Super Two-sday Hot Take & Reax

Thoughts and links from a variety of perspectives on the primary results in Illinois, North Carolina, Missouri, Florida, and Ohio. (Click here to see all of TLP’s 2016 election posts)

Marco Rubio
Bye Felicia! (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)


State (party) – Candidate vote% (delegates)

Florida (Dem) – Clinton 64.5% (124), Sanders 33.3% (60)

Illinois (Dem) – Clinton 50.5% (66), Sanders 48.7% (64)

Missouri (Dem) – Clinton 49.6% (?), Sanders 49.4% (?)

North Carolina (Dem) – Clinton 54.6% (59), Sanders 40.8% (42)

Ohio (Dem) – Clinton 56.5% (75), Sanders 42.7% (54)

Florida (GOP) – Trump 45.8% (99), Rubio 27% (😂), Cruz 17.1% (0), Kasich 6.8% (0)

Illinois (GOP) – Trump 48.8% (24), Cruz 30.3% (0), Kasich 19.7% (0), Rubio 8.7% (0)

Missouri (GOP) – Trump 40.8% (?), Cruz 40.6% (?), Kasich 10.1% (?), Rubio 6.1% (?)

North Carolina (GOP) – Trump 40.2% (29), Cruz 36.8% (26), Kasich 12.7% (9), Rubio 7.7% (5)

Ohio (GOP) – Kasich 46.8% (66), Trump 35.7% (0), Cruz 13.1% (0), Rubio 2.9% (0)

Hot Take

I try to avoid listicle-type content, but 5ish candidates and 5 primaries calls for some kind of organization, so I am just going to do a quick take on each candidate’s night and then move on to the reax.

Hillary Clinton – Of course she had a very good night, winning all five Democratic primaries and three of those victories were by more than 10 points. Clinton’s pledged delegate lead is now insurmountable unless there is a massive, catastrophic negative event for her campaign. All five states are blue or purple, so Clinton also defeated (again) the idea that she is only winning because of red states. And all of this was after a week of unforced errors by the Clinton campaign and by the candidate herself, which tells me that her support is resilient. Some Democrats and independents may feel like they need to settle for Hillary, but plenty of her supporters (myself included) are happy to be voting for her (even if I do really cringe at some of her gaffes and policy positions, and I do).

Bernie Sanders – On the one hand, it is a disgrace and should be some kind of scandal that no network carried Sanders’ speech last night. On the other hand, even I turned off the livestream after 60 seconds of the Senator barking the same rants he uses on the stump, in debates, during interviews, and during his victory speeches. Dude needs to come up with some new material, or at least a remix. Anyway, I don’t think losing all five states and falling much further behind in pledged delegates is the worst of it for Sanders from last night. The worst thing for Sanders is that his whole candidacy is premised on the idea of a political revolution that, as I have said before (and it is even more true after last night), we now have the data we need to conclude is not happening. I actually do believe a progressive revolution is happening in America, but Sanders and his supporters have lost the battle for who will carry the banner for the next four to eight years. In my mind, the question today is if Sanders will decide that now is the time to drop out and convert his supporters into a national progressive movement, or if he will stay in the race all the way until June and risk damaging the presumptive Democratic nominee while burning out his supporters. My concern here is that the mental gymnastics I see Sanders supporters doing in order to pretend he still has a chance (e.g.) could escalate to the point where they will not be able to find their way back to reality in time to support Clinton in the general election against, you know, the epically regressive racist, sexist, homophobic, one-percenter the GOP picks at their convention. But I digress.

Donald Trump – There really is no news here. He won the states folks thought he would win. Trump’s campaign is a hybrid dumpster/oil fire – it looks bad, smells horrible, gets worse when people dump cold water on it, and has access to unlimited air – thanks, media! – but it is also very contained. Trump failed to break 50% in any primary last night, and only about 25% (max) of any state’s population voted in their local GOP primary. In other words, very few people have actually voted for Trump. He may be a racist authoritarian demagogue a la 1930s fascism, but we aren’t living in Weimar Germany or anything like it. The GOP is imploding, but America will be better for it. Everybody chill out – and stop dumping water on the fire!

Marco Rubio – Bye Felicia! Click here to read Politico‘s conspicuously quickly published autopsy of the Rubio campaign. Be sure to also read the Jonathan Chait piece that is linked/excerpted in the reax. Rubio was the scariest GOP candidate and I am glad to be done talking about him for the foreseeable future.

