him wrong,” Mrs. Clinton said, as she called on all Americans to fight against “bluster and bigotry.”
“That’s just incredibly implausible”
Clinton can afford to pivot to her likely GOP opponent – more on who that may be below – because last night’s victories gave her an almost insurmountable delegate lead, as Vox’s Andrew Prokop explains:
Here’s how rough the math is for Sanders going forward: to win a majority in pledged delegates, he needs to win 58 percent of those remaining.
That might not sound so bad. But because all the Democratic contests allot their delegates proportionally, it’s actually punishingly difficult.
It means Sanders has to beat Clinton by around 58 percent to 42 percent pretty much constantly. And that’s just incredibly implausible given what’s happened so far, and especially given what’s happened tonight.
Even unexpected wins for Sanders in big states like California, New York, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey – already unlikely – wouldn’t be enough. Sanders has to win those states by enormous margins.
“Help anchor the progressive flank of the Democratic Party in Congress”
Sanders again promised to continue his campaign all the way through the primaries, and he may do that. He’s raising plenty of money, and he’s made Clinton a more progressive candidate. But Vox’s Matthew Yglesias says Sanders can do more to enable a true progressive ‘revolution’ by pivoting into post-campaign mode:
The smarter play for Sanders would be to start looking past his presidential campaign to an idea that’s always been integral to his political revolution but that never genuinely required him to win a presidential election: mobilizing young liberals to vote every two years rather than skipping midterms.
His supporters may not be a national majority of Democrats. But there are a large number of them. They are disproportionately well-educated and engaged with politics, disproportionately likely to actually pony up money or attend a rally, and disproportionately likely to live in places that are represented in c\Congress by Democrats.
If rather than waste money on more TV ads, Sanders starts raising funds to build an enduring activist infrastructure, he could do an enormous amount to help anchor the progressive flank of the Democratic Party in Congress.
“America is in the middle of a real political storm”
Tuesday’s split decision leaves the front-runner again walking away with the biggest prize and the largest share of delegates. Trump has vanquished yet another opponent, trouncing Marco Rubio in Florida, and continuing a dominant showing across demographic groups and issue areas.
“America is in the middle of a real political storm,” Rubio said in exiting the race. “We should have seen this coming.”
As Rubio notes, the storm isn’t over. John Kasich’s first victory [in Ohio], not to mention Ted Cruz’s continued ability to accrue delegates, mean that Trump will have to fight for victory all the way through the spring – and, yes, perhaps right through the Republican National Convention in July.
“We have something happening that makes the Republican Party probably the biggest political story in the world”
For his part, Trump all but gave GOP elites an ultimatum last night:
Standing on stage surrounded by his campaign staff and family, Trump spoke to the Republican Establishment in Washington and sent a message: it’s time to accept the reality that he’s their likely nominee. “The fact is, we have to bring the Republican Party together,” he said.
So far, Trump has been able to transform his fanciful boasts into reality, but bringing the Establishment to heel may be his toughest bit of alchemy yet. Now that Trump has all but ensured that he will be the outright nominee or he’ll have a majority delegate count in the event of a contested convention, will the GOP mount a challenge in Cleveland that will tip the nomination to Cruz – or worse in Trump’s eyes, recruit a white knight like Mitt Romney, Jeb Bush or even Paul Ryan?
Trump sought to quell his critics and increase his negotiating leverage by reminding people that the party hasn’t disowned him yet. “Paul Ryan called me the other day. It was a tremendous call,” he said. “I spoke with Mitch McConnell. Great conversation.” Also, by hyping the size of his base, he made it clear it would be electoral suicide if they did try to take the nomination from his clutches. “We have something happening that makes the Republican Party probably the biggest political story in the world,” he said. “Everyone around the world is talking about it. Millions of people are coming in to vote.”
Trump seemed to be presenting the GOP with a choice: grant me the nomination or lose this mass of voters, thereby guaranteeing a win for Hillary Clinton in November.
Well yes, what’s happening in the GOP is “the biggest political story in the world.” So was the meltdown in Greece. Just sayin’.
“This is the race the Clinton campaign didn’t dare hope for”
Tuesday night was an amazing night for Hillary Clinton because Marco Rubio dropped out of the race and virtually ensured she will face either Donald Trump or Ted Cruz in the general election.
Rubio could have unified the GOP while running to the middle. His rhetoric was often as partisan and fearmongering as anyone else in the race, but crucially, he had a second speed, too – he was able to speak the language of optimism and uplift, he was able to come off more moderate than he really was, he was able to talk about the economy by making an argument about the future rather than just a divisive critique of the past.
None of this fit the mood of the Republican Party in this moment, but these are the political skills you need – or, at least traditionally, have needed – to win a general election.
Trump and Cruz don’t have these skills. Cruz is the kind of hardcore conservative ideologue the Republican Party hasn’t nominated since Barry Goldwater. Trump is an extremist with extraordinarily high unfavorables who could split the Republican Party, to say nothing of the kind of turnout he’ll inspire among Hispanics, women, and young voters. Either candidate solves Clinton’s turnout problems among Democrats, where she’s faced a real enthusiasm gap compared to Obama.
This is the race the Clinton campaign didn’t dare hope for.
I’ll raise a macadamia to that.
Photo Credit: Intradeim.com
Good day and good nuts