On Tuesday night, the establishment took a massive uppercut to the chin in both parties. In the Democratic Party, the most establishment politician of all time, Hillary Clinton, got her clock cleaned by Bernie Sanders. He won 93 percent to 5 percent among those who valued honesty and trustworthiness. He won women by 11 points (Satan, obeying Madeline Albright’s advice, is already preparing their cubicles in hell). He won every non-elderly, non-wealthy group. Sanders beat Clinton by a massive margin – at 7:00 PM PST, he was up 59 percent to 38 percent.
Meanwhile, on the Republican side, Trump ran away with the race. He doubled up the second-place finisher, Ohio Governor John Kasich, taking 34 percent to Kasich’s 16 percent; as of 7:00 PM PST, Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), the man who beat Trump in Iowa, held third place with 12 percent, while former Florida Governor and official sad sack Jeb! Bush held fourth with 11 percent. Marco Rubio underwent an epic collapse – all the way down to 10 percent and a fifth place finish.
I’ll save my thoughts about the imminent collapse of the republic for tomorrow; I’ll also save my commentary about American politics going full European. For now, here’s where each candidate stands going into South Carolina.
Hillary Clinton. Clinton desperately needs South Carolina. She may not have won Iowa, and she got schlonged by Sanders in New Hampshire. She’s always seen South Carolina, with its heavy black primary voter population, as her firewall. But today, racial radical Harry Belafonte announced he would support Sanders, and Sanders is set to meet with shakedown master Al Sharpton as well. Should Sanders begin to carve away at Hillary’s minority support base, she’s toast. She’s likely making frantic phone calls to the White House tonight attempting to drag the Obama FBI off her back, and to get Obama to endorse her. Neither will happen – at least not before South Carolina. Her entire dream now rests on a razor’s edge.
Bernie Sanders. Sanders could never have expected to capture lightning a bottle the way that he has. He’s also running against one of the worst candidates in American history. His massive victory in New Hampshire crossed gender lines and income lines. Now he hopes to take that forward to South Carolina. Even a competitive showing there would be a major win. Hillary must be near-suicidal.
Donald Trump. Trump is back to being the clear frontrunner now. The last polls in South Carolina are several weeks old, but they show Trump with a massive lead. And New Hampshire showed that Trump only underperforms caucus polls, not traditional election polls. Even better for Trump, so many candidates were bunched behind him that no one is likely to drop out. That means they will continue to split the anti-Trump establishment support base. Nobody on the establishment side has both clear momentum and an organizational infrastructure – not with Marco Rubio’s collapse. Trump’s only real rival, then, is Ted Cruz. Look for more fireworks there.
Ted Cruz. Cruz outperformed expectations in New Hampshire. He spent less than a million dollars in advertising in the state for the same performance as Jeb!, who spent $35 million. Cruz is the only real rival to Trump in South Carolina, and he has the ground game and data machine for a long run. The establishment may be forced to choose between Cruz and Trump – and there’s a significant possibility they choose Trump.
John Kasich. Don’t let the excellent results in New Hampshire fool you. Kasich has ground game in precisely one state: New Hampshire. His left-leaning Republican support in South Carolina will go to Trump. He has no game plan after New Hampshire.
Jeb! Bush. Bush suggested that if he finished outside the top three, he’d reconsider his campaign. But with Rubio’s collapse, Jeb! has to think that he still has a shot to be the representative of the establishment. He’s still got all that money, and he has name recognition and some southern support as well. Bush will stay in – and that’s the best thing that could happen to Trump, who has utilized Jeb!’s presence in the race for his narrative foil.
Marco Rubio. Rubio is now in serious, serious trouble. His stated strategy – third in Iowa, second in New Hampshire, first in South Carolina – has been blown out of the water. Worse, the consolidation expected after New Hampshire will not happen. How many states can he go without winning? Three? Four? Seven? And now he has to overcome the stigma associated with the campaign’s biggest gaffe.
So here we are. Trump is the clear frontrunner on the Republican side, and circumstances seem to be working almost perfectly to his advantage; Hillary is collapsing on the Democratic side, and one more stumble with ethnic minorities will finish her.
Perhaps that’s the greatest legacy of Barack Obama: he didn’t just fundamentally transform the country, he may have burned down both parties, too.