Ted Cruz – Senator Cruz is still a factional candidate even though he is now, hilariously, winning FiveThirtyEight’s GOP endorsement primary. He had a bad night because he didn’t win anywhere, not even in Missouri. His followers are dedicated, he has picked up a few votes from other candidates that dropped out, he is well funded, he is well organized… …and he still couldn’t carry a single state. Cruz is less electable than Trump, and I don’t say that lightly. I don’t know what his game plan is at this point, but it probably involves needing to get support at a contested convention from people that won’t support him.

John Kasich – What fucking planet is he on? He can’t win the nomination outright, he almost certainly can’t even win a plurality of delegates, but he had a nominating convention worth of confetti shoot out when he won his home state, which shouldn’t be a big deal. Winning your home state is expected. Does he think a brokered convention will pick a nominee who failed to win the primary? Does he think the idea of him being a moderate will survive even the briefest exposure to scrutiny? I don’t get his strategy and I see no real achievement for him last night other than denying Trump 66 delegates, which Trump largely made up for by winning all of Illinois’ delegates.

The Reax

Dylan Matthews has the Vox morning-after-go-to recap of winners (Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, John Kasich’s campaign consultants) and losers (Marco Rubio, Bernie Sanders). Obviously I want to quote at length a passage that helps explain WTF Kasich is thinking:

Kasich staying in may or may not be good news for GOP insiders; it could minimize Trump’s share of delegates in proportional states by giving voters another option, or it could increase Trump’s odds of winning winner-take-all states by splitting the anti-Trump vote with Ted Cruz. And it’s probably not good news for Kasich, who, again, is almost certainly not going to be the nominee.

You know who it is good for? John Kasich campaign consultants John Weaver and Fred Davis. To be clear, Weaver and Davis aren’t good at winning elections. They tend to work for candidates who position themselves to lose the GOP primary by being too moderate, like John McCain in 2000 or Jon Huntsman in 2012 (Weaver was involved in McCain’s 2008 run but left before McCain started winning stuff). But they’re very good at getting candidates to pay them anyway. And the longer Kasich stays in the race, the more they get paid, and the more they can use the race to burnish their resumes going forward.

Congrats, John and Fred. Buy yourselves a properly-cooked steak.

Sticking with Kasich for a minute, David Weigel writes about Kasich’s battle for Ohio and his strategy for forcing a contested convention:

Some evidence for Kasich’s suburban strategy emerged in the night’s less-watched primaries in Illinois, Missouri and North Carolina. In the latter state, where Kasich did not really compete, he fared well in the suburbs of Charlotte. In early results from Illinois, Kasich ran second to Trump, and far ahead of Cruz in the greater Chicago counties of Cook, DuPage and Lake.

Such numbers, repeated in other states, would effectively end any candidate’s shot at coming to the Republican National Convention with the 1,237 delegates needed for a first-ballot nomination. In a campaign memo, Kasich’s campaign flatly stated that no campaign could achieve that number, thanks to the Ohio win.

Alexis Levinson goes into some detail about how Kasich may believe he can convert a late surge in the primaries to win over delegates in Cleveland:

The Kasich campaign is putting stock not just in how many delegates he will have when he arrives at the convention, but in the story those delegates will tell about his electability in a general election.

“It’s not just the numbers, but when we won them, and where we won them, and what they say about his ability to beat Hillary Clinton,” says Kasich adviser Tom Rath. Kasich backers see that as his great strength: Unlike the other two remaining candidates on the Republican side, he has proven he can win Ohio, a swing state, and current polls show him able to beat Clinton in a general election. Kasich backers are counting on delegates to take that into account at the convention.

My take away from all of this is that Kasich is the new Rubio: he is a virtual, not an actual, hope. Speaking of Felicia Rubio, which we won’t be doing much longer 😂, Jonathan Bernstein looks at a few possible explanations for Rubio’s failure and some “What if?” scenarios for how Rubio might have done better:

Every candidate has “ifs” they can look back on. Rubio, however, may not have needed all of these things to break this way — maybe only a few. Maybe only one.

The take-away here is that Rubio’s loss is inconsistent with the theory that parties control nominations and that Trump’s success is inconsistent with views the scholars of political parties have had about the presidential-selection process.

When more evidence emerges, we can adjust our theories or, sometimes, toss them out entirely and search for new ones.

