It’s amazing, but with the South Carolina GOP primary in the rear-view mirror, we’re now getting really close (eight full days to go) until March 1 and “Super Tuesday,” when voters in a slew of states, including Virginia, head to the polls. With that, here are my fearless predictions for the Democratic and Republican primaries in Virginia.
Democrats: There have been two recent Virginia 2016 polls (by CNU and PPP), and both show Hillary Clinton well ahead of Bernie Sanders (12 points in the CNU poll; 22 points in the PPP poll). Also note that in Virginia, Clinton leads Sanders by 58 points among African Americans, who make up something like 34% of the likely Democratic primary electorate according to PPP. There’s your “fire wall” right there. Finally, there’s the support for Clinton from Governor McAuliffe, Senators Kaine and Warner and the vast majority of elected officials in Virginia. Combine all that, and it should be “game set match” for Hillary Clinton to win Virginia by a comfortable margin (15-20 points?) on March 1. Oh, and if Clinton can rack up a “yuge” Super Tuesday, which is highly likely, and a strong month of March in general, she will be well on her way to the nomination, if she hasn’t clinched it outright.
Republicans: This one is tougher to predict, given that there’s been only one public poll of Virginia Republicans in 2016 (one by CNU on February 16 — after Iowa and New Hampshire, but before South Carolina’s primary yesterday). That one poll had Donald Trump leading with 28% of the vote, followed closely by Marco Rubio (22%) and Ted Cruz (19%), with other candidates basically left in the dust (John Kasich and Ben Carson at 7% each; former candidate “JEB” Bush at a pathetic 4%). With “JEB” withdrawing from the race, his 4% is now up for grabs and…yeah, who cares.
Anyway, so let’s say Trump gets around 30%-35% of the vote in Virginia, similar to how he did in NH and SC. And let’s say Kasich and Carson get around 7% each. That adds up to 44%-49% of the vote to be divided between the other two remaining candidates, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz. And therein lies the problem for anyone not named “Donald Trump”; the egomaniacal demagogue and bigot can keep winning with 30%-35% if he’s got two fairly evenly matched main competitors (Cruz and Rubio) splitting up that 44%-49%. And unless one of those guys (Cruz or Rubio) pulls away from the other one, getting around 35% of the vote (and leaving the other one with just 9%-14%), then Trump wins. Given that I don’t see either Rubio or Cruz pulling out or collapsing by March 1, and also that both have solid cores of strength in Virginia (and other states), I’m betting on Cruz and Rubio running close to each other here in Virginia. Bottom line: Virginia’s GOP primary on March 1 is likely to go for Donald Trump, with Rubio and Cruz battling it out for second place, and Kasich and Carson mostly afterthoughts.
This, in a nutshell, is the problem for Republicans horrified at the prospect of Trump as their nominee: by the time either Cruz or Rubio drop out of the race (also note that Carson’s presence in the race tends to hurt Cruz and Kasich’s presence tends to hurt Rubio, so hopes of stopping Trump assume that Carson and Kasich drop out soon), it might be too late to stop Trump. I mean, look at the list of upcoming GOP primaries and caucuses and tell me where Trump loses, assuming both Cruz and Rubio stay in the race? Heck, Cruz this morning wouldn’t even guarantee he’ll win his home state of Texas on March 1, and it’s quite possible that Rubio won’t win Florida (“winner take all”) on March 12. Which would mean, again, a likely Trump nomination. Yet again, it’s hard to see either Cruz or Rubio pulling out of the race anytime soon, let alone throwing their support to the other one. Which means we may actually see how many Republicans will hold to their vows to support the party’s nominee, even if it’s Donald Trump. Should be interesting!