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‘It’s definitely Hillary, and Donald just took a big step forward’

It was another good Tuesday for Donald Trump, with him walloping Florida Senator Marco Rubio in his home state, writes Larry Donnelly.

Larry Donnelly Law lecturer, NUI Galway

A FEW WEEKS ago, after the votes were counted on Super Tuesday, this writer opined that it was highly likely that the 2016 Democratic and Republican US presidential nominees would be Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

With most of the results now in from yesterday’s “Titanic Tuesday” contests, Clinton is just about certain to be the Democrats’ standard bearer; Trump is definitely in pole position, yet hasn’t quite sealed the deal.

The Democrats

Looking first at the Democrats, Hillary Clinton prevailed decisively in Florida and in North Carolina, as was expected.

Her solid win in Ohio and, to a lesser extent, her narrow victory in Illinois, however, dealt a serious blow to her rival, Senator Bernie Sanders, who had hoped to parlay his upset win last week in Michigan into victories in the two states.

There is no question that Senator Sanders’ arguments to blue collar workers who have been disadvantaged by free trade agreements, which he opposed and were backed by Hillary Clinton and former President Clinton, resonated.

DEM 2016 Clinton Source: AP/Press Association Images

Nonetheless, his fiery rhetoric on trade wasn’t enough for him to win.

Missouri, where the results aren’t yet finalised, is very close. And even a Sanders win there would not change the truth that he can no longer win the nomination.

Hillary Clinton presently has at least 1,570 of the 2,382 delegates necessary to win the Democratic nomination.

Looking at the states whose primaries and caucuses remain to be held in a light that is so favourable to Senator Sanders as to be unrealistic, it is still impossible to see how he can overcome her huge delegate lead

Again, he seems determined to stay in the race and has more than enough money and support to do so. His campaign has been vastly more successful than even his most ardent followers could have dreamed one year ago.

DEM 2016 Clinton Source: AP/Press Association Images

Senator Sanders’ outstanding performance has fully awakened Hillary Clinton to the enormous amount of anger there is in “Middle America” and the consequent growth in populist sentiment throughout the US.

This heightened cognisance will serve her well in the general election.

The Republicans

This was another very good Tuesday for Donald Trump.

He walloped Florida Senator Marco Rubio in his home state and picked up all 99 of the state’s delegates. This forced Senator Rubio to withdraw from the race. Trump also won closer contests in Illinois and North Carolina, and holds a narrow lead over Senator Ted Cruz in Missouri, which is still too close to call.

But Governor John Kasich took his home state of Ohio and all 66 of its delegates.

GOP 2016 Trump Source: AP/Press Association Images

And Governor Kasich, notwithstanding the fact that his own is the first state or territory he has won, now becomes the last fly in the ointment for Trump’s chances.

So-called establishment Republicans, whose disdain for Trump is matched and perhaps surpassed by their hatred for Senator Cruz, will embrace the governor at this late stage.

While it has been posited by some observers that Governor Kasich’s home state triumph is actually to Trump’s advantage in that multiple candidates will continue to divvy up delegates, this overlooks the reality that the race for the nomination is moving to extremely unfavourable territory for Senator Cruz.

His appeal is strongest with the religious right, which has little presence in many of these states, especially those like California and Pennsylvania that are delegate-rich.

Governor Kasich should be a considerably stronger candidate than Senator Cruz for the remainder of the nomination fight.

GOP 2016 Trump Source: AP/Press Association Images

The governor is also likely to appeal to Republican voters for whom electability is a key concern. If they were to be perfectly candid, very conservative Republicans would have to acknowledge that Kasich is a much more electable candidate than Cruz.

Hillary Clinton would dearly love to face Cruz in November. She would crush him. But Kasich could beat her.

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A “brokered” convention?

It is certainly possible – and maybe probable – that momentum from his impressive showing on “Titanic Tuesday” will lead to Donald Trump boosting his poll numbers and propel him to winning the 1,237 delegates necessary to become the Republican nominee.

Trump has more than half that number as of now and Missouri’s results, when certified, will add to that total. And in Arizona next week, for example, his anti-immigrant stance will resonate. The winner there will take all 58 of the state’s delegates.

On the other hand, it could well be that he will fall short of the magic number after all states and territories have voted.

Again, many prominent Republicans will back Governor Kasich to the hilt from here on; Senator Cruz will continue to win delegates courtesy of the hard right; and Trump remains unpopular with a majority of Republican voters. It will all come down to delegate maths.

DEM 2016 Clinton Source: AP/Press Association Images

If Trump fails to garner the required delegates, then a “brokered” convention, the first in decades, could unfold.

It would go something like this: delegates, who must follow party rules and respect the wishes of the Republican electorates in their home states or territories on the first ballot, will vote on the convention floor in Cleveland in July.

If, after the first ballot, no candidate has 1,237 votes, most delegates would then be “unbound” and free to support another candidate – or even someone who was never a candidate – for president; and a frenzied, completely unpredictable, protracted process of lobbying and voting would take place in an effort to choose the party’s nominee.

While a “brokered” convention, in my view, remains an improbable scenario, it is a real possibility.

In any event, it is an undesirable outcome for the Republican Party for a variety of reasons. It would be akin to a civil war.

Let’s cross that bridge when and if we come to it. In the meantime, a calculator will be an indispensable tool for everyone who’s watching this extraordinary battle for the Republican presidential nomination with keen interest.

Larry Donnelly is a Boston attorney, a Law Lecturer at NUI Galway and a political columnist with TheJournal.ie and IrishCentral.com.

Read: As the Super Tuesday dust settles, what happens next?>

Read: Here’s a glimpse of what Donald Trump’s America will look like>

About the author:

Larry Donnelly  / Law lecturer, NUI Galway

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