Yesterday’s primary results in Indiana produced two unexpected results. First off was the surprise win by Bernie Sanders over Hillary Clinton by five points (52.5% to 47.5%) when the pre-election poll average had Clinton leading by close to 7 points. The relentless media coverage that it was all over for Sanders and that it was time for him to bow out would normally result in a snowball effect where people start drifting to the presumed leader and supporters of the trailing candidate do not bother to vote. That this did not happen and that there was a 12-point difference between polls and the final outcome suggests that many voters still cannot reconcile themselves to the policies Clinton represents and are determined to have their voice heard.
On the Republican side, the surprise was the size of the win by Donald Trump (53.3% to 36.6%). Even though late polls had shown a shift to Trump, the final margin was still surprisingly large, large enough to convince Ted Cruz that it was time to pull the plug on his campaign. This sudden departure took me by surprise. I thought that Cruz would stick it out to the end, that even if the contested convention were to not materialize, then at least to have his name placed in nomination at the convention so that he could make a rousing speech and thus would be able to stake a larger claim to the 2020 nomination. But perhaps he felt that an exit now would be more judicious.
It is true that the last week has been a rough one for Cruz. He has shown the ability to remain unflappable in the face of attacks and criticisms, and even the extremely harsh policies he advocates are delivered in a calm, reasoned voice. But in the last week he seemed to have let Trump and his supporters get under his skin with the needling and heckling, with even bizarre stories about Cruz’s father being involved in the killing of president Kennedy, and we saw that mask slipping and he let loose with a blistering attack on Trump as a “serial philanderer,” “pathological liar” and a “narcissist.” He even said that Trump had admitted to having had a venereal disease though that seems to be a false charge.
So what will those Republicans who warned that Trump would be a disaster for the party do now? The immediate reaction of some was anger and adamant statements of refusal to support Trump. But many of these people are politicians. If they are to have a future in politics, their best bet is to stay with the party because not many politicians have successfully switched parties once they have won elected office. We can expect to see many of the critics of Trump slowly shift back into the fold though they will have to find imaginative ways to explain away their previous criticisms. In addition to Cruz and Fiorina, former candidates Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Lindsey Graham, Bobby Jindal, Rand Paul, and the rest will all have to decide whether to walk back their statements and how or stick with them and see their future as Republicans come to an end.
The short six-day life of Carly Fiorina as a potential vice presidential candidate has come in for its share of mockery, with wags saying that the Cruz-Fiorina merger was as successful as her disastrous merger of HP with Compaq that she engineered when she was the CEO of HP. They also say that she can now once again have the pleasure of laying off workers, this time from the Cruz campaign, the way she laid off 30,000 workers when she was CEO.
God also has some explaining to do to Cruz. Cruz has unashamedly invoked god all along the way in his political career and made an unapologetic pitch for their support in this race. He did manage to convince many of the big name leaders of the evangelical movement to support his candidacy.
Back to the Democratic race, Clinton still leads in the pledged delegates 1682 to 1361 and in the unelected superdelegates by 520 to 39. In total, there are 4051 pledged delegates and 712 superdelegates. Sanders will need to win about 66% of the remaining pledged delegates to win a majority of them and thus lay a plausible claim that he is the party’s choice, even if the superdelegates give Clinton the overall majority. This seems unlikely. But his continued success in the race will, I hope, make the party realize that large numbers of people are really responding to his message and they must advocate for those policies if they are to win.
Next Tuesday will be the West Virginia primary and, although the number of delegates at stake is small (just 29) it will be interesting to see how that turns out. The following Tuesday (May 17) sees Oregon with 61 delegates and Kentucky with 55.