Needless to say this has thus far this been a very strange Presidential election cycle. The shear size of the original Republican field was mind boggling; they don’t allow that many people on a basket ball team. However, that was just a hint of the strangeness to come. It has been the preference of the voters which has left the professional political pundits scratching their heads. This is definitely the Presidential election where anti-establishment candidates have be thrust to the forefront.
On the Democratic side who would have thought that a self styled socialist (democratic or not) would be the preference of large percentage to the potential Democratic voters. While it seems like Bernie Sanders has been a fixture in Washington forever, his anti- establishment label never wore off. He is certainly an unlikely Presidential candidate.
Yet Bernie Sanders has put together a coalition of the “anybody but Hillary” crowd and the far left zealots (mostly the latter) to currently garner a little less than a third of the votes in an average of the last five national polls. RealClearPolitics.com – Democratic nomination However, the fact that Hillary Clinton, long thought to the prohibitive favorite on the Democratic side, is polling at over 55% in those same polls lends some political sanity to the situation.
However, there seems to be no sanity in the race for the Republican Presidential nomination. In that contest the true political outsiders cumulatively totaled up to roughly 50% of the Republican vote in the last five national poles – Trump (24.6%), Carson (21.8%), and Fiorina (3.2). I also think you have to include Ted Cruz to the list of outsiders. (11.0%) RealClearPolitics.com – Republican nomination Though Cruz’s Senate seat definitely makes him part of the Washington crowd, he is definitely as anti-establishment as anyone else in the Republican field. When Cruz is included in the anti establishment mix, those four candidates together command over 60% of poll votes.
Now pundits have long expressed the conventional political wisdom that when voters finally get serious about actually voting for someone, the anti-establishment candidates will fade away. Eventually they say that Rubio, who seems to be the best candidate running in the “establishment” lane, will be the last man standing. However, in my opinion we should only trust conventional wisdom in conventional election cycles and this election continues to defy convention.
First of all, according to conventional wisdom the Trump balloon should have already popped, or at least deflated somewhat by now. But the campaign of that self important, braggadocios TV reality show star is still inflated with enough of his hot air to lead in all of the national polls. Meanwhile the national poll numbers of Ben Carson, Trump’s closest opponent has taken a bit hit lately, but he is still doing well. More significantly Trump out polled Rubio in the last five national polls by a margin of 2 to 1. Perhaps more significantly, Trump has the lead in the each of the first four state contests, Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada. Ben Carson is close on his heels in Iowa and South Carolina, but Trump is all alone in the lead in New Hampshire and Nevada. Again Trump is out polling Rubio in each of those states by margin of 2 to 1 or more.
Now conventional wisdom also hinges on the theory that after the first few state primaries have taken place, the lower level opponents which have fared poorly in those contests will drop out and their voters will move to more establishment candidates like Rubio or Bush. However, while a few have already dropped out, the compact GOP primary schedule of this Presidential primary cycle casts doubts on that theory.
It is likely that the present field will remain pretty much intact through the first four state primaries: Iowa – February 1st, New Hampshire – February 9th, South Carolina – February 20th, and Nevada – February 23rd. In these states combined 133 delegates are at stake. As previously mentioned Trump and/or Trump and Carson have big leads in all four states. Initially you would think that after the Nevada primary the majority of the nine candidates currently polling at less than 3.5 percent nationally would reevaluate their chances and their remaining money and pack it in. But then you would notice that Super Tuesday on March 1st is only one week after the Nevada primary. Super Tuesday is when 12 states hold their primaries on the same day. Why would anyone get out before Super Tuesday when they can stay in the race for only another week and hope for a miracle?
However, for discussion purposes let’s say that the bottom five candidates – Huckabee, Christie, Pataki, Santorum, and Graham – for whatever reason – bow out sometimes in February. Combined their exits would only free up 7.7% of the available poll numbers. Their supporters would probably then be distributed among the remaining Republican candidates: Trump, Carson, Rubio, Cruz, Bush, Kasich Fiorina, and Paul. Therefore, their exits would do very little at best to disturb Trump and Carson’s big leads in the national poles.
So let’s say that Trump and Carson enter Super Tuesday with the majority of the 135 delegates available in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada secured between them. Super Tuesday with twelve states and 624 delegates at stake should provide a major turning point in the Republican nomination contest. Good recent polling data is not available for all twelve of the states involved in the Super Tuesday primaries, but we have reliable polling data for several of the larger states.
The following are the results for the top four candidates in recent polls in the Super Tuesday primary states:
Florida (76 delegates): Carson – 26%, Trump – 24%, Cruz – 10% and Rubio – 10%,
Massachusetts poll (42 delegates): Trump – 48%, Carson – 14%, Rubio – 12%, Bush – 7%
Oklahoma (43 delegates): Trump – 27%, Carson – 18%, Cruz – 18% and Rubio – 16%,
Texas (155 delegates): Trump – 27%, Cruz – 27%, Carson – 13%, and Rubio – 9%
Virginia (49 delegates): Carson – 28%, Trump – 24%, Rubio – 11%, and Cruz – 10%.
With only one exception in Texas, Cruz’s home state, either Trump or Carson or both have big leads over their opponents in this sample of some of the bigger Super Tuesday state primaries. So there is every reason to believe at this point that Trump and Carson are likely to emerge from Super Tuesday with a lot of momentum having won a large majority to the available 757 delegates available thus far between them.
Maybe after Super Tuesday the Republican field will start to thin significantly. Let’s say that after Super Tuesday Kasich, Florina, Paul Huckabee, Christie, Pataki, Santorum, and Graham have all dropped out of the race at some point or another. That would leave only Trump, Carson, Cruz, Rubio, and Bush battling it out. The 17.5% of the poll support belonging to the candidates who will have exited the race would put the leading establishment candidate, Rubio, in the lead nationally if all of the support of the departed candidates were transferred to him. However, it is far more likely that the support previously belonging to the departed candidates will be split among those remaining in the race. This would leave Trump and Carson in good shape going into the remainder of the March primaries..
In between Super Tuesday and the end of March another 15 states will have their primaries with another 791 delegates at stake. By the end of March, 1548 of the total of 2470 delegates to the Republican National Convention will have been chosen. By then either Trump or Carson could have the nomination sewed up. Or they could still be battling it out to the finish.
Of course there is always the possibility could that Republican voters will figure out that neither Trump nor Carson are fit to be President of the United States. That presumably could leave the door open for one of the Republican establishment’s favorites – Bush or Rubio, but I just don’t think so. This is the year when the average Republican voter is revolting against the establishment. If Trump and/or Carson fade I think that it is much more likely that their supporters will migrate to another anti-establishment candidate like Cruz.
So right now my best prediction is that the Republican establishment needs to brace itself for anti-establishment candidate stealing their nomination. If I am right, that wouldn’t leave them in very good shape in the general election.