The response of Republicans to the disastrous Paris attacks has been so despicable that it makes sober comment difficult. These really are awful people, frightened, panicky, without a shred of common decency, false to their professed religious beliefs and bereft of even the least common intelligence. I am not going to try to blog about them. It is too dispiriting.
Instead, I propose to dive back into the weeds of the Primary season. It is now a month since last I talked about the Republican and Democratic races -- more than enough time for something to have happened.
First, let me simply report that with the aid of my computer, Susie and I watched the South Carolina forum hosted by Rachel Maddow at which the three Democratic Party candidates spoke [we actually fast forwarded through the Martin O'Malley segment -- nice progressive man, but not going anywhere in the race.] The contrast between Clinton and Sanders was interesting. Clinton was intelligent, knowledgeable, poised, cheerful, skillful -- and utterly inauthentic. I found myself wondering whether she could pass a Turing test and register as a human being rather than as a machine. Sanders was blunt, intense, almost without humor, and completely authentic. I am afraid the machine is going to win the nomination, probably sewing it up some time in late April or early May.
There have been very interesting developments in the Republican race, three in particular. They are, in order of importance:
(a) Trump's continued large lead in the polls, fluctuating around the 25-30% mark;
(b) Carson's sharp drop in the very latest polls, a development which, if it continues, will completely alter the race; and
(c) the emergence of Cruz as a co-equal leader with Rubio of the lower tier.
(a) For reasons I have explained, with only a bit more than a quarter of the vote, according to the polls, Trump can rack up a sizeable number of delegates, even in the primaries that distribute delegates proportionally. Let me give one important example, that of California, to illustrate what I mean. California gets 172 delegates determined by the primary [this is separate from the "super-delegates."] Each of the 53 Congressional districts gets three, all three of which go to the candidate who has the most votes in that district [for a total of 159]. In addition, 13 at-large delegates go to the candidate who has the highest vote total state-wide. Let us suppose that by June 7th, when the California primary is held, there is still no one with the 1243 delegates needed to secure the nomination, and that Trump, Carson, Rubio, Cruz, Bush, and one or two others are still in the running. If Trump can pull 30% of the vote, he is likely to win 30 or 35 of the district races, accumulating close to 100 delegates. He will also pick up the 13 at-large delegates, for a total, let us say, of maybe 110. With 30% of the vote he wins 64% of the delegates. Similar results can be expected elsewhere. Thus, Trump may exit the primary season with more at least1000 of the 1243 delegates he needs -- more than enough to enable him to start making one of the deals he is so fond of boasting about.
(b) If Carson does continue to fade, that opens the way for an "Establishment" candidate to surge -- presumably Rubio, as things now look, though one never knows. If there is a single such candidate vacuuming up the bits and pieces of votes released by the departure of the bottom tier candidates from the race, he [it won't be Fiorina] may actually top Trump, at which point we would be on track for yet another main-line Republican to give the shaft to the half of the base that hates them all -- a very interesting prospect. In that case, we may see the party split wide open, in ways I find it hard to predict or imagine.
(c) But if Cruz continues to come on, perhaps snagging a good deal of the Carson vote, that will stop Rubio from establishing himself as the sole non-Trump. We could get to the Convention with no one having 1243 votes, even with the Jackal's share of the super-delegates.
We are now one week from the Thanksgiving-New Year 's hiatus, when America goes shopping. By the time we are writing "2016" on our checks, the Iowa caucuses will be upon us. I am pretty certain that Trump will not fade. So the two things to keep an eye on are, first, the fate of Carson, and second, the rise of Cruz to challenge Rubio.