Front-runners’ desperation reflects voters’ low regard for them

He. Just. Won't. Go. Away. (And neither will Cruz.)

He. Just. Won’t. Go. Away. (And neither will Cruz.)

Welcome back. As is my custom when I take time off, I paid very little attention to the news while I was away. In catching up on what I missed, I’ve been struck by the tone bordering on desperation coming from both of our supposed presidential front-runners.

Since March 15, when Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton appeared to have tightened their grips on their respective nominations, voters in GOP and Democratic contests alike have gone in decidedly different directions. Trump has lost four of five to Ted Cruz, watching his delegate lead shrink by more than 50 while remaining about 500 delegates away from clinching. In the same span, Clinton has lost seven of eight states to Bernie Sanders. Suddenly, New York, the home state of both leaders, looks like a must-win for each of them if they’re to rein in a campaign narrative that’s getting away from them.

And their inability to close the deal seems to be getting to them. Trump, who had been warning of “riots” and “bad things” should the GOP change the convention rules to deny him the nomination, is now saying he should be the winner even if he doesn’t have a majority of delegates — rules be damned. It’s not the kind of thing a candidate confident of winning outright says. It’s the kind of thing said by a candidate whose campaign organization is so disorganized that its chief “get out the vote” proponent forgot to, you know, register to vote. The fact John Kasich can still rationalize staying in the race — even though he’s still half a million votes and almost 30 delegates behind Marco Rubio, who dropped out five states ago — shows just how little regard there is for Trump as a standard bearer.

Clinton, meanwhile, not only hasn’t been able to pivot fully to the general election; she’s having to resort to questioning Sanders’ Democratic bona fides in recent interviews. A recent poll by The Atlantic shows Clinton and Sanders in a virtual tie — including among all Democratic women — just when she thought she would be able to lift her gaze toward the summer and fall. It is still unlikely that Sanders can catch her, but only because she has amassed such a lead among the party’s unbound “superdelegates,” which account for almost two-thirds of her advantage. Her talk about Sanders’ party loyalty sounds not only like an attempt to regain momentum in the race, but her way of warning those unbound superdelegates not to abandon her should he keep winning states.

The difficulty the front-runners are having in finishing off their rivals is foremost a sign of just how deeply flawed and unpopular they are. In that Atlantic poll, majorities of Cruz supporters and Sanders backers had unfavorable views of Trump and Clinton, respectively. Considering that even at this point Trump and Clinton are both below the 50-percent mark, that’s a sizable segment of each party’s base that doesn’t approve of its leading candidate. I can’t recall any past primary season where, this late in the game, both parties faced this problem to this extent.

It’s another reason to believe our political duopoly is long overdue for a realignment after the existing coalitions have spent so long fighting between the 45-yard-lines. But I don’t think the person(s) who can bring about that realignment are in this race. Sanders’ pushing the Democratic Party in a more socialist direction, or Trump’s making the GOP more white and nativist, aren’t the kind of new directions that would bring about a long-term shift in what — and who — the parties represent. More likely, they only signal that there would be an appetite in the near future for someone else to step in, on one or both sides, and try something very different.

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42 comments
FIGMO2
FIGMO2

It'll be "The Birth of a Nation" 2016. The slave rebellion.

schnirt

 As is my custom when I take time off, I paid very little attention to the news while I was away.

Though not away, I've decided to pay little attention to this presidential primary campaign going "forward".

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@JFMcNamara Bernie has won 43% of the vote. He has 45% of the regular delegates, but only 38% once superdelegates are factored in. You tell me which number most closely reflects the popular vote.

JFMcNamara
JFMcNamara

@Kyle_Wingfield @JFMcNamara so the party's Super Delegates aren't supposed to pick the favorite candidate favored by 57% of the constituency?  Its not a straight democratic process.  The Super Delegates don't have to split proportionally.  That's kind of the point of Super Delegates.  I guess she is winning 57% of the vote, so Bernie is "only" down 14 percentage points, but New York, California, Pennsylvania and New Jersey have yet to vote.  Its very likely he will get dominated in those states and the Super Delegates come out about right.  Bernie is not winning the nomination. He will probably quit next Tuesday.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@JFMcNamara We've gotten away from my original point, which is that the race remains tight. You may be right about the particular states in play lately being more Bernie-friendly or that Hillary ignored them. But in past primaries that hasn't really mattered: Overwhelming leaders tend to win even those states that don't favor them fundamentally, simply because they're overwhelming leaders and there's a rally-around-the-leader effect. That hasn't happened this year, and I think it largely reflects the dislike so many Democrats have for Hillary (and likewise, Republicans for Trump).

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

@Kyle_Wingfield @JFMcNamara Its a good point


Usually these things are settled well before now.


But I can see the Democrats supporting Bernie rallying around Hillary. I cant see many in the GOP rallying around Trump nor his supporters rallying around Ryan or Kasich etc.

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

@lvg Americans are already pretty sure they don't like Trump.


Wait till they get a load of Cruz. It ain't gonna be pretty.

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

Welcome back Kyle. 


I just don't see a crisis on both sides of equal measure.


What is going on on the right dwarfs what we are seeing on the left with Bernie.


Hillary is still heavily favored to win the nomination. Meanwhile we are talking contested convention for the Republicans.


We aren't comparing apples to apples here.


FWIW I think the country is moving away from the GOP. Fewer people self identify as Republican today than have in decades. We know the demographics are rapidly working against them, and as a result in the Dems favor.


What the GOP needs is a young candidate who can talk about conservatism without having to pass all the litmus tests the older GOP crowd places on them. Immigration reform ( self deport anyone ??? ) being at the top of the list. 

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@Hedley_Lammar "Hillary is still heavily favored to win the nomination. Meanwhile we are talking contested convention for the Republicans."

