Primary 2016: The Pause that Refreshes
To listen to some of the commentary about yesterday's primary in South Carolina, you would think that Donald Trump now had the nomination sewn up. Yesterday, the pundits crow, Trump won by a comfortable ten points, beating Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz 32.5 to 22.5 (22.3 for Cruz). Gosh. Slam dunk, what? Time for Mrs. Trump to start thinking about new curtains for the Oval Office or at least battling against whoever the Democratic nominee will be after Hillary Clinton drops out sometime (I predict) before the end of March.
But there are several things to note about yesterday's primary that make this exercise in congratulation premature.
First of all, a scant week ago, the polls had Trump at 38, Cruz at 28.5, Rubio at 13.5. Clearly, this is one of those "plastic moments" of political fermentation that Karl Marx told us about. Things can change quickly.
Second, it is worth casting one's mind way back to ancient times, to the winter of 2012, when Newt Gingrich won South Carolina with 40.4% of the vote. Mitt Romney took 27.8, Rick Santorum (remember him?) took 17%.
Gingrich lost no time announcing on some talk show that it was obvious that he was going to be the nominee.
It didn't turn out that way, but he came in a respectable second in Florida and won decisively with 48.5% in the key southern state of Georgia.
How do you spell "Romney"?
I suppose it is possible that Donald Trump — the man who supports single-payer health care (Obamacare on steroids), who didn't know about the nuclear triad until a few weeks ago, who once proposed a 14.25% wealth tax on "the rich," and until 15 minutes ago was an enthusiastic proponent of abortion on demand, even that form of infanticide euphemistically described as "partial birth abortion" by its partisans — I suppose it is possible that Donald Trump will get the country to rally around him and hand him the Republican nomination.
As of Sunday, February 21, 2016, I doubt it. There was a moment, just a few weeks back, when I thought the choice would be between Donald Trump and Ted Cruz. I have now privately reverted — well, I suppose it's not all that private — to my earlier hypothesis that the GOP race will come down to Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio.
I say this notwithstanding Donald Trump's lead in the polls. For one thing, the polls do not really make allowance for Trump's astronomical, off-the-charts negatives, which have yet to be adequately factored into the psephologist's handicaps.