Like watching a rom-com, we all know what the ending is – we just don’t know how we’re going to get there. Eventually, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump will end up in the final scene together. Right now we’re stuck in a subplot involving their wacky friends.
Clinton and Trump won the Arizona primaries handily, just as we expected them to. Bernie Sanders spent $1.3m to Clinton’s $600,000, and Ted Cruz dropped half a million dollars and whatever he was doing in Utah and put in face time there.
It’s possible Cruz wanted to up his potential vote total, to have better numbers to bargain with at a brokered Republican National Convention. That could be spin, and we won’t know for months. What we know now is that he and Sanders were expected to lose, and they lost.
In Utah, Cruz beat Trump, in part because Mormons loathe the Republican frontrunner. The same sort of religious get-out-the-vote power that Cruz’s distinct blend of persecution and theocracy played to in Iowa worked here again – although Trump’s obnoxious and dissolute persona didn’t hurt.
What’s important about Cruz’s win is not the win itself but the margin. Cruz is currently sailing over the 50% threshold, (70.2% with 33.3% of precincts reporting,) and that means Utah effectively becomes a winner-take-all contest for him. Those 40 delegates can undercut some of Trump’s “big night” narrative and give him yet more convention bargaining power.
But that power will have to be wielded against the delegate leader who, come on, we know is going to be Trump. The question is not whether he’s the favorite but whether the Republican party is willing to risk its own implosion by screwing him out of the nomination.
As was the case with the Republican contest, the road to the Democratic convention seems certain. Despite Sanders’ victories in Utah and Idaho, Clinton is still the favorite.
Her legacy and the Democratic party machine’s support and the mainstream media’s reflexive dismissal of Sanders should still prove nearly insurmountable obstacles, despite the inspiring and surprising accomplishments the Sanders campaign has enjoyed.
The question for the Sanders campaign and for his supporters is how he plans to use his public acclaim and apportioned delegates to influence the future of the Democratic party.
Which, in a way, makes the question the same as it is for the Republicans. We know, at this point, who it seems we’re fated to see as our final pair. We’re just waiting for the conventions – that momentous party everyone else in the story keeps mentioning – to see if there’s going to be one final twist.
US elections 2016
Jeb Lund column
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