But for the superdelegates, there would be virtually no difference between the races right now.

"What the GOP needs is a young candidate who can talk about conservatism without having to pass all the litmus tests the older GOP crowd places on them. Immigration reform ( self deport anyone ??? ) being at the top of the list. "

You mean like ... Marco Rubio??

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

@Kyle_Wingfield @Hedley_Lammar  You mean like ... Marco Rubio??


When I was typing it his name came to mind.


Unfortunately he was a flawed candidate and fell deep into the immigration reform trap. 

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

"And now for something completely different!"

Caius
Caius

I am waiting on the women to decide where they will go this cycle.

xxxzzz
xxxzzz

What do you visualize such a realignment being?  Democrats have moved well left.  Republicans are solidly on the right.  The center is smaller and seems heavily populated by populists who like Trump are all over the lot on various issues.  Libertarians are too extreme in a different direction.  Same for Greens.

Starik
Starik

@xxxzzz The problem is that there are a number of issues that people are supposed to support to be true Democrats or Republicans. Moderates can take soft position on these issues, and take harder positions in an unorthodox way.  For example, I oppose affirmative action but approve of liberal abortion rules. I support the military and think we need a draft. I despise Clinton as a draft dodger.  I despise Bush as a draft dodger. I support the principle of climate change enhanced by humans, but understand the difficulties in rules reducing emissions while damaging economies.  I believe we should rewrite the immigration laws to admit only people whose skills we need, and allow illegals whose skills we need to stay and become citizens. Children should never be punished for the transgressions of parents.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@xxxzzz The point is to stop thinking about where the parties are and start thinking about where the people are. Trump, to his credit, is doing that to a large extent; the problem is he's not a thoughtful person and is just making it up as he goes along, or else he might be running away with this not just in the primary, but in head-to-head match-ups with Hillary.

Being populist isn't enough. In fact, it's dangerous. But a candidate who understood why both parties are increasingly distasteful to voters and had well-considered answers to the problems they aren't addressing (see here for an example of what I'm talking about: http://www.the-american-interest.com/2016/04/11/a-drought-of-ideas/) would be formidable. They'd be capable of winning despite their chosen party label because the label would mean something new when they were done, as in past realignments. I don't have the new combination of coalitions/issues at hand, I just see the need for one.

ATLAquarius
ATLAquarius

@Kyle_Wingfield @xxxzzz Agreed that the parties need to move closer to the people however outside of the presidential election I find it more and more difficult to see how that plays out in gerrymandered House districts to say nothing about at the state level...who is closer to where the people are on the religious liberty bill? Gov. Deal or the legislators that championed it? I see nothing but pure partisanship from either Clinton or Cruz or even Trump if elected.

RoadScholar
RoadScholar

@ATLAquarius @Kyle_Wingfield @xxxzzz How about legislating to the masses and stop trying to indoctrinate them? The winner should be President to the whole United States, not their ideology or sect of their party.

RoadScholar
RoadScholar

I guess none of the repubs have questioned their competitors "bonafides"? Not a repub, not a conservative, not a Christian, not conservative enough, no experience, too much experience in Washington, not a citizen......

xxxzzz
xxxzzz

@RoadScholar @xxxzzz I'm not arguing for Trump.  It isn't really that Clinton hasn't done much.  Its that rather than a golden touch, she has a lead touch.  Everything she touches is a disaster.  And she makes Obama look fiercely bi-partisan by comparison.

RoadScholar
RoadScholar

@xxxzzz @RoadScholar I read most of your attachment and reply: So Clinton hasn't done much. How about Trump? I mean other than lining his own pockets....

And what has Cruz accomplished? Shutting the government down? How was that for you? As head of the American Taliban, what other role will he have?

Kaisich and Sanders have the best "productive" resume.

WhyorWhyNot
WhyorWhyNot

On the contrary, Kyle, I think Hillary turned her attention to the Republicans too soon. In many of the states she lost to
Sanders, she seemed to do little campaigning, implying she didn't think she needed those states to win the nomination. That might have been a mistake, allowing Sanders to build momentum.  


On another note, Kyle, and I apologize if this is inappropriate or against the rules, but I wondered what you thought about the "tax inversion" and "stockbrokers honoring the best interests of their clients" rules as ordered by the administration. I have always found you to be a reasonable conservative, and I wonded how any reasonable person could think these rules are bad ideas.

MarkVV
MarkVV

Predicting what the future holds for the current primary season may be a fascinating game of guesswork, but its usefulness, except for entertainment, is about zero. More useful would be the realization of the horrible mess that this hodge-podge of nomination rules is in the process of selecting the head of the government of the most important country in the world.

xxxzzz
xxxzzz

@MarkVV Iowa needs to be last.  That would be a big help.

gapeach101
gapeach101

Kyle, who do you think could "bring about  that realignment"?

Lil_Barry_Bailout
Lil_Barry_Bailout

The good news for Americans (and Democrats) is that the GOP is recovering from their flirtation with stupidity while Democrats are heading more and more into the ditch.

Starik
Starik

@Lil_Barry_Bailout Not if they select Cruz. Trump is individually obnoxious, but Cruz is too far to the extreme right to win a general election.  He makes Hillary look good.

RoadScholar
RoadScholar

@Lil_Barry_Bailout Really?They've gone beyond "flirtation", or even better has shown their dominance in being either stupid, creating fear, or  being the talibaptists. Trumps kids not bing able to be registered to vote in the primary. Both must be outstanding citizens having waited years after their 21st birthday to register .

DaltonbywayofBickley
DaltonbywayofBickley

I like your realignment statement and fighting between the 45 yard lines analogy. And, like you, I don't believe candidates to lead that realignment are in this race.