Democalypse 2016: The Ides of March and the coming conventions

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March 15, the Ides of March, was a turning point in world history, marking the transition from the Roman Republic to the Roman Empire following the assassination of Julius Caesar. In 2016, a different transition will occur in the United States as this seemingly never-ending election cycle nears its conclusion.

Five states will hold their primaries on March 15, with 367 delegates at stake for the GOP and 793 for the Democrats. Ohio and Florida, must-win states for John Kasich and Marco Rubio respectively, are winner-takes-all. If these candidates win their home states, they remain in contention for the nomination. If they lose, I argue they have little to no chance of securing the nomination. In terms of the Democratic party, Clinton is blowing Sanders out of the water. However this blow-out is mainly due to non-binding superdelegates who have the ability to change their minds.

Marco Rubio needs to win Florida. Trump has had a wide lead there for quite some time; however, recent polls show this gap is closing. Rubio’s decisive victory in Puerto Rico, which netted him all 23 delegates, is important to evaluate considering the large Puerto Rican population in Florida. Rubio has decisively been chosen as the establishment’s last hope, a development which can be seen as either a positive or negative weight on his campaign.

This election has favored outsiders from the very beginning, so having party leaders coalesce around Rubio may not work to his advantage. A positive is that establishment support shows Rubio can unite the fragmented party. He is a strong conservative elected to the Senate in 2010 with significant support from the Tea Party, but he also appeals to moderates, independents and even some Democrats. Rubio has proven to be the candidate who not only can unite the party but expand it.

Rubio has been facing an uphill battle and fell to underdog status after having won only Minnesota and Puerto Rico. Donald Trump and Ted Cruz hold significant leads in the delegate count, which is why Rubio needs to win more states, especially the winner-takes-all states, if he wants to remain viable. What many aren’t acknowledging is that Trump and Cruz also do not have a clear path to the required 1,237 delegates to secure the nomination. If none of the four remaining candidates do so in the primary process, we will have an event not seen since the Democratic National Convention in 1968: a brokered convention.

If the Republicans have a brokered convention, it would favor Rubio and Cruz and more likely hurt Trump. The way a brokered convention works is that during the first round of voting, all delegates will vote based on how the delegate allocation occurred in the primary process. If no candidate has 1,237 votes, a second round of voting will begin where delegates are permitted to vote for whomever they choose, not bound by the primary results. It is likely that party officials could negotiate with delegates to throw their support behind Rubio or Cruz rather than Trump, but that is not a guarantee.

The Democratic race has been neglected in recent weeks, which should not be the case because the race is closer than party elites and the media would like to let on. As of Tuesday afternoon, Hillary Clinton leads Bernie Sanders by 650 delegates. Without the superdelegates, a system put in place following the 1968 Democratic brokered convention, the delegate count as of March 8 is as follows: Clinton with 678 and Sanders with 477. Clinton leads Sanders by only 201 pledged delegates.

Superdelegates, party elites and party elders, are allowed to change their votes at anytime, as they did in 2008 when they shifted away from Clinton and towards the eventual nominee, Barack Obama. 2016 is a bit different from 2008, however, as Clinton has been able to secure a very strong southern coalition with which Sanders cannot compete. While his pathway to the nomination is narrow, much like Rubio’s, we cannot count him out just yet.

I want to discuss Super Tuesday in more depth. Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump had amazing nights, winning a large portion of the delegates. Ted Cruz performed much better than expected, and Marco Rubio, my candidate of choice, won only one state: Minnesota. While I am proud of my home state for choosing the only candidate with a clear shot at winning in November and the only candidate who can unite and expand the Republican Party, I am ashamed of my party as a whole.

Even with his commanding victory on Super Tuesday, Donald Trump lacks the support of two thirds of the Republican Party. Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse is the only elected Republican who has vowed not to support Trump even if he’s the nominee. I fully support this decision and would follow suit. I cannot support a candidate who is offensive towards Latinos, Muslims, women, people with disabilities, etc. This is not the kind of person I want to represent my party nor the kind of person I want to represent and lead my country.

If Donald Trump is nominated, I will not be voting Republican. That doesn’t mean I’ll vote Democrat. I still hold serious reservations about Hillary Clinton, but I couldn’t stomach checking the box next to the name Donald J. Trump. This man has belittled everyone who has stood in his way and demeaned the office of the presidency. He isn’t a real conservative; he lies to Americans every day, and he’s a con artist. I urge you not to vote for this man. In the words of Marco Rubio, “We all have friends thinking of voting for Donald Trump. Friends don’t let friends vote for con artists.”