On the 15th of March, several states within the United States held their presidential primary elections; and the results of these elections were dramatic enough to more or less make it clear what is likely to happen in the general presidential election come November.
Super Tuesday of the 2016 Primaries
The present sample essay provided by Ultius will discuss the results and the implications of the March 15th presidential primaries. The essay will begin by addressing the Democratic side, and then proceed to address the Republican side. After this, the essay will consider the implications of the results for what is likely to happen in the general presidential election in November. Finally, the essay will reflect on the possible role that a third-party candidate could play after the March 15th primaries in significantly affecting that election.
The Democratic side
The race for the Democratic nomination for the presidency is currently between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. In this context, March 15th can only be called a very good day for Clinton, given that she beat Sanders in literally every single state that voted. As Phillip has indicated:
“Almost 800 pledged delegates went up for grabs in the March 15 primaries. Clinton won by large margins in Florida, North Carolina and Ohio and edged Sanders in Illinois and now Missouri. Clinton expanded her lead over Sanders to more than 300 delegates, not including the superdelegates who are not bound to a candidate based on primary results” (paragraph 6).
If one bears in mind that the vast majority of those superdelegates actually support Clinton, then it becomes clear that Clinton’s lead over her rival Sanders is by now an overwhelming one.
Indeed, many commentators have indicated some skepticism over the idea that Sanders would in fact really be able to make a comeback after the results of the March 15th primaries. However, it is also worth noting that most states awarded delegates in a proportional way, and that Sanders at least kept the race close in most states, meaning that the extent to which he is currently trailing Clinton should not be exaggerated: it is nowhere near as bad as it would be were the primary elections designed in a winner-take-all way. Moreover, there does remain the possibility that the superdelegates could somehow be turned in favor of Sanders. As Dovere has written:
“Sanders’ campaign thinks the next few weeks of the campaign calendar favor him and his preparing to make the uphill case to the superdelegates . . . that his late-breaking momentum would make him a stronger nominee that they should support over Clinton” (paragraph 2).
If such a development were to occur, then this would clearly constitute a major upset staged by Sanders against Clinton.
Objectively speaking, though, it is quite unlikely that such a turn of events will occur. For one thing, it is not clear that Sanders’ campaign is in fact picking up speed; this seems more like wishful thinking than anything else. For another, the superdelegates primarily consist of Democratic party bosses and entrenched elites within the Party, and they are notorious for supporting insiders over outsiders.
Sanders would be a quintessential outsider; whereas Clinton, the wife of a former Democratic president and former Secretary of State under the current one, would be a quintessential insider. It is highly implausible to think that the superdelegates would somehow en masse switch their loyalties to Sanders. Indeed, stopping populist outsiders like Sanders was one of the main reasons that the Democratic Party implemented the entire superdelegate system in the first place. These things being considered, it is probably fair to suggest that the odds of Clinton becoming the Democratic candidate for the November general election are now extremely high.
The Republican side
On the Republican side, the March 15th primaries were characterized by big wins for Donald Trump and the resignation of Marco Rubio. This latter point is a very significant one, insofar as Rubio was seen by the mainstream Republican Party as one of its best chances of actually stopping the inexorable political rise of Trump. As Zettin and Coppins have written:
“Rubio entered the 2016 presidential race last year as an underdog—a young freshman senator running against a crowded field of opponents, including a beloved former governor of his home state, Jeb Bush. But Rubio, with his oratorical talents and aspirational life story, was also a favorite of conservative pundits, who believed he was capable of widening the Republican Party’s tent” (paragraphs 14-15).
Some of the characteristics mentioned in that quote may, of course, remind one of Barack Obama back in the year 2008. Rubio, however, is now out of the race for the Republican presidential nomination.
Ted Cruz met with moderate success during the March 15th primaries, and John Kasich picked up his own home state of Ohio. However, on the Republican side, the night primarily belonged to Trump. By now, commentators and pundits who used to suggest that Trump could never become the Republican presidential nomination are now beginning to talk about the inevitability of Trump becoming the Republican candidate for the general election. Moreover, many Republicans who previously could not stand Trump are now beginning to think that it might be best to side with the winner:
“They couldn’t beat him. And now many Republicans say it may be time to join him, to make the best of the situation, to try and refine and civilize Trump, to nudge his candidacy toward normalcy” (Ball, paragraph 4).
In short, it would seem that Trump has successfully taken over the Republican Party.
The race on the Republican side, then, has by now essentially become a two-man contest between Trump and Cruz. (Kasich is still in the race, but it is difficult to see what his ongoing relevance might be.) However, not only is Cruz not generally performing as effectively as Trump, he is also wildly unpopular within the Republican Party itself: Chideya (qtd. in Cohen), for example, has put the matter in the following way:
“Cruz has made many enemies among establishment Republicans, with Lindsey Graham going on a massive rant about what it would take for him to hold his nose and vote for the Texan.”
