If current trends hold, Hillary Clinton will be the next President of the United States, and she may have a Democratic Congress to support her…. (More)

At the Races, Part III: Looking to November

This week Morning Feature looks at the status of the 2016 races. Thursday we began with the chaos in the GOP. Yesterday we saw the comparative clarity in the Democratic presidential primary. Today we look at each party’s prospects for November.

“More of them seem to want Clinton as their nominee”

As we saw yesterday, the Democratic primary race seems to have stabilized. While Hillary Clinton hasn’t locked up the nomination, she has a solid delegate lead and Bernie Sanders would need a game-changer – a real one, not the shiny baubles that political pundits obsess over week-by-week – to overtake her. FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver explains:

We’re fond of sports metaphors here at FiveThirtyEight. If the Republican race is Calvinball, with everyone making up the rules as they go along, the Democratic race is more like – zzzzzzz – golf. Clinton entered Tuesday night with the equivalent of a four-stroke lead with four holes to play. Then on the 15th hole, when Sanders already needed a minor miracle, she birdied while Sanders bogeyed. It’s not that it’s mathematically impossible for Sanders to win; Clinton could have some sort of epic meltdown. But she controls her own fate while Sanders doesn’t really control his, and she has quite a lot of tolerance for error.

Sanders has run a good campaign, and the fact that he ran competitively with Clinton in diverse states such as Michigan, Missouri and Illinois is more impressive in many ways than his early successes in Iowa and New Hampshire. But around 15 million Democrats have voted and, simply put, more of them seem to want Clinton as their nominee.

Of course, both Republicans and hardcore Sanders fans hope the FBI will provide the game-changer with an indictment over Clinton’s use of a private email server. But that’s not even remotely likely, and not because of silly conspiracy theories about President Obama leaning on the FBI and DOJ to lay off his hand-picked successor. It’s simply that the FBI investigators and Attorney General Loretta Lynch know how politically charged such an indictment would be. They won’t wade into that swamp unless they have airtight evidence that Clinton intentionally compromised national security … and so far there’s no evidence of that.

“The result on Tuesday can best be defined as messy”

Clinton’s general election opponent will probably be Donald Trump, but FiveThirtyEight’s Harry Enten explains why that’s not yet a done deal:

You ever feel like you don’t know exactly how to interpret an election night? That’s how I feel about the Republican side of the aisle after Tuesday. Donald Trump won at least three of the five states that voted on Tuesday, including Florida. [Trump won a narrow victory in Missouri after Enten wrote this story.] Marco Rubio ended his campaign. John Kasich stayed alive by winning Ohio. Given that Trump likely won every state except for the home state of another candidate, it has to be considered a good night for him. And yet, the main question – are we going to a contested convention? – remains unanswered.

Enten takes a close look at the delegate math and concludes:

When you put it all together, I think the result on Tuesday can best be defined as messy. Trump is likely to have a plurality of delegates after all the contests have finished up on June 7. But a majority? We still don’t know.

Clinton vs. Trump: “They’re about to detonate a nuclear bomb on themselves”

Thus, the most likely general election race pits Hillary Clinton against Donald Trump. She currently has a 9-point national lead in head-to-head polling, and solid leads in key swing states like Florida and Ohio. GOP leaders have long worried that a Trump ticket could cost the GOP their Senate majority, and the Cook Political Report’s U.S. House analyst Dave Wasserman said that chamber may be in play as well:

“They’re about to detonate a nuclear bomb on themselves,” said one savvy House Democratic strategist following Tuesday’s primaries. “If Ted Cruz is your back up plan, you’re screwed,” the strategist gleefully added. Maybe that’s true, and maybe it’s not. But now that it’s extremely likely that the Republican Party will nominate Donald Trump or Ted Cruz, congressional Republicans are entering uncharted and potentially dangerous territory.

So many assumptions have been wrong this cycle that it’s difficult to be definitive about another: that the House majority won’t be in play in 2016.

Republicans are sitting on their largest majority since 1928 – 247 seats to 188 – meaning Democrats would need to pick up 30 seats, a daunting challenge given the GOP’s immense redistricting advantage and the vaporization of swing districts. But all cycle, Democrats have daydreamed about Republicans nominating an extremely polarizing presidential candidate, and suddenly it’s almost certain they will get their wish.

