Now assessing the presidential race

Dogged by GOP charges of untrustworthiness and that she has seriously transgressed on Benghazi and that private email account. Roundly criticized by her Democratic challenger for her close links to corporate power as indicated by her $250,000 speeches to Goldman Sachs. Ex-First Lady, former Senator and Secretary of State. Candidate with the most wide-ranging experience in government, policy wonk who seems to know everything about policy, and the first woman ever to reach this far in her quest for the presidency. Presidential semi-finalist with the lowest positive poll ratings ever recorded-- except for those carried now by Donald Trump. Bookies say Hillary Clinton is now the odds-on favorite to become America’s next president. Paddy Power is a well-known Irish bookmaker. The odds it reports against Donald Trump’s inauguration next January now are 6 to 1. Against Bernie Sanders they are 10-1. They are 12-1 against Ted Cruz. Ironically, for John Kasich, the one active GOP candidate who polls say could beat Clinton if he could win the nomination, the odds are 25 to 1 against. Clinton’s adversaries find no joy in what the bookies say; certainly none for Bernie Sanders, who has built a remarkably strong movement, especially among young voters. Sanders beat Clinton in seven of the eight primaries and caucuses immediately preceding New York’s. The votes of 2,383 convention delegates are needed to take the Democratic presidential nomination. As of this writing Clinton has 1,756 to Sanders’ 1,037. Predictions are that she will widen her lead when the New York primary votes are tallied. Although Clinton has not yet “sealed the deal,” Sanders’ path toward nomination will become steeper and more forbidding in the weeks to come. One of Sanders’ most daunting problems is the superdelegates. Numbering 719 this year, they are delegates not because of the state-by-state votes in presidential primaries. They will be at the convention because they are party leaders or high national and state Democratic officeholders. Superdelegates are the insiders, the party establishment. Does it surprise you that Sanders, the insurgent, has lined up pledges from just 31 superdelegates? Clinton has 469. If superdelegates were to be the deciding factor in the likely defeat of Sanders’ bid for nomination, he and his supporters would have reason to scream bloody murder. But that probably won’t happen. Clinton is ahead in delegates even without the superdelegates. Her lead over Sanders in popular votes in primaries and caucuses before New York’s is 2.5 million. After receiving the nomination, Clinton will have to win over Sanders supporters and incorporate them into the coalition she needs for her general election campaign. But this problem of hers may be dwarfed by what Republicans face as they prepare for their fall presidential race. Most candidates favored by the GOP establishment are now defeated and out. Both frontrunners, Trump and Cruz, appeal as insurgent outsiders. Either one needs 1,237 of the 2,472 convention votes to win nomination. Trump’s tally stands now at 743. That number will certainly increase from New York Republican primary votes. Pre-New York, Cruz has 546. Trump, the ultimate outsider, is a very rich businessman who has never held political office. The plain-speaking (over-the-top?) New Yorker has put together a loyal movement of working Americans, many of them newcomers to election politics. On issues of trade and immigration, Trump’s populist appeal intersects with that of Bernie Sanders. But on policy matters, Trump speaks in glittering generalities. Republican leaders know that what he says alienates Muslim, Hispanic, and many female voters. Cruz, a devoted Texas conservative, is now the last best hope for some #NoTrump Republicans. But Cruz has few Washington friends, and much of his new anti-Trump support is seen as for the “lesser of two evils.” Lindsey Graham, declaring Trump to be “unelectable,” recently endorsed Cruz. If Cruz becomes the nominee, that endorsement is certain to be mocked in a Democratic ad. It will feature a joking remark Graham made not long ago that if Cruz were killed there would be no conviction if the trial took place in the Senate. Trump, who has long referred to Cruz as “lying Ted,” now accuses him of stealing his delegates. Trump also charges the Republican National Committee with rigging the rules to insure his defeat. Trump may seal up the nomination before Republicans convene in Cleveland July 18. But that’s far from certain. Cleveland may feature the first “open” convention by either major party since 1976. The smart money is still on Trump to win nomination, but only if he has enough delegates for a convention win on first ballot. If not, many delegates, released from their commitment to Trump, may move to Cruz or maybe to Kasich. Some #NoTrump #NoCruz Republicans want a “white knight,” someone like House Speaker Paul Ryan, to be nominated if the convention is open. That is unlikely. Ryan himself has vowed to take no part in a move like that. It would require a rules change; and if successful, it would almost certainly lead to a split by Trump’s followers and an insurgent third party intent on payback by spoiling the election for the GOP. Already some established third parties are seeking support from the conflicts inside both major parties. The Greens would love to pick off votes from many disenchanted Sanders fans this fall. And former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson, the probable Libertarian standard bearer, wants the votes of millions who will inevitably be angry at whatever comes out of this summer’s Republican convention. These are interesting times. (Now retired and living in Charleston, David Gillespie and his wife Judi resided in Clinton from 1979 to 2006. At PC, David taught political science and Judi served as Financial Aid Director.)

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