Once again, Donald Trump managed to win a major state primary, this time in South Carolina, because five other candidates split 68 percent of the anti-Trump vote. But while 68 percent of Republicans in South Carolina voted for other candidates, lucky Trump could claim victory, and all 50 of the South Carolina delegates, with just 32 percent of the vote.
With Florida Gov. Jeb Bush now out of the race, it may be a little harder for Trump to win future races. But he will continue to win unless a few more candidates drop out. If this happens, establishment Republicans believe that Sen. Marco Rubio can consolidate the anti-Trump vote, and deny both Trump and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz the nomination.
When have we ever seen the two top candidates of a major political party so disliked not only by the political establishment, but by more than half of the people registered to vote in that party?
Rubio is blessed by the fact that Cruz will remain in the race, thus splitting the anti-establishment vote between Trump and Cruz. Without Cruz in the race, Trump would probably be running away with the nomination.
Jonathan Cohn of The Huffington Post writes that the fact that the Republican Party is now down to Trump, Cruz, and Rubio, "speaks volumes about the ideological direction of the Republican Party. All three want insanely large tax cuts for the rich, all three want to take health insurance away from millions, all three oppose same-sex marriage, and now all three have taken up extremely conservative positions on immigration."
Cohn believes that with Bush out of the race the GOP will no longer have a moderate nominee that can attract independent voters in November. Indeed, Igor Bobic and Ryan Grim, also from The Huffington Post, agree that "the real takeaway from South Carolina is that, with Bush exiting the race and Ohio Gov. John Kasich likely to follow sometime in the not-distant future, what was left of the GOP's moderate wing is officially dead."
On the Democratic side, I believe Nevada sealed the deal for former Secretary of State Hilary Clinton. Clinton won by 5 percentage points. She is also likely to win big in South Carolina this weekend and will do well in most of the 15 contested states on March 1. Is this contest over? Not yet. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders has a base of support that will not give up easily and he has the funding to stay in the race. But while he will continue on to pick up a victory in his home state of Vermont and probably in more liberal states like Massachusetts and Minnesota, Clinton will likely win the bulk of the states and delegates in March.
Polls show Clinton winning the older vote and Sanders winning the younger vote. Unfortunately for Sanders — and he admitted this challenge after Nevada — older people are more reliable voters than younger people. In Nevada, younger voters did not show up to caucus for him in numbers that Sanders needed to win. For Clinton, if she wins the nomination, her challenge will be to both win the hearts of these young voters and to get them to the polls in November.
March will tell us who the likely nominees are for both parties. There are 30 contests in March. By March 15, Republicans will know if Trump is their likely nominee and new party leader. And by then, Democrats will know who they must rally behind to win in November.
Tom Zirpoli writes from Westminster. He is the Laurence J. Adams Chair of Special Education at McDaniel College. His column appears Wednesdays. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.