Isaac Chotiner ridicules Rubio’s campaign, including his concession speech as an example of Rubio’s multi-faceted failure as a candidate:

Rubio declared recently that his goal was to stop Trump from becoming the nominee at all costs, but his presence in the race for the past two weeks, well after it was clear that he could not win, surely did nothing except boost Trump’s margins in the other contests tonight. It was typical of a campaign that could never do anything right. From the moment Rubio decided to make immigration his signature issue, enraging much of his base, through the moment that he backtracked from his own bill, proving to the last doubter that he was nothing more than a young man in a hurry, Rubio was never able to strike the right tone.

Jonathan Chait had his Rubio campaign obituary ready to go as well (posted at 10:09pm last night), wherein he makes a convincing case that the man Trump called “Little Marco” really was the most dangerous of the GOP candidates:

His willingness to eloquently champion the interests of the donor class enabled Rubio’s rapid ascent and defined his governing philosophy. In Florida, he proposed cutting property taxes, which fall on landowners, and replacing the revenue with higher sales taxes, which fall most heavily on the poor. His domestic agenda was defined by a tax cut twice the size of the one George W. Bush enacted. Like Bush, Rubio’s tax cut tacked on some small-change tax credits for low-income families, but the bulk of the money went to the top, with 40 percent of the cost of his plan accruing to the richest one percent. He wanted to deregulate the financial industry and eliminate Obamacare — which he repeatedly voted to eliminate without the necessity of a replacement. He refused to accept the legitimacy of climate science, even as his home city is literally disappearing slowly beneath his feet. One of the very few areas where Rubio claimed to stake out untraditional ground was in higher education — but even here, his policy turned out to be deregulating for-profit colleges, one of the shadiest of which had generously funded him.

As of writing this blog post, I haven’t seen a thing about Cruz other than this Fred Barnes piece about how and why it is now a fight between Trump and Cruz for the GOP nomination, except he ends up fixating on the coming general election battle against Clinton:

That leaves Trump, the populist, and Cruz, who calls himself the only “true conservative,” as the only contenders in the race. And with them comes the biggest problem Republicans face in 2016: winning the general election against Hillary Clinton, now all but sure to win the Democratic nomination.

Against her, Rubio or Kasich are stronger candidates or at least appear to be at the moment. They could capture the political center by doing well among Hispanics and suburban women voters, two enormously important voting blocs. They could beat Clinton. But Rubio is gone, Kasich nearly so.

For Trump and Cruz, beating Clinton would be a struggle and for good reason. Trump’s negatives are sky high and Democrats would exploit all of them. Cruz seems to think he can win by bringing more conservative voters out of the woodwork. He can’t. Both would start from far behind among Hispanics and suburban women.

I won’t even reprint his conclusion about how Democrats are afraid of Trump because, well, no I don’t think they really are.

Finishing up for the GOP side of things, Joan Walsh points out that even with Kasich as the new establishment hope, the Republican contest is still all about Trump:

Expect the media to give Kasich more attention too. But don’t expect them to abandon Trump. I’ve been thinking about the things that make this year different from 1968, the year Richard Nixon prevailed after two terms of a Democratic president, with years of pent-up frustration exploding in the streets. There were many differences, of course. But one advantage Trump has over Nixon: he drives ratings. The networks love him.

Nixon never drove ratings. The man whose presidential hopes famously tanked in 1960, against John F. Kennedy, because of his awful TV visage; the man with the 24-hour five o clock shadow, whose nasal honk and cramped, crabbed mien made him hard to look at on the small screen; the media never identified his popular fate with their own. Even Roger Ailes couldn’t help him much. Trump has so much momentum as a storyline, as a protagonist; even with a media boost on behalf of Kasich, in the interest of a horserace, which is something journalists always root for, I don’t see Kasich catching the frontrunner.

Josh Marshall discusses both races and sees the coming general election matchup between Clinton and, well, maybe Trump:

Speaking of Sanders’ daunting Democratic delegate deficit, Andrew Prokop went ahead and did the rather ugly math for the Vermont Senator:

Here’s how rough the math is for Sanders going forward: To win a majority in pledged delegates, he needs to win 58 percent of those remaining.

That might not sound so bad. But because all the Democratic contests allot their delegates proportionally, it’s actually punishingly difficult.

It means Sanders has to beat Clinton by around 58 percent to 42 percent pretty muchconstantly. And that’s just incredibly implausible given what’s happened so far, and especially given what’s happened tonight.

