Tag Archives: Caucus

Super Tuesday 2.0: The fallout from the March 15th primaries

On the Republican side

Donald Trump marched to victory in four of the five Republican primaries on Tuesday, steamrolling Senator Marco Rubio on his home turf in Florida and holding back an insurgent Senator Ted Cruz in Missouri, Illinois, and North Carolina. His only loss came in Ohio, where John Kasich, the state’s popular governor, won handily. After his disappointing loss in Florida, Marco Rubio suspended his campaign, shrinking the GOP field to three candidates.

The only certainty coming out of Tuesday’s primaries is that the uncertainty of the GOP race will persist for some time. Donald Trump had a good night, but it was not quite decisive enough to make his nomination a foregone conclusion. His dominant performance in Florida, though bringing him 99 delegates closer to winning the nomination outright, also pushed Marco Rubio out of the race and strengthened Mr. Trump’s opponents. According to a new national poll by Morning Consult, nearly half of Rubio supporters back Mr. Cruz as their second-choice candidate, while just one in eight view the Donald as their best alternative. A little more than a quarter would support John Kasich. Taken in the context of Trump’s razor-thin margins of victory in Missouri and North Carolina, where he won by 0.2 percent and 4 percent respectively, these numbers indicate that Mr. Rubio’s political demise may compromise Donald Trump in the long run, giving just enough strength to Cruz and Kasich to mount serious challenges to Mr. Trump in critical states like Arizona, New York, and Pennsylvania.

Though posting strong performances in all of Tuesday’s primaries, Donald Trump failed once again to demonstrate his ability to expand his appeal beyond his narrow, impassioned core group of supporters. Though he did manage to exceed his average vote share from the previous contests, the New York real estate mogul was yet again unable to obtain a majority in a single state. The longer he fails to exceed the 50 percent mark in these primary races, the more time will pass before he will be able to credibly claim that he is a consensus candidate who can unite the party, and the more opportunities Messrs. Cruz and Kasich will have to topple Mr. Trump before he can clinch the Republican nomination.

Beyond Tuesday, Mr. Trump will need to win just under 60 percent of the remaining 975 delegates in order to clinch the GOP nomination. With winner-take-all and winner-take-most states dominating the rest of the primary season, his path to the nomination is realistic but far from secure. In order to clinch the nomination and avoid ejection at a contested convention, Mr. Trump will need to string together victories in several of the upcoming winner-take-all and winner-take-most primaries and overcome his narrow appeal within the Republican electorate.

 

On the Democratic side

 After a shocking defeat in Michigan on March 8th, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton redeemed herself with a dominant performance in Tuesday’s Democratic primaries. She swept every state, taking Florida, North Carolina, and Ohio by comfortable margins and fending off fierce challenges from Senator Bernie Sanders in Missouri and Illinois. Though winning the nomination is still a statistical possibility for Mr. Sanders, his performance on Tuesday has made his practical path to the nomination impossibly narrow.

Unlike the Republican Party, which permits states to award delegates on a winner-take-all or a winner-take-most basis, the Democratic Party only allows its primaries to award delegates proportionally. This feature makes late comebacks difficult, since overcoming a large delegate deficit in proportional primaries requires not only victories but also wide margins of victory, like those which Mrs. Clinton has produced throughout the South. With Clinton now leading by over 300 pledged delegates and 400 superdelegates, Mr. Sanders will be hard-pressed to come up with the massive wins he will need in order to shift the balance of the Democratic race and overtake his opponent. Barring an extraordinary change in the state of the race—such as the indictment of Mrs. Clinton over her alleged mishandling of classified documents as secretary of state—Bernie Sanders will not be the Democratic Party’s nominee for president.

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Iowa Caucuses: What You Need to Know

What are the Iowa Caucuses?

