I’m going against conventional wisdom. I don’t think it’ll winnow to three. I think South Carolina will change the race. This is one strange year (to put it mildly). Trump has criticized war heroes, women, a disabled reporter, Mexican immigrants, all Muslims and even the Pope. Nothing seems to stop him.
He really hasn’t increased his base vote, though. He seems to have a ceiling. Problem has been there have been too many other candidates in the race to stop him from placing or winning in the first two states. South Carolina lately has been the state that puts reason back into the race. Trump should win, based on the polls. I’m going to stick with my already-proven-wrong theory that he won’t win a primary or caucus and say he will lose in South Carolina (I know, unlikely, but hey…why the heck not. I’m not getting paid to do this). I’ll say, let’s see, ummmm…Rubio wins, Trump second. I think after the first two, it will be close among Cruz, Bush and Kasich.
Rubio has the endorsements of the popular governor, Nikki Haley. and the Republican U.S. Senator, Tim Scott. By the way, that photo opp of the three – Rubio, a Cuban-American; Haley, an Indian-American, and Scott, an Afro-American – who’d a thought a photo of three Republicans – a governor, a U.S. Senator, and a leading presidential candidate – would be of three with those ethnic backgrounds? Let’s check the other side for such representation this year.
The polls out so far in South Carolina all were taken before Trump criticized George W for lying on Iraq (something Trump denied he did on CNN last night) and before his dust-up with the Pope. In the polls, Trump leads but others are in rough striking distance. W. is very popular in South Carolina. The Pope flare-up seems to be playing all right for Trump so far. Even his opponents backed off criticizing him which tells you politically they've judged there's not much upside in attacking Trump on it.
A few other thoughts:
Jeb looks like a more serious candidate since he lost his glasses. I know that’s a superficial statement but it’s true. In last night’s CNN town meeting, Bush’s normally gawky shrugs didn’t look so goofy. And it allowed you to listen to what he said more. And when you hear Jeb you realize he’s one smart guy and deserving of consideration for president, despite his last name not because of it.
CNN’s town meetings have been great. Each candidate is on for three-quarters of an hour or so alone with Anderson Cooper and the audience. They get to give substantive answers (a plus for Bush and Kasich) and show their personalities without battling for 15 seconds of time for a sound bite against a skilled scene-stealer.
Kasich is a very real and decent guy. That moment with the young fellow who lost his “second” dad, saw his parents divorce shortly after and then watched his dad lose his job – well, it was a very real moment that saw Kasich lean in and hug the man, talking (without the microphone near enough to pick up what he said). Touching and real. Quite the opposite of what we see from the front-runner.
The Democrats are not in South Carolina this week but are in Nevada, a state Hillary was supposed to win easily but has become a contest. Still, she is far ahead in super delegates, meaning Bernie pretty much not only has to win primaries but win them big to catch up. Rules established to help Hillary? Maybe but they are the rules that Bernie (who by the way is an Independent, not a Democrat) agreed to play by.
So, what happens this weekend? Hillary by a nose in Nevada; Rubio surprises in South Carolina and Jeb is reborn (as I said, what the hell, why not?) to fight another day.