Let’s Not Worry About a Contested Convention Yet

It’s every political junkie’s dream: a contested convention. When no American presidential candidate secures the support of a majority of the delegates ahead of the national convention, the assembly — normally stage-managed for television — will have to go through as many voting rounds as it takes to elect a nominee. Imagine the theater!

Unfortunately, it hasn’t happened in over half a century. And for good reason.

The last time the Democrats needed to “broker” their convention was in 1952. The last time the Republicans had one was in 1948. At both times, the parties went on to lose the general election. The spectacle of a party struggling to find a presidential candidate doesn’t inspire much confidence in voters that they’ve made the right choice. Read more “Let’s Not Worry About a Contested Convention Yet”

Ballot Requirements Another Way the Party Decides

Regular readers of the Atlantic Sentinel will know that we subscribe to the theory that “the party decides”: It are the professional party actors, rather than American voters, who really elect their party’s presidential candidates.

Politico today reports on one aspect of this: the challenge of getting a candidate on the ballot in all fifty states.

The business of getting a candidate’s name on the ballot is a costly and complex endeavor, a major drain of money and manpower that threatens to weed out the most underfunded campaigns and strain the others in what remains a historically unwieldy Republican field. Some states require thousands of signatures to qualify; others charge tens of thousands of dollars.

Some low-tier candidates complain that the requirements — which have actually been relaxed from four years ago — are designed to make life harder for them.

They are. Read more “Ballot Requirements Another Way the Party Decides”

Donald Trump Starts Plotting His Exit

For those of us who have never taken Donald Trump’s presidential ambitions very seriously, the more interesting question has been: how will he bow out?

The first hint of an exit strategy came on Tuesday when Trump’s lawyer warned Republican donors against paying for commercials that attack his boss.

The property tycoon, who likes to boast of his spot at the top of the national polls, was never going to admit defeat. Whenever he is caught in a lie or called out for his outrageous statements, Trump invariably blames others.

So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that he will blame his inevitable demise on a party that doesn’t want him. Read more “Donald Trump Starts Plotting His Exit”

Why Moderate Republicans Keep Winning the Nomination

Conservative activists in the United States like to complain that there is a Republican “establishment” keeping their candidates from winning presidential nominations. Given how far to the right Republicans have veered in recent years — to the point where Mitt Romney felt he had to reinvent himself as a strong rightwinger four years ago to win the nomination — such laments may seem incredible.

Turns out they have a point. Read more “Why Moderate Republicans Keep Winning the Nomination”

After Lousy Debate, Time for Bush to Worry

Jeb Bush’s uninspiring performance in Wednesday’s presidential debate is starting to call into question his ability to win the Republican nomination.

It’s not just this one debate. It’s that Bush — the brother and son of two former presidents — has failed to impress in all the televised debates so far. As a result, his poll numbers have barely moved. And as a consequence of that, party actors who are looking for a candidate to beat Hillary Clinton in 2016 are wondering if Jeb really is their man.

This website has argued that the polls don’t matter much at this point and that the thing to watch for is rather what “the” Republican Party — broadly understood at the elected and party officials, donors and political insiders who are most involved in the nominating process — is doing.

Most ordinary voters aren’t paying attention. The ones that are may not be taking the contest to succeed Barack Obama very seriously yet.

In late October 2011, businessman Herman Cain was ahead in the polls. It wasn’t until the end of the year that Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor who wound up as the Republican nominee, start pulling ahead of his competitors. And even when the primaries got underway, the staunch social conservative Rick Santorum occasionally outpolled Romney in early 2012.

Party actors are paying attention, though, and judging by the paltry number of endorsements Bush has racked up so far, they haven’t made up their minds either. Read more “After Lousy Debate, Time for Bush to Worry”

Clinton Strong; Republican Nominating Contest in Flux

Now that the first nominating contests in the United States’ presidential primaries are only a little over three months away, voters are starting to pay attention to the race to succeed Barack Obama and something meaningful might be said about the polls.