In both parties’ nomination processes, the first state to cast its votes is the state of Iowa, which does so in the form of a caucus. While New Hampshire’s state constitution has a law dictating that New Hampshire must be the first state to hold a primary each election cycle, Iowa skirts this law by remaining loyal to the caucus system. The Iowa caucus rose to prominence in the media in 1972, (in large part due to the long-shot candidacy of then Governor of Georgia Jimmy Carter) and has not left the spotlight since. While most states used to use a caucus system, states including Texas, California, New York, and many others have recently opted to abandon them in favor of primaries; most caucus states are smaller (population-wise) than average. Caucuses are far more interactive than the primary system, but actually work quite differently for the Republican and Democratic parties.

During a Democratic caucus, voters are free to discuss and debate their candidates’ merits. After the allotted time period (typically 30 minutes) is up, the organizers take up a head count of the supporters for each candidate. Any candidate with less than 15% of the caucus supporting him/her is eliminated. The caucus goers whose candidate may have been eliminated are given an additional 30 minutes to reassemble themselves and choose a new candidate to support, or abstain from voting. After that time period is up, a second count of the room (or caucus location) is taken and results are recorded. The full caucus takes about an hour and a half.

For Republicans, the process is substantially simpler and more reminiscent of what the primary system normally looks like. Republican voters (you must be a registered Republican to participate in the caucus) make their way to a caucus location, which may be a church, school, or even a private home. Once there, Republican voters cast secret ballots for their choice of candidate by writing down the name of said candidate on a piece of paper, submitting it, and then leaving. This is a much quicker and more intuitive system, in total taking a maximum of around 30 minutes. Donald Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, released a video explaining how to vote in the Republican caucus. Ivanka outlines the process, using the buzzwords “quick”, “easy”, and “simple” no fewer than four times in the brief video. The Iowa Caucuses for Democrats and Republicans have correctly predicted the nominee in 5 of the last 7 contested (non re-elected) nominations.

 

What do the Iowa Caucuses mean for the Democrats?

Symbolically, the Iowa caucus is important for the Democratic party. At this time eight years ago, future President Obama was trailing Sen. Clinton by 20 points. The Iowa caucus was the first  in a string of Obama victories that would propel him to securing the nomination and presidency later that year.

The system the Democrats use will likely undermine what little support candidate Martin O’Malley holds. Because the Democrat ballots in the Iowa caucus are not secret, O’Malley supporters may feel pressure to support either Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton. This effect likely favors Clinton by a slim margin, and may swing the hotly contested Iowa caucus.

If Bernie Sanders wins Iowa, he will likely prolong the nomination process, and could even become the Democratic candidate. If Clinton cannot quickly and loudly squash the Sanders campaign, both camps face a long, drawn-out primary battle. Such a battle will both eat away at the Democrats’ resources and decrease the candidates’ favorability in the eyes of the voters. A Sanders victory in Iowa will cost both Sanders and Clinton a substantial amount of money as both sides levy negative campaigns against the other in the remaining 49 states and at the DNC, ultimately helping Republicans.

 

What do the Iowa Caucuses mean for the Republicans?

For candidates other than Trump, Cruz, and Rubio, a strong showing in Iowa will be necessary to stay in the running. This doesn’t necessarily mean the candidate has to win the popular vote in Iowa, but coming in anywhere behind the fourth place winner will seriously diminish any candidate’s prospects of winning the nomination. Some of the candidates with stronger polhling in New Hampshire, including Kasich and Christie, will likely hang on to their campaigns, even with a poor showing in Iowa, but Bush (who has name recognition) and Carson (who is polling at a steady 4th in most polls) need a large turnout to maintain their candidacies.

The most notable distinguishing characteristic of the Republican caucus as opposed to a mainstream primary system is that instead of receiving a list of all the candidates and selecting one, the caucus voters are given a blank piece of paper and write down the name of the candidate they support. This helps candidates like Trump, Bush, Rubio, and Cruz–who have spent more time in the headlines–and hurts candidates like Fiorina, Kasich, Paul, and Santorum, who have less name recognition. For voters who are deciding who to vote for in today’s caucus, the candidates with significant amounts of air time will be percolating in the minds of the swing voters, and name recognition will go a long way in bolstering these candidates’ numbers.

The Iowa caucuses carry significant weight, but are not the end of the road for either party by any stretch. Whatever the results in Iowa, the primary contest for both parties will likely draw pundits’ attention for many months to come.