Welcome to Facts Only, our new column covering the 2016 presidential election, written by REVOLT TV Chief Political Correspondent Amrit Singh. The feature's premiere was a primer on players and the race. This second installment of FO presents the takeaways from last night's primaries in FL, OH, NC, IL, and MO, and brings light to the phrase most repeated in D.C. this week: "contested convention." Convene, below!
By Amrit Singh
Super Tuesday 3: America loves a trilogy. For the third time this election season, Tuesday was the week's political apogee, while Tuesday night brought a game-ending political apology: The Republican field lost a soldier. The Democrat momentum returned to its frontrunner. Each party's frontrunners solidified their leads, but for the Republicans, this final Super Tuesday made it even more likely that their national convention will be a very intense time. This Tuesday was staged in Ohio, Florida, Illinois, North Carolina, and Missouri. But really, it was for all of us.
Politics is like sports: If you can't win at home, you probably will go home.
One Republican candidate lost his home state of Florida, gave a speech eloquently addressing the anger drenching this country and his party, then dropped the mic on his beleaguered candidacy. He was once the great hope of the party establishment - a photogenic embodiment of its hopes for a well-heeled multicultural conservative future - and his candidacy's dismantling at the hands of unexpected outrage is a poetic reflection of the party's psyche itself. We hardly knew ye. Ye hardly knew yeself. Bye, Marco Rubio.
Another Republican candidate won his home state of Ohio by positioning himself as a "compassionate" antidote to this season's outrage (and by being from there), and despite the fact that it's the only state he’s won—and that he'd still need to win a literally impossible number of delegates to clinch the nomination before the party convention this summer—is convinced he’ll be the party nominee. Hi, John Kasich!
A third Republican candidate gave a speech that sounded like he won some states on Tuesday, but he didn't win any states Tuesday. Hello, Ted Cruz!
And a fourth Republican won big in three of five states (Florida, Illinois, and North Carolina) despite a week of violence and protests, but didn't win big enough to easily clear a path to the nomination. Hóla, Donald Trump.
Where once there were 17, there now are three: Trump, Cruz, and Kasich, whose chances to get a majority of delegates (1,237) are slim, fat, and none. Respectively. Trump's outlook is best, but cloudy: with 621 delegates at present, he'd need to win nearly 60 percent of those remaining. (For context: He hasn't broken 50 percent in a single state to date. For emphasis: He really needed to win Ohio.) Cruz needs to win something like 80 percent; still possible, but highly unlikely. And Kasich would need over 100 percent of the remaining delegates which, according to math, is not happening anytime soon.
Instead, what Kasich needs is what the entire field might just get: In the event no candidate holds a majority of delegates, we have ourselves a contested convention.
In that case, the Republican party will decide its nominee literally on the floor of their convention in Cleveland this July, with delegates negotiating and bartering and voting to get a candidate the majority. (If there are multiple voting rounds, or "ballots," it's called a "brokered" convention. Others might also call it "bananas.")
And who delegates the delegates? Well that varies state-by-state, but generally about 20% of a candidates' delegates are appointed by the candidate themselves, with the rest happening via a state-level mechanism (convention, meetings, etc.). They're bound to vote for their candidate during the first round, but if things get brokered, they become free agents for successive ballots. And in an election season like this, where those delegate could decide everything, rest assured, being one is a plum appointment which opens one up to a world of political spoils and "persuasion." Nice work if you can get it.
Aside from our first few elections, this party-insider method is how presidents were chosen until reforms in the 1970s produced today's more transparent primary-system to better reflect the will of the people. And, a fun fact: The last contested convention we’ve had was in 1976, when Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan faced-off at that year's RNC without a majority. Ford won the nomination, but lost the general election to President Carter. They had color photos back then, but I chose this one to underscore the illustrious antiquity.