That’s not guaranteed, of course. Democratic voters tend to be clustered in very-blue urban and suburban districts, giving the GOP a natural demographic edge. Add to that gerrymandering after the 2010 election, and House Republicans retain structural advantages that should sustain their majority until at least 2022. But their grip on the House would be less certain with Trump leading the GOP ticket.

“A clear indication of an enthusiasm gap” … or not….

But-but-but – Republicans and hardcore Sanders fans would say – just look at the voter turnout in the primaries! GOP voters have been flocking to the polls in record numbers, while Democratic turnout has been weak. So that’s a huge edge, right?

FiveThirthEight’s Harry Enten destroys that myth with historical data:

Republican turnout is up and Democratic turnout is down in the 2016 primary contests so far. That has some Republicans giddy for the fall; here’s an example, from a March 1 Washington Times article:

Republicans continued to shatter turnout records in their presidential primaries and caucuses Tuesday, while Democrats lagged behind in what analysts said was a clear indication of an enthusiasm gap heading into the general election.

And some commentators are saying that Democrats should be nervous. From The Huffington Post, last month:

But Democratic Party elites shouldn’t be high-fiving each other. They should be very, very worried. In primary after primary this cycle, Democratic voters just aren’t showing up.

But Democrats shouldn’t worry. Republicans shouldn’t celebrate. As others have pointed out, voter turnout is an indication of the competitiveness of a primary contest, not of what will happen in the general election. The GOP presidential primary is more competitive than the Democratic race.

Enten examined past primary turnout in several ways – raw numbers, increase or decrease from the previous election, percentage of party voter turnout – and none showed any meaningful correlation to general election turnout. He concludes:

So it shouldn’t be surprising that Republican turnout is higher than Democratic turnout this year. Hillary Clinton is a commanding front-runner on the Democratic side, while the front-runner on the Republican side has earned only one-third of the vote and less than half the delegates allocated so far. Voters are turning out for the more competitive contest.

“This growing tide of anti-trade sentiment” … or not….

But-but-but … what about angry white working class voters, the ones who are losing their jobs to overseas workers, the ones who are turning out for Trump in droves, the ones who are driving Sanders’ campaign. (For purposes of argument, assume that’s true of Sanders’ campaign.) Clinton is pro-trade and Trump will ride that wave of anti-trade voters right into the White House!

Except Vox’s Matthew Yglesias offers data showing that wave doesn’t exist:

Donald Trump offers largely orthodox conservative policy solutions on economic issues, with the important exception of trade. On the question of trade deals, Trump is offering a right-wing nationalist spin on a backlash against elite-led globalization that’s mostly been associated with the political left in the United States. Both Trump fans and, for separate reasons, labor union leaders would like you to believe that Trump could ride this growing tide of anti-trade sentiment all the way to the White House.

But Gallup historical data strongly suggests there isn’t a growing tide of anti-trade sentiment to ride.
[…]
In the wake of nearly everyone underestimating Trump’s prospects in the GOP primary, pundits all across the land are hesitant to make confident claims about his prospects as a general election candidate. But basically everywhere you look, the available evidence suggests that he would be a really bad one. Taking the Republican Party in an ideologically innovative direction makes sense, but he’s steering them toward a brand of economic nationalism that’s less popular than ever before.

“Taking the dirty work of insulting the Republican nominee away from Clinton’s campaign”

And while Republicans spent far too long hoping Trump would fade away, Vox’s Michelle Hackman reports that Democrats won’t repeat that mistake:

Though Democrats are still a long way away from crowning Hillary Clinton as their nominee, liberal groups are already planning to turn their collective fire on the likely Republican nominee, Donald Trump.

The Wall Street Journal reported that a coalition of 22 liberal groups, including some that backed Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primary, are already coordinating an anti-Donald Trump strategy, with attacks beginning before either party holds a nominating convention.

Among their plans: large anti-Trump protests, possibly including protests held at the Republican convention this summer in Cleveland, and marches held in major cities.
[…]
They also plan to recruit organizations representing the Muslim, Hispanic, and LGBTQ communities to help highlight Trump’s past bigoted statements.

They will be taking the dirty work of insulting the Republican nominee away from Clinton’s campaign, which is reportedly planning to stick to substantive issues after watching Trump’s Republican rivals all hurt themselves by attempting to attack Trump, according to the Journal.

Obviously, there are still seven-and-a-half months until the November election. A lot could change, in either or both parties. But if current trends hold – and if we grassroots activists do the work – Democrats should have plenty to celebrate come November.

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Photo Credit: K Johansson (Wikimedia)

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Happy Saturday!