Fantasy Politics

Noah K. and Carmen B., Writers

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As we move towards May and complete three whole months of primary season, there is a good chance that you’ve heard terms like Super Delegate, 1237, Contested Convention, End of Days bouncing around the school regarding this year’s presidential race.  Just watch the CNN TV in the Hub and you’ll probably hear them mention all four of those things in less than 30 seconds.  But at this point, it almost seems like the race is beginning to stagnate a bit.  Each candidate has said their 2 minute sound byte over a hundred times now and even CNN is faltering to find new angles from which to approach this phenomenon – there’s only so many times Wolf Blitzer can fill in a color by number map of the counties of West Virginia.  But we personally think this is a pretty exciting time in the race.  Now with only a handful of primaries to go, it seems that the path to the nomination for each candidate is pretty clear so if you’re sitting there on Tuesday trying to figure out your fantasy lineup, whether to sit Hillary Clinton or start Ted Cruz, here is a possibly helpful breakdown of each candidates prospects going forward in the season.

The Democrats

While Clinton seemed to be almost a sure fire pick for the democratic nomination just a month ago following her dominant night on March 15th when she swept Bernie Sanders in 5 state competitions, it’s been a rough few weeks for the Secretary of State.  She’s lost 7 out of the last 9 primaries and caucuses, a stat that would seemingly have turned the momentum to the favor of the Vermont senator; however, this stat should be examined a little closer as to its effects on the overall democratic race.  While CNN loves throwing up banners and tossing confetti every time someone wins a state, the blue-shaded Clinton/Sanders primary results maps that you might be seeing around tell far from the whole story.  The Democratic party, unlike the Republicans, has no winner-take-all primaries, meaning that the delegates are always split between the candidates based on the voting percentages.  For example, while Clinton “won” the Iowa caucus back in February, she only yielded 2 more delegates than Sanders (23 to 21).  So, fast forward 3 months, Clinton has notched a few hundred lead in pledged delegates after the second Super Tuesday with dominant performances across the southeast and in the delegate baskets of Texas and Ohio.  Now Sanders goes on his 7 out of 9 streak, but it’s important to actually look at the states he’s winning.  On March 22nd he wins Idaho which gives out a whopping 23 delegates, then four days later he wins Alaska and Hawaii, with the two states combined giving out only 41 delegates.  While Sanders steam-rolled Clinton in all three of these states, he only outscored her by 32 pledged delegates.  In fact, in the 7 out of 8 primaries which Sanders won before New York last Tuesday, he yielded a net gain over Clinton of only 78 delegates.  This seems like a sizable margin but last Tuesday Clinton wins New York by 31 delegates rolling back almost half of the progress Sanders made in catching her over 8 competitions.  

The fact of the matter is–yes–Bernie Sanders currently has the momentum in the Democratic race but unfortunately for him, there’s only 50 states and 35 of them have already voted.  With a current gap in pledged delegates of 275 from Clinton to Sanders, the Vermont Senator is going to have to start winning bigger and in bigger states.  Fortunately, for Bernie fans, there are still two more boom-busters to go.  This Tuesday Pennsylvania will give out 189 delegates, and on June 7th, California will dish out 475.

But just to run some quick scenarios, let’s say Bernie wins both of these competitions 60-40, a fairly optimistic hope for the senator.  In Pennsylvania, that would give 113 delegates to Sanders and 76 to Clinton.  In California, roughly 285 to 190.  Between these two states, Sanders would yield a 132 delegate advantage, a seemingly fairly large margin, but this would not even half the 275 delegate gap heading into the convention this summer.  Essentially, to catch the Secretary before the convention, Sanders needs to start winning states about 80-20 and he probably needs to just about win out the last fifteen competitions.  

