Three Clear Messages From Tuesday's Primaries

Three Clear Messages From Tuesday's Primaries
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1) Donald Trump is very, very close to clinching the nomination.

--Marco Rubio is toast. That’s true even if he wins Florida. He hasn’t racked up victories in big states, and he’s fading, not rising. Ask not for whom the bell tolls. It tolls for Marco.

--John Kasich has no path to the nomination, even if he wins Ohio. His only path was a deadlocked convention, and that won’t happen unless Trump falls down a manhole. Kasich has waged a decent, honorable campaign, has extensive experience governing, and knows how to work with Congress. Trumps appreciates those assets, knows they complement his own, and must be thinking of Kasich for VP. The Ohio governor won’t blow that by turning negative.

--Ted Cruz is still standing but he has a hidden weakness. And it’s devastating. He has not been able to expand beyond his solid base of evangelicals and ideological conservatives (whether they are economic conservatives or values conservatives). In a normal year, that might be enough for Cruz to win the primaries. Not this year. Cruz has won a lot of delegates, but if you can't win the Mississippi Republican primary, you aren't going to win in the Northeast.

--That leaves Trump. He faces grave difficulties in the general election, beginning with women and Hispanics, but he is on the glide path to win his party’s nomination.

2) Hillary Clinton’s loss in Michigan won’t stop her steady march to the nomination.

--Bernie Sanders, like The Donald, is selling the stuff that dreams are made of. Barack Obama did it in 2008, and it worked. This year, the message is angrier. It’s “shut up and listen to us, dammit.” Sanders voices that message, which is why lots of primary voters are feeling the Bern. (The exception is African-Americans, who remember Bill Clinton fondly and appreciate Hillary’s promise to continue the Obama presidency.) Since Bernie is waging an ideological battle and can fund his campaign with online donations, he has no incentive to exit the race. He’ll keep pushing Hillary to the left. In the fall, his voters will cast their lot with Hillary, but they won't be enthusiastic. They will be voting against the Republicans.

--As Hillary trudges forward, her party ought to worry about two things. First, she has been unable to put away a 74-year-old socialist from a small state with zero legislative accomplishments. That’s not exactly a sizzling campaign record. Second, she has more legal troubles than Perry Mason could handle. In public, she waves them off. In private, she must be worried. When your IT guy has immunity, the FBI has hacked your home-brew server, and the Bureau has 150 agents on the case, you better hope you have a loyal friend in the White House. The only thing standing between Hillary and the nomination is an indictment or refusal to answer FBI questions when they interview her later this spring.

3) The electorate is furious.

--It’s furious with Washington, Wall Street, hedge funds, big banks, lobbyists, fat cats in corner offices—all of them cutting special deals for themselves while average folks are left out. Voters know their real incomes are down. They know their retirements are in jeopardy, their kids are loaded with college debt, and everybody is looking at a tough job market. We are not in a recession, mind you, and employment is actually growing. No matter. All across the country, voters are saying, “We’re mad as hell and we aren’t gonna take it anymore.” That’s why the most damning indictment this year is to be called an “establishment candidate.” The second most damning is to receive Mitt Romney’s endorsement. If there was a ballot option for “tar-and-feather the lousy SOBs,” it would win in a landslide. Tuesday night proved it again.

RCP contributor Charles Lipson is the Peter B. Ritzma Professor of Political Science at the University of Chicago, where he is founding director of PIPES, the Program on International Politics, Economics, and Security. He blogs at and can be reached at

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