But Bernie and some of his epistemically-challenged supporters have repeatedly shown themselves, like the GOP reactionaries they love to hate, as being immune to corrupt establishment stuff like math. Cue John Nichols and the “more than half the delegates have yet to be awarded” talking point:

Even if Sanders were to win all of those primary and caucus contests in late March and early April, Clinton would still be the front runner, and she would still enjoy a big delegate lead. But Sanders could get a lot closer to Clinton in the competition — perhaps close enough to convince some “super delegates” to move his way. And he can continue to build a movement politics with a potential to influence convention rules, platform planks and perhaps even the selection process that will name a vice presidential contender.

To be fair, Nichols more or less concedes that Sanders is only in it to influence the party at this point, not to win the nomination, but somehow that doesn’t stop him from saying stuff like this:

But Sanders has every reason to keep running a primary and caucus race where most of the delegates have yet to be chosen — and where his ability to influence the character and content of the competition remains one of that race’s most significant dynamics.

So expect increasingly desperate dank memes in your news feed today, is what I’m saying.

Perhaps my most uncomfortable moment of the morning was finding myself in agreement with Brendan Borderlon when he writes about the implications of Clinton’s 5 state sweep:

But the established order reasserted itself on Tuesday night — this time, probably for good. Clinton laid a goose egg on Sanders, winning five out of five contests across a diverse swath of America and permanently putting to rest her rival’s contention that she’s a “regional candidate” who struggles outside the South. Though the Sanders campaign shows no signs of quitting the race anytime soon, the Vermont senator’s empty-handed finish seems to augur the beginning of the end for his “political revolution.”

I don’t think it is the end of the political revolution, I just think it was wrong for Sanders and his supporters to imagine that the Senator held the center of the revolution in a way that would propel him to the nomination. Still, I nodded along and feel like I need a shower.

Jamelle Bouie doesn’t pretend the nomination battle is over for the Democrats, but points out that Clinton is defeating Sanders by using the same playbook Obama used to beat Clinton in 2008:

Clinton still has a long slog to the nomination—it takes time to accumulate the delegates she needs—but it’s a clear one, without major obstacles. In a sense, she and her team have reverse-engineered Obama’s 2008 effort, bringing “establishment” resources—huge fundraising and tremendous party support—to bear on an insurgent-style campaign that focused on voter contacts and organizing instead of paid media and massive events. Clinton has made mistakes, and she will continue to make them, but her present campaign is durable enough to survive them.

Ezra Klein sees last night as a victory for Clinton not just because of states and delegates won, but because her potential general election fight got a lot easier as well:

This is the race the Clinton campaign didn’t dare hope for. In recent years, the Republican Party has always turned to the candidate that looks best suited for the general election. In 2000, they went with George W. Bush, the seemingly moderate governor of Texas who ran as a compassionate conservative; in 2008, they went with John McCain, a politician Democrats and independents once liked so much that John Kerry tried to add him to the Democratic ticket in 2008; in 2012, they went with Mitt Romney, who had been a moderate governor of a very blue state.

There was nothing in this record to predict that Republicans would turn to a Cruz or Trump in 2016. But that’s what they look to be doing.

Could Clinton still lose the general? Sure. Donald Trump is winning elections all across the country. American politics is a magical land of surprises. But the Clinton campaign couldn’t ask for weaker opponents than Trump or Cruz. This is an outcome that gives them a chance to win back the Senate, to pull off the kind of landslide that’s rarely seen in modern American politics.

And last but not least – indeed this will have a huge impact both locally and as the start of larger trends (I hope) – #BlackLivesMatter had a big night with two wins in District Attorney races. German Lopez writes about both of the upset victories:

There were two little-known but stunning upsets during the Super Tuesday II electionson March 15: Anita Alvarez lost her bid for reelection for state’s attorney of Cook County, Illinois, and Tim McGinty lost his reelection bid for county prosecutor in Cuyahoga, County.

At face value, Alvarez’s loss to Kim Foxx, a fellow Democrat, and McGinty’s loss to Michael O’Malley, also a Democrat, may not seem like a huge deal. But both of the incumbents lost, in part, because the Black Lives Matter movement criticized them for mishandling and neglecting high-profile police shooting cases over the past few years.

Moreover, it’s very rare for an incumbent prosecutor to actually lose a bid for reelection. About 95 percent of incumbent prosecutors won reelection, and 85 percent ran unopposed in general elections, according to data from nearly 1,000 elections between 1996 and 2006 analyzed by Ronald Wright of Wake Forest University School of Law.

Seriously, read the whole thing. It is good. I hope to be seeing much, much more of this in the future. Also the Chicago Tribune has more depth on the Cook County DA contest.

Click here to see all of TLP’s 2016 election posts.

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