The U.S. presidential election is over eight months away, yet this election cycle has already shaped up to be the most interesting contest in decades. Never have so many anti-establishment candidates managed to stay in the race for so long, let alone win in some early primaries. On the Democratic side, Bernie Sanders, the democratic-socialist Senator from Vermont, has given Hillary Clinton a run for her money after rising out of relative obscurity a few months ago. On the Republican side, figures like Donald Trump and Senator Ted Cruz have dominated the field, forcing many established candidates out of the race relatively early. No one could have predicted the race would have ended up this way. However, if one thing is for certain in this election cycle, it’s that voters are angry.
There exists a strong sense of malaise in the U.S. today as wages have remained stagnant, young people are saddled with astronomical student loan debt, and many are still struggling to recover from the housing crisis that struck in 2008. If you’re a candidate, having political experience is now a liability, not an asset. Being associated with Washington politics in any capacity, particularly in the Republican race, means in the eyes of voters that you are part of the problem. This is the only explanation for Donald Trump’s staying power in this race. As his supporters enthusiastically proclaim, he is too rich to be bought by special interests. And, it is this belief that is Trump’s biggest selling point. Bernie Sanders, while not a rich man, is also viewed by his supporters as someone who would never let money compromise his principles. In an era where campaign spending grows larger every election cycle, more and more voters seem to be showing their concern about money in politics. Yet, this election cycle has, if anything, shown that you can spend as much money as you want, but it doesn’t necessarily translate into votes. Jeb Bush’s campaign and super-PACs (private political groups that can run ads on a candidate’s behalf), for example, spent tens of millions of dollars and have nothing to show for it except single digit polling numbers. Now Jeb, the heir apparent of the Bush political dynasty, has dropped out of the race, leaving behind a field with very few moderate voices.
Mar. 1 is the day of reckoning for candidates still in the race who haven’t succeeded in past primaries and caucuses. Mar. 1 is known in the political arena as “Super Tuesday.” It is a day where primary contests will be held simultaneously in twelve states for both parties. Even in this unpredictable election cycle, all political pundits will confidently say that if a candidate does not finish first in at least a few of these contests, they will have no chance at the nomination. As things currently stand, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have the biggest advantages over their respective rivals. They have much to gain from Super Tuesday, but also a lot to lose if they perform below expectations. If indeed Clinton and Trump win the majority of the contests on Super Tuesday, as is currently projected, their position as the presumptive nominees for the Democratic and Republican parties respectively will be cemented. There are far too many delegates awarded on Super Tuesday for losing candidates to catch up to the front-runners later in the game.
In the Democratic race, Hillary Clinton already has a large lead with 542 delegates compared to Sanders’ 85 delegates. 2,383 delegates are needed to win the Democratic nomination and around a third of those will be awarded on Super Tuesday. In the Republican race, Donald Trump leads the field with 81 delegates out of 1,237 needed to win the nomination. 81 may not seem like many, but his closest competitor, Ted Cruz, has only 17. On the Democratic side, Sanders has shown himself to be a formidable competitor to Clinton, but his biggest supporters are young, college-aged people. The young are good at filling seats at political rallies, but they seldom vote in large numbers. If Sanders cannot get his most ardent supporters to go to the polls to vote for him on Super Tuesday, his campaign will essentially be finished. On the Republican side, Super Tuesday is Trump’s to lose. While some are still in denial about even the possibility of him being the nominee, most mainstream political analysts now accept the fact that he has a good chance at clinching the nomination in July. Ted Cruz does have a shot at stopping Trump from declaring outright victory on Super Tuesday, but even in the states where he is the most popular, Trump is not far behind in the polls.
Super Tuesday is not the end of the primary process officially, but for many candidates, it will be. Either you emerge as the presumptive nominee or you don’t. There is very little chance, especially based on recent polling, that the results of Mar. 1 will complicate the race going forward rather than simplifying it. Like I said before, it is Clinton’s and Trump’s to lose at this point. But then again, if this election has taught me anything over the past few months, it is to expect the unexpected. Until November, political junkies like me will just have to sit back and watch what has turned into the greatest show on Earth.
This article was written by Ben Haller. Please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to get in touch.
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