No one who has ever won both the New Hampshire and South Carolina primaries has ever failed to win the Republican nomination. It makes it sound historic, doesn’t it? Except the South Carolina primary has only been in place as the second one held since 1980. So that’s nine. But wait… someone doesn’t always win both of them. In 2012, Newt Gingrich won in South Carolina, defeating eventual nominee, Mitt Romney. And in 1996 and 2000, the winner in South Carolina didn’t win in New Hampshire. Small samples do not a predictive model make.
So the fact that Donald Trump won both states is hardly a lock – though even I have to admit, his chances look good.
The only thing we can really say for sure is that Jeb Bush will not be the nominee. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. This Bush was more like his father than his brother – more polite and probably smarter than George W. but less charismatic. That’s not why it’s good that he’s out. Dynasties are not a good thing – not in a healthy democracy. Having one family dominate a party or a country is neither sustainable nor good for the country. Even India seems to have turned its back on the Gandhi clan.
Bush joins eleven other Republican hopefuls on the sidelines. Some may return in 2020 if the Republicans fail to take the White House but most will drift into retirement or onto corporate boards to receive their rewards for steadfast service.
Clinton is a slightly different case. She is not part of the Clinton family except by marriage. Whether her candidacy is a good thing will have to wait. Her defeat of Sanders in Nevada gives her a leg up but certainly provides no certainty as to the eventual nominee. Sanders has shown remarkable staying power and has real organizational chops. However, the next week may not be kind to Bernie if he gets trounced – as polls suggest – in South Carolina.
Of the five Republicans left, one has to wonder why there are still that many. Ben Carson’s campaign is dead in the water and shows little likelihood of reviving. He is polling last or next to last (he’s in a real fight with Kasich for the bottom spot) in every state that will vote in the next month and he offers nothing that voters can’t get from Trump or Cruz – whether you are talking about policies or shear craziness. I suppose if he gets a few delegates he could play the kingmaker at a brokered convention.
Kasich is a slightly different case. As the last actual moderate Republican left – Rubio may be an establishment choice but he is hardly a moderate – he may hope for a revival when more northern or coastal states vote. The chances seem grim but if Rubio stumbles, he does provide an alternative to the other two.
The lynch pin is Ted Cruz. More conservative than Trump and certainly more intellectual (though just as slimy feeling to most progressives), he needed to at least come second in South Carolina but missed by less than 1%. Close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades. But by hanging in, he splits the anti-Trump vote. Still, as Trump rightly points out, his departure doesn’t mean opposition to him will coalesce. A significant portion of Cruz’s votes would go to Trump; it’s hard to say where Rubio’s votes (and money) would go. Michael Bloomberg?
In any case, the drama may soon be over when 13 states hold primaries or caucuses on March 1. Though if they split, especially if they split three ways, anything can happen.
And that’s slightly more than ten minutes.