Donald Trump has been stomping all over the campaign trail’s banana peels so long, I started to wonder if he would actually slip. First, he said that illegal immigrants were criminals and “rapists”. Next, he called Senator Lindsey Graham a “jackass” and gave out his private phone number. Then, he denied that John McCain was a war hero. (McCain was tortured at the Hanoi Hilton, spent two years in solitary confinement, and refused an offer for early release on the grounds that others had been captured before him.) Finally, not content to attack Mexicans, Senators, and veterans, Trump took on women and Fox News simultaneously when he implied that Megyn Kelly was menstruating while conducting the first Fox News debate.
But perhaps it should have become clearer sooner that the first moment he failed to get anywhere near the votes he constantly trumpeted in the debates and on the stump would be the SLIP that would take him down. After all, his campaign has been centered entirely on his ability to win the poll contests, to “beat China”, and “take out” not just terrorists but their families.
There was anecdotal evidence that some folks told pollsters they were voting for Trump because they thought perhaps it might send a signal to the country that people were frustrated and angry. But, happily, not enough were sufficiently stupid to inflict substantive wounds on themselves.
At the same time that Trump was clearly exposed as an empty windbag, Rubio emerged as a somewhat respectable alternative to Cruz. While Trump was truly a joke, Cruz, a very smart guy, begins to look very scary.
Of course, the irony is that Cruz would surely be easier for Hillary to beat, while Rubio might be a tough competitor. However, as good Democrats, it is impossible to not be a bit worried about even a slim possibility of a Cruz presidency, and difficult not to prefer a somewhat greater chance for Rubio to sit in the White House. No matter what we may prefer, however, we should let the democratic process run its course in the Republican race.
On the Democratic side, Hillary was way ahead in the race from day one, so she came out somewhat bruised. If an outlier like Sanders could come so close, it raises some questions for her campaign, both in the primaries and the general election.
It could be that she just does not have an Iowa persona. (Iowa caucus-goers are famous for preferring personal interaction with candidates, something one suspects is not true of Hillary Clinton.) In addition, despite the experience noted by the New York Times in its endorsement, her reputation for lack of integrity goes so far back and runs so deep that many, even those who are dying to see the first female President, cannot bring themselves to support her. Finally, it could be that the demographics were simply not in her favor: Iowa is overwhelmingly white, and Clinton polls overwhelmingly better than Senator Sanders among minorities.
So where are we today?
Based on hunch alone, it looks like Rubio and Hillary will emerge as the nominees. Conventional thinking on that two-person race suggests that it could be quite close.
Hillary, with all of her faults, could be quite a competent President. Rubio, with all of his newly acquired conservative credentials, could be quite a problem for the country.
But the biggest issue in this election is the next two Supreme Court appointments. At the end of the day this writer and many other Democrats will hold their noses and vote Hillary because she more likely to appoint liberals to the Supreme Court.
But until then, some big trees will fall in the political forest. Trump, Cruz, and Sanders will come down with big thumps (some bigger than others) as the American voting public once again begins to come to its senses.