With the exit of Rubio from the race, then, Kasich would seem to be the only hope left for moderate establishment Republicans—which is to say that the case would seem to be almost hopeless. Trump is probably going to be the Republican presidential candidate come November; but even if Cruz were to somehow beat him, this itself would be little more than cold comfort to many Republicans.
Implications for November
The above analysis strongly suggests in the general presidential election in November, Americans will see a contest between Clinton on the Democratic side and Trump on the Republican side. Some commentators have argued that if this will be the case, then after the March 15th primaries, it is almost safe to conclude that Clinton will be the next president of the United States.
This is for the simple reason that it is still almost impossible to believe in the actual electability of Trump to the post of president of the United States. As Cassidy has acidly put it:
“Should Trump be confirmed as the G.O.P. presidential nominee, we can expect more lies, more deceit, and more viciousness. Unless something very unexpected happens, it will be up to Hillary Clinton to keep him out of the White House” (paragraph 10).
The implication is that she will get this job done, insofar at least the simple majority of Americans either cannot or will eventually stop wanting to put up with Trump’s consistent vitriol.
On the other hand, it is worth remembering that the rise of Trump thus far to the status of Republican presidential frontrunner has already been stranger than fiction, and that the pundits have been proven wrong time and again in their predictions that Trump has in fact reached the height of his powers, and that his campaign will fizzle out any moment now.
Pundits have been saying this for months; and they have consistently been forced to change their assessments, due to the simple and obvious populist support that Trump enjoys within the nation. If the pundits have been wrong thus far, then it is unclear whether they could also be wrong about the idea that Trump could in fact never achieve the White House itself. Going by his precedent thus far, the suggestion can be made that Clinton should by no means get complacent, and that if he is matched against Trump for the general election, she should surely treat Trump has a worthy (if implausible) adversary.
A third-party candidate?
If the main contest in November will be between Clinton and Trump, it is possible that a third-party candidate may emerge who could produce significant effects on the general election as a whole. This is due to the fact that there are many honest conservatives within the historical Republican Party who could never bring themselves to support Trump, and who may well choose to defect from their own Party and field their own candidate in the event that Trump does in fact become the Republican presidential candidate.
Goldmacher, for instance, has pointed out that
“three influential leaders of the conservative movement have summoned other top conservatives for a closed-door meeting Thursday in Washington, D.C., to talk about how to stop Donald Trump and, should he become the Republican nominee, how to run a third-party ‘true conservative’ challenger in the fall” (paragraph 1).
This move would be based on the perception among real conservatives that Trump does not represent them and has nothing to do with what they actually believe in.
This such a third-party candidate were to emerge, then this would almost certainly have the effect of throwing the general election to Clinton. This is due to the fact that given the nature of the American political system, two presidential candidates who are relatively closer to each other will end up strengthening the one who is further away from them, due to the fact that they would split the vote of their own natural constituency.
For example, when Gore lost the presidency to Bush, some commentators blamed Nader, due to the fact that he was closer to Gore and thus drew crucial votes away from Gore. Similarly, if a third-party, true conservative candidate were to enter the field, then he would essentially split the Republican vote; and that split Republican vote would be incapable of matching up to the unified Democratic vote in favor of Clinton. In short, the very presence of a true conservative candidate would likely spell the end of any possibility of Trump actually becoming the next president of the United States.
In summary, the present essay has consisted of a discussion of the results and implications of the March 15th presidential primaries. The main point that has emerged here is that the current frontrunners on both the Democratic and the Republican sides have consolidated their success and momentum, with the result that it now seems very likely that come November, the contest presidential contest will be between Clinton and Trump. This also probably means that Clinton will be the next president of the United States, especially a third-party candidate enters the fray. However, given how unexpectedly successful Trump has been thus far, it would clearly be wise to not underestimate him.
Ball, Molly. “The Final Stage of Republican Grief.” The Atlantic. 16 Mar. 2016. Web. 16 Mar. 2016. .
Cassidy, John. “Hillary Clinton versus Donald Trump: The Battle Ahead.” New Yorker. 16 Mar. 2016. Web. 16 Mar. 2016. .
Cohen, Micah. “What Happened in the March 15 Primaries.” FiveThirtyEight. 15 Mar. 2016. Web. 16 Mar. 2016. .
Dovere, Edward-Isaac. “Bernie’s Longshot Victory Strategy.” Politico. 16 Mar. 2016. Web. 16 Mar. 2016. .
Goldmacher, Shane. “Top Conservatives Gather to Plot Third-Party Run against Trump.” Politico. 15 Mar. 2016. Web. 18 Mar. 2016. .
Phillip, Abby. “Hillary Clinton Wins Missouri, Securing a Clean Sweep of Tuesday’s Primaries.” Washington Post. 17 Mar. 2016. Web. 18 Mar. 2016. .
Zettin, Matthew, and McKay Coppins. “Marco Rubio Drops Out of Presidential Race.” BuzzFeed. 15 Mar. 2016. Web. 16 Mar. 2016. .