Do you want the fascist or the socialist?
The New Hampshire primary didn’t hold as many surprises as the Iowa kerfufflaucus. The final two polls going into Tuesday showed that Donald Trump would win, John Kasich would take second, and Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, and Jeb Bush would be fighting it out for third. That Rubio fell down to fifth has to be blamed on his performance at the Saturday night debate, and the coverage that resulted from it.
Christie, Fiorina and Carson were expected to finish sixth, seventh and eighth, and they did. It probably hurt most for Christie, who’d been campaigning in the “Live Free or Die” state as hard as Kasich, but a couple negative ads from Rubio’s Super-PAC really damaged him. Christie went after Rubio like he bore a personal grudge, which he may have, but by knocking down Rubio, all he did was lower his personal approval rating. Now he gets to go home to New Jersey, where 2-to-1 they can’t wait for him to not be their governor anymore.
Fiorina was the one who was most effective against Trump in debates, so lucky for him that her poll numbers dipped low enough that she couldn’t make her way back to the main stage.
So we’re down to six candidates.
In South Carolina, we have our first post-New Hampshire poll from the Augusta Chronicle.
1. Donald Trump – 36%
2. Ted Cruz – 20%
3. Marco Rubio – 15%
4. Jeb Bush – 11%
5. John Kasich – 9%
6. Ben Carson – 5%
Several things are at stake in South Carolina. If Trump wins, he looks inevitable. No Republican has ever won two of the first three caucus/primary states and went on to lose the nomination. Then again, every election cycle finds ways to come up with firsts.
Trump is intensifying his attacks against Cruz. He already lost to Cruz once when he’d been leading in polls. If it happens again, suddenly Cruz looks inevitable. Cruz, meanwhile, has been dividing his resources, going after Trump, Rubio, and Hillary Clinton. Cruz knows he has the best chance to stop Trump in South Carolina, but he also needs to make sure Rubio doesn’t sneak up on him, and he also wants to start looking like a general election candidate.
For the third state in a row, Rubio is the subject of the majority of negative ads paid for Jeb’s Right2Rise Super-PAC. His debate performance Saturday night will be crucial. It hurt Trump that he skipped the Iowa debate, it hurt Rubio that he performed badly in New Hampshire, and the South Carolina debate is one where we could see someone’s fortune made or broken.
No one has ever won the nomination for their party without finishing in the top 3 in Iowa or New Hampshire. Jeb Bush soldiers on anyway.
I predict Trump wins South Carolina. Ben Carson will then drop out. Then we’ll have five go into Nevada, and regardless of what happens there, they’ll all be in play for Super Tuesday, March 1, when Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Massachuestts, Minnesota, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, and Wyoming have their say.
The scary thing for the Republican party, and for the nation in general, is that Donald Trump has comfortable leads in the most recent polls for most of these states. Now some of these states haven’t been polled for months, but sometimes voters like a winner, and if Trump looks like a winner, well, the bandwageon effect could kick in. Then the Republican party changes. With Trump as its nominee, no longer is it the party of individual liberty, free trade, and strong national defense. It becomes the party of Trump. Whatever mood sweeps Trump, whatever Trump feels like saying, suddenly that’s the GOP. Maybe once elected, he says “Yeah, single-payer option’s the best way to go. And you know what, we’re putting tariffs on all imported goods. And yeah, we’re banning the Muslims. Syria? Nah, we’ll let Putin fight ISIS. Why do we need to fight ISIS? Let Putin go in there. He’s a nice guy, that Putin. He called me a smart guy, did you hear that? He said I’m a smart guy.”
People who think Trump’s amazing at negotiating deals should also pay attention to all of the companies that he’s started where they failed. Take a sip from your Trump water and take a bite from your Trump steaks while you look that up.
How can Trump possibly be doing well? One reason has to be Congress can’t get anything done. Whenever Congress does get something done, it’s because they compromised. It’s important to remember that the seeds of the Tea Party were sprouting before Obama was ever elected. Many Republicans became disillusioned with George W. Bush and his Republican majority, used mainly to keep us in a quagmire in Iraq, where with every passing year it became more clear that they had no credible plan for what to do once Saddam Hussein was removed from power. Then after the Democrats retook the majority, the economy collapsed. Bush’s legacy became not just Iraq, but presiding over the worst recession in twenty years, maybe in eighty years.
