The election year is upon us and it is now becoming clearer who the likely candidates for the two major political parties' nominations will be. For some time, the four candidates pictured above have been in the conversation as the most probable to be competitive through the primary season. As to who will win the nominations of their parties, it's still not certain, but what is apparent is that Mr. Trump and Ms. Clinton are the most likely right now to be competing for the Presidency next November. Certainly, there are things that could derail their campaigns. This race is unlike any presidential race we have seen in quite a long time.
Looking at several of the polling sites, Mr. Trump shows a strong lead in Iowa (11 point lead), while on the Democratic side of the contest, Mr. Sanders and Ms. Clinton are much closer, with the latest poll data suggesting (coming from a CBS/you.gov poll) Mr. Sanders has a 1 point lead. The web site, RealClearPolitics, is a polling aggregator and this information is as of Sunday, January 24th. Nate Silver's excellent FiveThirtyEight.com, has Ms. Clinton's chances of winning in Iowa at 82%. (Note: their formula for projecting this is a compilation of polling data plus their own projections.). That said, I don't think we can anoint Ms. Clinton or Mr. Trump just yet.
The Republican party establishment is beside themselves with an idea that Donald J. Trump, a business man with no governmental experience, and questionable conservative bona fides will become their nominee. There seems to be a schism in the party between the old guard party of Dole, Bush, Romney and others and the howling mad disaffected supporters of the real estate mogul. On the social conservative side, Mr. Cruz is enjoying a lot of support from evangelical Christians who want to see a candidate who is more in line with those like Steve King, the anti-immigrant congressman from Iowa who has endorsed Mr. Cruz. Mssrs, Rubio, Kasich, Christie, Bush and the remainder of the candidates are vying for table scraps at this point in time and just trying to hang on in hopes that Trump or Cruz shoot themselves in the foot. As to where Mr. Paul, Mr. Carson and Ms. Fiorina are at this point is any one's guess, because they seemingly have disappeared from sight.
On the Democratic side of the ledger, this has been a two person race for some time. Senator Sanders has ignited a level of excitement among young voters the likes of which we saw in 2007 when then Senator Obama was running. The question is, is it enough? Secretary Clinton has built a well organized, and well funded ground game in Iowa. While the race is reportedly close in Iowa, it will be hard to pull the caucuses in Iowa to the firebrand from Vermont. New Hampshire is entirely another story, with Senator Sanders holding a commanding lead in the polls. The Democratic path to the nomination is much more rocky than the Republicans, as Mr. Sanders and Ms. Clinton seem to be holding strong leads in different states (see projections for South Carolina as an example for Ms. Clinton), and it make take some time to determine who will eventually get the nomination.
Back to the GOP, it seems like Mr. Trump has a smooth trip to the nomination. He has commanding leads in the national polls and should he win both Iowa and New Hampshire, it looks like the rest of the primaries will be just icing on the cake for him. This has a lot of people sweating inside the GOP, as many have come out and said that if Trump gets the nomination, the GOP will be consigned to the dustbin of history as a national party. I don't know. I think the people saying this are living in a "bubble" of how the GOP should look, and that is most certainly changing. I believe the real GOP is now a party of intense anger at pretty much everything that government represents. The people coming out to Trump's rallies and evidently answering the polls in a manner positive to his cause don't seem to care about his experience. He has captured a wave of anti-government, anti-incumbent, anti-anything remotely "un-American" sentiment that hasn't been seen in years. The people supporting him certainly don't care about details. They like the rhetoric. They like the xenophobic comments railing against the "other", who may at certain times be illegal Mexican immigrants, Syrian refugees, Chinese businessmen, and now evidently Canadians (in a backhand to Mr. Cruz' country of birth). He has brought forward little of substance. His plans will be "wonderful" with platitudes like "you'll win so much you will get tired of winning", and "Make America Great Again". He continually castigates anyone he is competing with as either "low energy", "stupid", "weak" or "feckless". In this manner, he's caught something of a tailwind that for now, will propel those who share his anger to come out heavy for him in the primaries. Will that continue in November? Hard to see at this point. Perhaps there will be some buyer's remorse before the general election, but my friends, it is time to seriously consider the possibility of a Donald J. Trump presidency. That, I can tell you is a thought that will fester for some time with me.
Should Ms. Clinton win the nomination of the Democrats, she will have to overcome a high level of enthusiasm that is evident with Senator Sanders' followers. The commentary across social media is astonishingly positive for Bernie and it doesn't seem to map to the polling. Will the young voter come out and support a 73 year old democratic socialist that is espousing a "political revolution"? Or, at the end of the day will their attention turn elsewhere and Ms. Clinton be swept into the nomination by her base, and by the impressive organization she has built. Ms. Clinton is a smart and effective politician, and while she has now caught another enthusiastic and different opponent as a primary challenger, I find it unlikely she will make the same mistakes she made in 2007 and 2008, which was to underestimate her opponent. She did with Senator Obama and we saw a robust battle where initially all points had Ms. Clinton as "inevitable". I don't believe she, nor her best weapon, the most effective retail politician in my lifetime; Bill Clinton, will make the same mistake twice. Assuming Ms. Clinton does indeed win the nomination (Note: I'm in the tank for Bernie, and have contributed to his campaign. My heart is with him, but my brain tells me it will be a tough sell), then I think the likelihood she will become the next President is very high. If it is a contest between her and Mr. Trump, then the business side of the Republican party will swing in her direction, because let's face it; she is not too far away from being a Republican, and Trump scares the hell out of them. She is pro-business, she is a defense hawk, and she has made connections across the business spectrum to the point that if it is her against Mr.Trump, she wins. If, on the other hand, Senator Sanders prevails and wins the nomination, and Mr. Trump wins the GOP tournament, it will assuredly be the strangest presidential election we've seen since Ross Perot jumped into the race in 1992. Oh, and as an aside, noise is being generated that billionaire Michael Bloomberg, sometime Republican, sometime Democrat, sometime Independent, and former mayor of New York might launch a 3rd party contest. That would be an interesting wrinkle, but I digress. If Mr. Sanders is running against Mr. Trump, will the Democratic establishment get behind him? Do they want Bernie in the White House? Time will tell, but if Mr. Sanders can win Iowa and then win New Hampshire, the contest becomes more interesting. The majority of contributors to Mr. Sanders have averaged $27 per contribution, and should he gain momentum with wins in Iowa and New Hampshire, one could see those small donors continue because there would be hope of a victory. If on the other hand, he loses in Iowa and doesn't do as well in New Hampshire as fore casted, then we may see the enthusiasm for his candidacy wane somewhat.
So, in a sense, with both parties, we have an establishment versus anti-establishment contest, and the outcome in November will be which group will generate more enthusiasm and more importantly, generate voters to the polls. I believe it is pretty clear that the anger in this country against a government in views in whole cloth as ineffective is real. It's palpable, The question is, is it lasting?
Tell me what you think.