Short of a electoral miracle, or a huge scandal, it’s now pretty much done and dusted. Super Tuesday has been and gone, clarifying what some people had been hoping for/fearing for months. It’s going to be Clinton vs. Trump in November. Both Clinton and Trump now have enough delegates (and in the case of Clinton super-delegates), to make it incredibly hard for anyone to catch them.
Clinton won seven out of the eleven states up for grabs. That might not sound that impressive, but she won in all the crucial larger states in the south, whereas Sanders only did well in some of the smaller northern states. At this point all the momentum is on her side, and with the party backing her she looks unstoppable.
It’s worth remembering as well that up to now Sanders looked like he has a bigger groundswell of support then he actually had. This is partly because he does very well amongst middle class college educated young people who are very active on social media. As a result any member of the public, or journalists, going online will be swamped by a avalanche of pro-Bernie tweets, blogs and posts. Sanders’ problem is that these young people make up a relatively small part of the electorate, and in some cases are better at tweeting then they are at voting.
On the Republican side the Trump juggernaut now looks equally unstoppable. In the last few months he’s turned every piece of received electoral wisdom on its head. It used to be the case that you needed the backing of the establishment and the big donors. Trump has succeeded without either (although slowly some establishment figures like Chris Christie have climbed onboard). Equally if most politicians had said or done what Trump has they’d have instantly lost support. However whatever Trump says and does at this point, no matter how offensive, merely seems to bolster his support amongst the faithful.
The establishment now look to be trapped in a lose/lose situation, with no credible alternative candidate to back. Neither Cruz or Rubio are likely to drop out in the next two weeks or so, making it difficult to try and build support behind one of them. Even if one did drop out, there’s no getting away from the the fact that the party establishment intensely dislikes Cruz, and Rubio has only won a single state, calling his electability into question.
The best the party can hope for now is to try to deny Trump the crucial number of delegates he needs to wrap up the contest outright, and try to block him at the convention. While delighting politics fans, this would risk alienating a huge chunk of the Republican base who have embraced Trump. There’s also the risk that any attempt to try and ‘steal’ the nomination from him in this way, would lead to him running as a third party independent, all but guaranteeing Clinton the presidency.
The big question therefore becomes who will win in a flat out fight between Clinton and Trump. At the moment Clinton seems to have the edge. Trump suffers from chronic unpopularity with certain key demographic groups. Unlike in the 60s and 70s, it’s no longer possible to win just on the basis of appealing to angry white working and middle class voters. The Latino and African-American vote is now crucial, and Clinton seems to have their support. Indeed, it’s difficult to see Trump appealing to Latinos considering his comments about Mexico and immigrants. Clinton also has the edge among female voters who are important as in certain states they’re more likely to vote then men.
The final problem Trump has is that he won’t necessarily have the backing of his own party if he gets the nomination. Normally candidates spend a few months attacking each other bitterly before reuniting in support of whoever gets the nomination. However in the case of Trump the process has been so bitter that this might not be possible. A lot of Republicans are worried about what he might do to the wider party if he wins. They might calculate that they’d be better off loosing this election to Clinton, and then trying again in four years time with a more acceptable candidate. Also by that point she’d be in her 70s which might make things easier. All in all its going to be a fascinating few months.
Dr Matthew Ashton
Lecturer in Politics
School of Social Sciences