Then when Obama takes office, what happens? The bank bailouts. “Too Big to Fail” becomes “Way Too Big to Fail.” The Republicans are given back the majority in Congress, but still, budget problems get kicked further down the road. The national debt grows another $5 trillion.
If Congress is so powerless when they have had the majority for most of the last sixteen years, then maybe some voters want an outsider with a little bit of dictator in him to go in there and enact serious reform. See, when Obama does executive actions, he’s a tyrant. But if Trump gets in there and starts doing the same thing, Trump supporters will be like, “Yeah, but he’s out guy. He’s doing it for stuff we want.”
Ted Cruz is in second place right now not for his competancy, not for his ability to build coalitions. No, he’s there because he’s set himself up for his ideaological purity, for his very conservative evangelical ways, for his refusal to compromise on anything, and for his gleefulness at smearing any Republican who doesn’t agree with him. Almost everyone who’s ever worked him dislikes him. “Good,” his supporters say. “We need someone who won’t compromise.”
Then there’s the Democrats.
Hillary Rodham Clinton ran in similar fashion as she did in 2008. She was the experienced, inevitable one. 2016 feels more like a coronation than the last one, because the field started thinner, and it’s been a two-man race for months. (Sorry, O’Malley, you were the Left’s Jindal.) You also have to look at how Debbie Wasserman-Schultz didn’t just put her thumb on the scale for the ridiculous debate schedule, she put her elbow and a couple of 20-lb. weights on it. Then suddenly when it looked like Hillary would benefit from debates, they added more, and not just on tiny cable channels in the middle of the night.
If you ignore the scandals from the 1980’s and 1990’s, if you ignore the way she dealt with the women who accused her husband of sexual assault/harrassment/etc., if you ignore the investigations around the Clinton Foundation, the FBI investigation of her private server, if you ignore how the NY Dems told Kristen Gillibrand to stand down so HRC could be their senator and how fawning the press was for that entire election process, you can look at what happened once she was actually a senator. By all indications, she kept her head down and worked. She gone along with her colleagues. She usually voted along partisan lines, but most of them do. Then she served as Secretary of State for four years. She has a record; she has experience. Her SoS record harms her more than her Senate record, I would argue. Yes, US foreign policy was in a bad spot when she started the job, but where did she improve things? Really?
Regardless, she could set herself up as a center-left candidate in the general election, be a little more like Bill and a little less like Barack. But she can’t because she has a challenger forcing her to run to the left of Barack.
Bernie Sanders is a socialist. Proudly so. He’s as outside the Democratic mainstream as Donald is outside the Republican mainstream. Here’s the other side where they’re tired of dysfunction in Washington. This is the side of Occupy Wall Street, of Social Justice Warriors, of people tired of the increased inequality in America. Bernie’s going to turn us into Europe. “Great!” say his supporters. “Europe’s pretty cool, right?”
Bernie Sanders is ahead in votes, ahead in pledged delegates, but then there’s this entity known as the superdelegates. The superdelegate system was set up in 1968, after that chaotic Democratic convention. It was a fail-safe system where party bosses and officials could ensure that no one who’d be too disastrous could rise to the top.
The current Democrat tallies looks like this.
To put it in perspective, the Republicans have 2471 delegates, so the winner is the one who gets to 1237. The Democrats have 3638 pledged delegates and 712 superdelegates for a total of 4350. The winner is whoever gets to 2175, so even if all of the superdelegates picked Clinton, Sanders could secure the nomination with 2531 delegates.
So while you have the Republican party increasingly pulled to the Right, the Democrat party increasingly pulled to the Left, you have four unsatisfied groups. The Far Right is tired of the squishy compromisers and is ready to abolish the IRS. The Far Left is tired of the rigged system and is ready to storm the Bastille. The people in the middle, whether they lean right or left, wonder if there’s any way to reform our entrenched crony-capitalist, military-industrial, lobbyist-powered system.
Best way to bring about immediate reform? Install a dictator.
So, do you want a fascist or a socialist?