And just when that seems a daunting task, it gets far more difficult for Bernie because of 551 high-class democratic politicians – the super delegates.  While the super delegates are supposed to represent the choice of the public in their vote at the convention, they essentially get to choose whichever candidate they like and act as a neat tool of the Democratic establishment in Washington to maneuver their popular candidate to the party nomination.  These 551 super delegates also help propel a given candidate to the important number of 2,383, the number of delegates needed to concretely lock up the nomination without having to worry about a contested convention.  Out of 551 current available super delegates, Bernie Sanders currently has the pledged vote of…wait for it….38.  That’s not even 7 percent of the vote among the super delegates.  But will super delegates abandon Clinton and jump to team Sanders before the convention?  It’s tough to say. The answer in short is probably not–or not in any great numbers. Super delegates generally have one interest and that is to support the candidate who is going to win the election. While Sanders could surely sway the support of some portion of these votes if he continues his momentum swing through the May primaries, he’s going to have a tough time convincing hundreds of politicians loyal to the Secretary to jump ship.  Essentially, all of these Washington voters began the primary season in Clinton’s camp simply by extending their pledged votes from the 2008 democratic primary race between Clinton and Obama.  It is irrefutable that she is the pick of the establishment at this point and it will take some intense lobbying from the Sanders campaign to maneuver the support of the super delegates to his side.  

So to summarize, it seems Sander’s April momentum swing may have somewhat been ground to a halt by Clinton’s New York victory.  The Vermont senator is going to have to rebound with some big wins quickly; even if Bernie can win out the last fifteen state competitions, Clinton seemingly just has to stay the course and she’ll lock up that 2,383 before the end of June.  

Final Prediction:  Clinton cushions her delegate lead by keeping it close in Pennsylvania and hits 2,383 with room to spare by the California primary.

The Republicans

This year’s Republican race for the nomination is arguably one of the most exciting (and outrageous?) one to date, going from 17 candidates to 3 in the short year since campaign announcements were made. So, let’s take a look at who we have left and their chances of stealing the show.

As I’m sure you know, Donald Trump is the current front-runner for the Republican nomination, having earned a total of 844 delegates. After winning 89 of the 95 delegates in New York, Trump furthered his lead over runner-up Ted Cruz, but it was still not enough to secure his nomination. This is where the 1237 comes into play. In order for a candidate to win the Republican nomination, s/he must garner at least 1237 delegates. Now that there are only 674 left to win, Donald Trump is the only candidate capable of doing this; Ted Cruz’s 559 delegates and John Kasich’s 148 delegates make it absolutely impossible for them to do so. However, just because they cannot secure the necessary number of delegates to make the first ballot at the July convention does not mean that they are out of contention for the nomination. And here is why…

In order for Donald Trump to reach 1237 he would have to step up his game, winning bigger in the upcoming states than he has in previous primaries. This is not an impossible goal for Trump’s campaign although it is not set in stone either. And while Trump desperately needs to win as many delegates as possible, both Cruz and Kasich need him not to. That is, if Cruz and Kasich can win enough delegates between them to prevent Trump from reaching 1237, Trump’s name will be kept off of the first ballet in the July convention, meaning that on the second ballot, the delegates are free to vote for whomever they please as they would no longer be bound to the candidate who originally won them. In doing so, both Kasich and Cruz better their chances of becoming the nominee as the GOP would be forced to take all three candidates into account when selecting their horse for the presidential race. Realistically, however, the likelihood of Kasich winning the nomination is slim, given that he lacks the public support both Trump and Cruz have assumed, and, even though it is not the deciding factor, one would expect the Republican party to take public opinion into account – at least to some degree.

So, what happens if Trump fails to achieve 1237 and consequent ballots at the Republican convention do not lead to a consensus on a given candidate? Well, then the whole process is essentially back to square one. By that, I mean the party is at liberty to appoint an outsider as the nominee, signifying that the last year of campaigning was somewhat pointless. Rumours are bubbling that either Paul Ryan, the current Speaker of the House of Representatives, or Mitt Rommey, the 2012 nominee, might slide in as the establishment Republicans’ prize pony should they have the opportunity to cast out Trump in a contested convention.

All in all, one thing that you can be sure of during this Presidential Primary race: you should expect the unexpected.  

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