Tuesday, April 26, 2016

By Reed Galen

Quote by a Smart Person: “If you’re part of the #NeverTrump movement, you have to ask yourself, ‘What the heck happened?’” - Chuck Todd, NBC News

Welcome to the American Singularity.

All Aboard!

Five states, voted tonight, making up “Super Tuesday 4” - that’s the best anyone could come up with other than “Acela Primary” which by definition leaves approximately 250 million Americans in the dark as to what news outlets are talking about. (Note: Watch the great video below courtesy of Bloomberg’s Mark Halperin) if you don’t believe me.) Bunched in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Connecticut and Delaware represented the biggest delegate haul in weeks for both parties. Ted Cruz ceded them a week ago and is camped out in Indiana. John Kasich bounced around them, doing his best to try and capture some delegates in the process. Donald Trump did rip-roaring rallies and returned to his true self - a guy who doesn’t like being “handled” and mercilessly ridiculed an opponent’s eating. This is where we are.

Courtesy @MarkHalperin via Twitter

Courtesy @MarkHalperin via Twitter

Bernie Sanders, despite looking further and further from a real contender, has doubled-down on his commitment to go all the way to the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia. Despite this pledge, Sanders pulled down his advertising in Pennsylvania several days before the election, a likely signal he can’t win. Hillary Clinton, well ahead in pledged and super delegates extended her reach across friendly territory.

Full Steam Ahead

Donald Trump ran the table tonight; further extending his delegate lead against Ted Cruz and John Kasich. The clean sweep also potentially provides Trump the type of sustained momentum that has been absent from this campaign cycle. Trump will still have to go into most of the states and ensure his preferred delegate slate actually makes the trek to Cleveland this summer. This dichotomy; success at the polls versus failure at the local conventions, remains, and will likely remain Trump’s biggest obstacle to getting to 1,237 delegates. As the polls closed tonight, Trump, bedecked in his best bespoke tuxedo, called on his remaining opponents to get out of the race: good luck with that.

Hillary Clinton’s path is different, probably more assured than Trump’s, but more churning in nature. She’s picking up both popular voters and her team knows the delegate game. Even if with a loss in Rhode Island, there’s a built-in discount among the politerati as the places she fared poorly are also in Bernie Sanders’ backyard. Sanders’ obstinacy appears to be hardening - and while that might not be a big deal right now, his unwillingness to get out forces Clinton to continue expending resources on remaining states; money, even against Donald Trump, she will need come this fall.

Off the Rails

The short-lived Cruz-Kasich alliance may not last the night. While strategically a smart idea, it’s unlikely to have a strategic impact. They came to terms, whatever they were, far, far too late, and without enough definition from one party; Kasich, to make it seem real. The result: a ham-handed Hail Mary by both camps that is likely to have little effect on the outcome of the three states where they apparently reached consensus: Indiana, Oregon and New Mexico. Considering that Oregon isn’t until May 17th and New Mexico June 7th, hard to see how Kasich was ever getting the better end of this deal.

The #NeverTrump forces had a bad night and a bad couple of weeks. While their efforts sure made a difference in Wisconsin, site of Ted Cruz’s last victory, they’ve demurred in the last six contests. Given their late start, they would likely have had to spend resources at least taking the bark off Trump even it didn’t hurt him too much at the ballot box in the early going. The fear for them, and for anyone for whom the idea of a Trump nomination is anathema, is the head of steam he builds tonight will not abate and any further actions may now be a fool’s errand.

And lastly, the lonely, long-lost Establishment voter. As I’ve written on several occasions previously, I can’t say where they’ve gone; but they're in the wind. If this bloc were still truly a force to be reckoned with, even at this late date, John Kasich would not be pulling 20%-25% (and may not break 15% in home-state PA) in places that should be tailor-made for a candidate like him. Indeed, Trump wouldn’t be where he is today if those voters we’ve always counted on to nominate candidates like George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush, John McCain and Mitt Romney hadn’t completely abandoned the “cause” as we’ve known it for so many years.

Riding in the Caboose

Whether Ted Cruz believes it or not, his campaign’s viability likely comes down to next week’s contest in Indiana. Indeed, he has put it front and center, making the Hoosier State his electoral Alamo. If he can’t win with more than $2 million invested by his own campaign, and another $2 million invested by the #NeverTrump folks, it’s hard to see how he has any real path to the nomination short of a truly contested convention. But, that being said, the narrative of this campaign changes on a week-by-week basis. Should Trump lose Indiana, we’ll be right back to talking about how he can’t seal the deal.