February 22, 2016

Rubio vs. Clinton

Official portrait of US Senator Marco Rubio
Official portrait of US Senator Marco Rubio of Florida. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
We are still early in the primary season, but the pool of Republican candidates is finally beginning to narrow. This is where things get interesting, as we get a glimpse at the most likely scenarios for the upcoming general election.

At this point, I am expecting the 2016 U.S. presidential election will likely be a contest between Hillary Clinton and Marco Rubio. Yes, I realize that Rubio has a ways to go before he will be able to secure the Republican nomination, but this is still strikes me as the most likely outcome in spite of his appallingly poor debate performance and lack of political experience.

After a poor showing in South Carolina, "Jeb!" (aka, Jeb Bush) dropped out of the race for the Republican nomination. This would appear to leave Rubio with a clear path as the establishment candidate. With John Kasich performing as poorly as "Jeb!" in South Carolina, it would be surprising if he stayed in the race much longer. Assuming that establishment Republicans really don't want either Donald Trump or Ted Cruz in the White House, we should expect to see more of them coming forward to endorse Rubio. We should also expect to see most of those who have been supporting Kasich or "Jeb!" line up behind Rubio.

But what about Trump and his impressive win in South Carolina? I expect that we may soon witness the beginning of the end for Trump. Cruz is still performing well enough to stick around awhile and is likely to get a boost when Ben Carson drops out. If the establishment support consolidates behind Rubio and if Cruz stays in the race, it may be increasingly difficult for Trump to compete with Rubio. Cruz is predicted to do well in the South, thanks largely to his Christian extremism. He's likely siphoning off some support that might otherwise go to Trump. In a three-way race where there are two candidates competing for the anti-establishment vote, the establishment candidate is likely to benefit.

As for the Democrats, I've seen many supporters of Bernie Sanders trying to put a positive spin on his loss in Nevada. While it is certainly true that he did much better than early polls suggested and it was nice to see him gain some ground among Latino/Latina voters, it was not nearly enough. For Sanders to stay in the race, he needs to start winning states. New Hampshire and Vermont are not going to be enough, especially with Clinton's superdelegates, money, advantage among persons of color, and air of inevitability. Barring the sort of scandal from which Clinton cannot recover (e.g., photos of her husband manspreading), her path to the nomination looks good.