Bill Whalen

Delegate count dominates last weeks of primaries

Barring a Bernie Sanders upset in Pennsylvania and elsewhere on Tuesday, Hillary Clinton’s delegate count will head above the 2,000 mark, putting her less than 400 delegates from the Democratic nomination.
Barring a Bernie Sanders upset in Pennsylvania and elsewhere on Tuesday, Hillary Clinton’s delegate count will head above the 2,000 mark, putting her less than 400 delegates from the Democratic nomination. The Associated Press

After a presidential primary every bit as irritable and irritating as can be expected from a two-week layover in New York, America could use a drama-free Tuesday.

Which could be the case when five states in the mid-Atlantic region – Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island – go to the polls. This Tuesday night’s big winners should be the parties’ respective front-runners – Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.

For a native New Yorker like Trump, it’s the closest he’ll get to a one-day regional backyard party. As for Clinton, it’s the comfort of knowing that all but Rhode Island will be closed affairs – only registered Democrats will be allowed to vote.

Bernie Sanders has yet to win a Democratic primary that barred independent voters, including last Tuesday’s balloting in New York when would-be Sanders supporters had to re-register as Democrats at least three months before the primary on order to “feel the Bern” in ballot form.

Does that mean April’s final vote sets the stage for a more peaceful five last weeks on the primary trail?

No. In fact, it might have the opposite effect.

On the Republican side, Trump should walk away with at least 90 of the 172 GOP delegates at stake Tuesday; if so, he’s three-fourths of the way to 1,237 delegates and an assured first-ballot victory at July’s national convention in Cleveland.

More importantly, Trump’s big haul means that Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who remains at 559 delegates having struck out in New York, can’t get to 1,237 without multiple ballots in Cleveland and some serious delegate re-engineering.

That loud clamor coming from Trumpkin Nation? To date, it’s been insisting that Ohio Gov. John Kasich drop out of the race because he can’t make it to 1,237. From here on, the volume is doubled – most of it directed at Cruz. The guess here: Trump rebrands “Lying Ted” as “Losing Ted.”

Also doubling down on frustration after this week’s primaries: the Feel the Bern crowd, which smells a conspiracy any time two or more elected Democrats gather.

Barring a Sanders upset in Pennsylvania and elsewhere on Tuesday, Clinton’s delegate count will blow past 2,000. That will put her less than 400 delegates from the prize and turn the rest of May (five contests; 235 delegates) and California’s Democratic primary on June 7 (475 delegates) into a prolonged coronation.

Sanders, just shy of 1,200 delegates coming out of New York, will remain a distant second.

Here’s what burns the Bernistas: Including New York, Clinton holds a 359-226 lead in the four states to date with closed Democratic primaries. Ten of the Democrats’ final 19 contests – 15 states, three territories, plus the District of Columbia – will be closed primaries. Of the four with the most delegates at stake, California is the lone exception, with its open primary.

More grist for the conspiracy mill: Democratic superdelegates, where Clinton holds a 502-38 lead, with another 177 undecided. Adjust that to the primaries’ popular vote – Clinton leads, 57.5 to 42.5 percent – and Sanders would gain an additional 191 delegates. For Democrats, May and June could be more a fight to a finish than a topping-off ceremony.

Though still weeks away, California weighs on the process – for reasons other than the magnetic lures of delegates and deep-pocketed donors.

Consider the results from the recent Field Poll that had Sanders within 6 percentage points of Clinton; in polling a year ago, Clinton led 63 percent to 9 percent. Sanders held a 20-point lead among nonpartisan voters. As per usual, his numbers among young voters were off the chart: 77 percent support among under-30 voters, 69 percent with under-40 Latinos.

Where else will Sanders have a better forum for addressing income inequality? I can vouch for that, writing this in the California town (Stanford) with the state’s second-worst imbalance – 63.5 percent of income controlled by the wealthiest 20 percent; 1.2 percent controlled by the poorest 20 percent.

For Clinton, one number stands out: her 47 percent support is static – the same as it was last fall. Speaking of that number, only 47 percent of the state’s electorate has a favorable opinion of her. It’s not the stuff of enthusiasm. And it adds to the intrigue of why Clinton’s campaign, despite its historic nature, has all the electricity of a Tesla that’s low on juice.

Not that Republicans are in any position to gloat. The current divide among Trump, Cruz and Kasich reflects a rift that’s existed in these parts for the better part of two decades.

Republicans unwavering in their conservatism line up behind Cruz and his strict constructionist view of the world. The adapt-or-die sect of the party that wants an immigration reform deal and isn’t inherently anti-government gravitates toward the more conciliatory Kasich. That leaves Trump to scoop up those Republicans mad at ... gee, where do we begin? The political ruling class, foreigners, PC rules and restrictions.

That rift will be on display at next weekend’s state Republican convention in Burlingame, just south of San Francisco International Airport. Normally an affair that doesn’t attract much in the way of national attention as it’s lucky to draw top-tier Republican talent, the convention will features speeches by all three of the GOP contenders.

Speaking of rejuvenation, we have a nonpolitical spectacle that will occur back East as soon as this week: billions of cicadas coming out of the ground in eastern Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia (relax, the only way they’ll get to California is on an airplane).

For 17 years, these bugs do little other than hide beneath the earth, sucking sugar out of tree roots, as opposed to politicians who suck the life out of donors every four years.

Their lone purpose for resurfacing? Reproduction. Not making America great, restoring constitutional principles, making Wall Street do a perp walk, or continuing a family’s political dynasty.

Cicadas are noisy but ultimately harmless. And after this swarm tends to its business, it won’t reappear until 2033.

Would that we could say the same about this election.

Bill Whalen is a Hoover Institution research fellow and former speechwriter for former Gov. Pete Wilson. Contact Whalen at whalenoped@gmail.com.

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