Now, parties require their candidates to secure a majority of delegates through the primary season in order to clinch the nomination as a means of ensuring that a prospective nominee has strong party support. Nobody wants to run a weak candidate! But if one candidate falls just shy of the majority yet is getting dramatically more votes and delegates than his competition, in this primary-era of politics where voters expect to see their will respected, can you imagine what will happen if that will is denied by a group of "insiders"? Can you imagine what would happen if Donald Trump is ousted by the anti-Trump Republicans on the convention floor in favor of the less-voted-for Ted Cruz? Or the one-state (to date) winning, 136-delegate having John Kasich? Given the sucker-punches and spilled blood coloring Trump’s recent rallies, Cleveland would be a powderkeg. And lit.
For the record: Cruz once downplayed his desire for a contested convention, calling it "illegitimate." (He's since downplayed his downplaying, though.) Meanwhile, Kasich hired Stu Spencer and Charlie Black, two men who helped Ford in his convention contest with Reagan. And Trump always teases running as a third party candidate if this Republican thing whole doesn't work in his favor. And now Republicans are talking about running on a third-party themselves. All of which is to say: GOP GAME ON.
These gentlemen do have some differing views on policy (immigration, gun control, and taxes are a few), but exit polling shows that the main Republican lightning rods at the moment are Trump's identity politics, his tonal approach, and the looming case of the contested convention. Now we've talked about the latter. Moving forward, we'll dive into the views.
Last night's drama on the Democratic side was slightly less parliamentary, though equally critical. Bernie Sanders came into Super Tuesday hopeful to use the Midwestern magic he amassed in Michigan, surprising the pollsters who had him down by 20 percent, in neighboring Ohio. But this time, the spell didn't take. It was a night for HRC.
Compared with her Michigan performance, in Ohio Clinton won by bigger margins in the black community, closed the gap with white voters, and won with people who prioritized American trade and jobs, all of which deprived Bernie the opportunity to tip the psychology of the race toward his campaign, and bolstered her core message. And all of this while Hillary furthered her streak of Southern victories in Florida, North Carolina, and Missouri.
After last night's contests, Hillary has extended her lead in pledged (or "earned") delegates (to say nothing of the "superdelegates" who've indicated their support), making Bernie's path to a majority that much more fraught. This contest isn't over, and Bernie's strengths with independent, young, liberal, and white voters are calibrated to play well in big states ahead, but the math is daunting. In order to turn the tide and cut into that lead, he'll need to start win, and run up the score in his winning states while doing so.
A look at last night's exit polling is revealing, too. For instance, Bernie won 70 percent of Ohio millennials, but couldn't carry the state; the issue wasn't turnout so much as young people simply making up less of the electorate.
And then there's this curious statistic: According to a CNN/ORC poll, Sanders beats Trump in a hypothetical head-to-head by a 12 percent margin, while Clinton beats Donald by a few points less (8 percent). Yet according to exit polls, people across the Super Tuesday states felt Clinton had a "better chance" of beating Trump.
There's a disconnect there. Was the shift due to their debates and Town Halls? Is it due to the way the media has portrayed Hillary and Bernie in the two weeks since the CNN poll and yesterday's primaries? Is it the way the question is being asked? Is it some ineffable quirk of electability? It's questions like these we are excited to discuss with you with REVOLT 2 Vote. It's why this campaign exists.
Looking ahead, then: The next big primary prize is March 22nd in Arizona, a state that bodes well for Trump, given his coziness with border-hawking Sheriff Joe Arpaio, and for both he and Clinton, given their Nevada performances and strong recent polling there. And while there are other big states on the horizon—New York and Wisconsin in the next month, California this summer—the fight for the soul and psyche of the Republican party deepens everyday. The fight for the vision, the ideals, and the prospective grassroots of the Democratic party drives itself further, everyday.
This parliamentary procedure is important, and we've got you covered. But it's the issues that are paramount. And it's time we started talking.
The means of conversation are as limitless as the topics.
If you missed the first Facts Only and need a primer on the race, check out the column's premiere here.