Fluctuations are still to be expected. As we pointed out in July, when property tycoon Donald Trump rose to the top of the polls on the Republican side, half a year before Iowa and New Hampshire voted in 2012 Mitt Romney was far behind fringe candidate Michele Bachmann. Even in October, businessman Herman Cain bested him in the polls. Yet Romney ended up winning the nomination.

Most voters aren’t paying serious attention yet to primaries for an election that is more than a year away. If Trump is supported by 23 percent of Republican voters, as the RealClearPolitics average of national polls suggests, it’s probably not because they’ve thought out his policy proposals (such as they are) in great detail but because his laments about the inefficacy of Obama’s administration and today’s Republican leaders in Congress resonate with a segment of the American right.

Voters in Iowa and New Hampshire, the two states that will have the first go at voting for the candidates in February, should start to pay closer attention.

But at least on the right, there is still very little divergence between the national and the state polls. Read more “Clinton Strong; Republican Nominating Contest in Flux”

Don’t Mind Corbyn, Trump: The Establishment Always Wins

Political parties are the arbiters in democracies. Peter Berger, a sociologist, call them the dams that hold at bay the howling frenzies lurking in the human soul. But, “All institutions are fragile,” he writes in The American Interest. “Sometimes the dams break” and you get someone like Jeremy Corbyn or Donald Trump.

The former, a unrepentant Marxist and peacenik, recently won the British Labour Party’s leadership election. The latter, a loudmouthed real-estate mogul, now tops the polls for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination in the United States.

Corbyn isn’t going to win power in a country that only four months ago gave David Cameron’s Conservatives their first parliamentary majority in twenty years. Nor is Trump likely to secure the Republican nomination, let alone win the 2016 election.

But the fact that they’ve got this far calls into question the theory that “the party decides.” Read more “Don’t Mind Corbyn, Trump: The Establishment Always Wins”

Don’t Think Hillary Clinton Is Vulnerable

Negative media coverage of Hillary Clinton’s dubious email use is denting her support in the Democratic Party’s presidential primaries. But don’t think this makes the former secretary of state any less likely to win the nomination next year.

Throughout 2014, Clinton’s approval ratings hovered safely north of 60 percent, the RealClearPolitics average of polls shows. Since it was reported this summer that she used a private email server while serving as America’s top diplomat between 2009 and 2013 — possibly in violation of the law, definitely in violation of protocol — her support has fallen to 45 percent.

That is still far ahead of her nearest rival, Vermont’s Bernie Sanders, but his support has gone up from 13 to 23 percent in the same period.

Vice President Joe Biden is not a candidate but has nevertheless been included in many polls and seen his support rise from 12 to 19 percent.

In the early voting states of Iowa and New Hampshire, Clinton’s numbers are even worse. In the former, she is tied with Sanders at 37 percent. In New Hampshire, Sanders has overtaken Clinton 43 to 32 percent.

So is Clinton’s candidacy in danger?

Probably not. Read more “Don’t Think Hillary Clinton Is Vulnerable”

Don’t Pay Too Much Attention to Donald Trump

Remember when Michele Bachmann was almost president of the United States?

It was July 2011, half a year before Iowa and New Hampshire would vote in the Republican Party’s presidential primaries. Two surveys, one by Public Policy Polling, another by Zogby, put the hard-right congresswoman from Minnesota ahead of the presumptive nominee, Mitt Romney.

As the early voting contests got closers, the polls became more volatile. At some point, Rick Perry, the Texas governor, was beating Romney 30 to 8 percent. In October, businessman Herman Cain had jumped ahead with 45 percent support in one poll. The next two months, it was Newt Gingrich’s turn. The former House speaker got as high as 40 percent.

Even when the primaries got underway, Republican voters weren’t ready to settle. Rick Santorum, a staunch social conservative from Pennsylvania, had a moment in the sun in February, rivaling Romney with the support of around a third of primary voters.

By March, it was over. Not a single poll didn’t give Romney a plurality. Most candidates withdrew the following month and Romney crossed the nominating threshold virtually unopposed in May. Read more “Don’t Pay Too Much Attention to Donald Trump”