Trump popular with Hispanics–not so quick. Sanders must win in Minn. and Mass.
On the Republican side, Donald Trump definitely has that elusive characteristic known as “momentum” after big wins in South Carolina and in the Nevada caucus. Lost in all of the efforts to create a “bandwagon effect,” are the facts that: 1) Trump’s margin of victory in South Carolina was less than polls taken just a week earlier indicated suggesting late voters actually split away from supporting him, and 2) The Nevada caucus reflects a small subset of a state with small numbers of voters. For example, the total number of Hispanic voters in the entrance and exit polls was only 175 souls. Yet this is widely cited as support for Trump’s claim that, despite his perceived insults to Mexicans and Mexican-Americans, Hispanics “love” him (along with every other group). The difference between Trump and the next highest candidate, from that small subset was only about 20 votes (variation depending on which poll was cited), and a majority of the Republican Hispanics voted for others than Donald Trump. A single Hispanic voter for Trump represented a change of 5 percent of his margin of victory over his nearest rival. Hardly a sample size that you would want to place a lot of reliance upon. I’d imagine that just the number of caucus-going Hispanics who work for the Trump casino in Vegas accounted for his margin of “victory” from that grouping. Thus far, the question of whether Trump and Sanders, the two “outsider” candidates, could get their supporters to actually show up at caucuses and primary elections, has been answered in the affirmative.
Some mention must be made of the Thursday, Feb 25 Republican debate. Most observers agree that Rubio scored some debate points. To my eyes he made Trump look like a sputtering fool. One who substitutes bluster and insult for substance. While this was Trump’s worst performance in any of the presidential debates, thus far thee seems to be a disconnect between what Trump does and says and his support. His core support, at around 24 to 33 percent seems incredibly solid. As Trump, himself, has noted, he could probably take a gun and kill someone and not lose a single vote from his core. Trump continues to amaze pundits, myself included. As one media talking-head noted sarcastically, following his win in South Carolina, Trump followed the game plan for winning: He insulted women, mimicked a disabled person, called a president who is popular among Republicans a liar, and argued with the Pope.
Momentum, or the appearance of it, with the attention the news media place on it, can create its own reality–as some voters in the upcoming primaries next Tuesday may want to join the winning side. Anger at “the system” is unquestionably a badge-of-honor this year. This seems especially true of the Trump army.
Tuesday, in case you have missed it, is the so-called “Super Tuesday .” This year It includes primary elections in: Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Massachusetts, Oklahoma, Texas, Vermont, and caucuses in Alaska, Minnesota, and Wyoming. It is generally assumed that the southern states are fodder for Donald Trump, based on some small early polling and his performance in South Carolina. Earlier they were considered favorable to Ted Cruz because of the large number of evangelical voters in the South. Texas, his home state, is considered crucial for Cruz to win. Late polls from there indicate a close race. Rubio has to win somewhere, soon, if his move into second place behind Trump is to have any meaning. One thing that should be remembered is that primaries held before March 15, with the exception of South Carolina, are required to allocate their delegates on some variation of a basis proportional to the votes the various candidates receive. Therefore, “winning” in these early-cycle states may not yield the kind of prize that even smaller state primaries later-on can produce. Most of those employ a “winner-take-all” method of allocating their delegates.
On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton pulled off a 5 percent victory over Bernie Sanders in the Nevada caucus, and is expected to win South Carolina comfortably on Saturday. In the Democrats Super Tuesday, the same states hold primaries or caucuses Tuesday, as for the Republicans, save for Alaska and Wyoming.
National polls vary from showing Clinton with a double-digit lead over Sanders, to polls that show only two percentage points separating the two candidates. Although I feel strongly that Hillary is likely to be the ultimate victor in the race for the Democratic Party nomination, Super Tuesday gives Bernie some hope to extend the suspense. Vermont, his home state, should give Sanders the nod, comfortably. Minnesota and Massachusetts hold caucuses and have a history of supporting candidates of a more leftist orientation. Should Sanders fail to win either, it is difficult to see a path for him to even make Hillary sweat a little.