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Diplomacy in Action

The New Hampshire Primary: Initial Results and the Implications of the first U.S. Primary Election of 2016

Kyle Kondik, Managing Editor, Sabato's Crystal Ball, University of Virginia Center for Politics
Washington, DC
February 10, 2016




11:00 A.M. EST

THE WASHINGTON FOREIGN PRESS CENTER, WASHINGTON, D.C.

MODERATOR: Hello, and welcome to the Washington Foreign Press Center. Today we have Mr. Kyle Kondik, Managing Editor of Sabato’s Crystal Ball, the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics’ authoritative, nonpartisan newsletter on American campaigns and elections. Mr. Kondik is also the author of the forthcoming book The Bellwether: Why Ohio Picks the President. Without further ado, here is Mr. Kondik.

MR KONDIK: I just want to thank the State Department for having me here today to talk a little bit about New Hampshire and the Presidential primary process. Let me just offer a few quick opening remarks about what happened in New Hampshire and what’s going on in the presidential race, and then I’ll just open it up to questions.

One of the big questions going into this primary season was whether Donald Trump could actually – could actualize the support that he had in polls. In Iowa, he did not do that I think partially because Iowa’s a caucus state, and Trump’s lack of a sophisticated voter turnout operation hurt him in that state and he underperformed his polls. New Hampshire is the opposite. It’s a state that not only has a very active electorate, it also allows undeclared independent voters to participate in either party primary, and I think that that was helpful to both Trump and also to Bernie Sanders. And I don’t think that Trump needed the kind of sophisticated ground game to do well in New Hampshire, and this time he actually outperformed his polls, although it’s worth noticing – you probably all heard about the supposed crisis in the polling industry – the pre-election polls actually did pretty well in New Hampshire. Of course, there was a kind of a muddle for second through fifth place.

And so I think it’s kind of an alarming moment for what you’d consider to be the Republican establishment – kind of the party leaders here in Washington – because the two candidates that they really don’t like, Ted Cruz and Donald Trump – of course, the winners of the first two primaries. The person that it seemed like the party leadership was coalescing around, Marco Rubio, had a disappointing performance. Of course, he started to sink after the last debate. Although, it’s worth noting that Rubio was never really polling all that well in New Hampshire. And I think he also gets kind of unfairly put in that “establishment camp” along with candidates like, say, Jeb Bush and John Kasich. Rubio got his start as an insurgent candidate running in the Florida Senate race in 2010, and he’s also just more conservative than Kasich and Bush, I would say. And so it’s possible that the debate hurt Rubio, but it’s also possible that New Hampshire wasn’t really that good of a state for him to begin with. And so I think that there was kind of a rush to anoint Rubio after Iowa even though he finished third but did better than expectations. And now there might be a rush to kind of push Rubio aside, and I don’t think that’s right either. He still strikes me as a top-tier candidate, but the next debate on Saturday is very important to him, and South Carolina on February 20th is also important.

John Kasich had a good night, although a lot of people, including myself, compared him for months to Jon Huntsman who ran as the most moderate candidate in 2012 – got about 17 percent in New Hampshire and dropped out. Kasich actually didn’t do as well as Huntsman did. They performed about the same. Kasich I think is going to end up with about 15 or 16 percentage points. So Kasich was still good enough for second, but he now faces questions about where he goes after New Hampshire because he was designing his campaign for this state that is generally more moderate than many of the other Republican primary states, and now he has to go to South Carolina, Nevada, where his message may not be received quite as well.

After – at certain points last night I think other people who analyze presidential elections, report on them, seemed to be suggesting that Jeb Bush had a stronger night. I think it’s important to remember that Bush spent by far the most money in New Hampshire, about $35 million. He finished about the same as Ted Cruz. Cruz spent less than a million in New Hampshire. So Bush is spending a ton of money between him and his super PAC, and he really doesn’t have a whole lot to show for it.

Let me switch to the Democrats really quickly, and then I’ll open it up to questions. So for months, it seemed as though Bernie Sanders might do well in both Iowa and New Hampshire because the states have such high white populations, there are very few nonwhite voters in both Iowa and New Hampshire, and also these are states with more liberal Democratic electorates – and that’s the sweet spot for Bernie Sanders’ support, is doing well amongst white liberals. The calendar now turns to Nevada on February 20th and South Carolina on February 27th. Nevada is going to have minority participation in that caucus of probably a third or better. In 2008 the exit polls said – I believe it was about 35 percent, which might actually be higher this time. And South Carolina’s going to have a majority African American electorate. Clinton retains big leads in national polls among particularly African American voters, but also Hispanic voters. So that’s good for Clinton going forward here. I don’t know if the calendar was particularly well set up for her with Iowa and New Hampshire being the first contests, but she should be able to bounce back in Nevada and South Carolina. But you never know how the general public will react to what they saw in New Hampshire, which was that Bernie Sanders, a person that they really didn’t know until this election cycle started, beat Hillary Clinton, who is a legendary figure in American politics, by 20 points. And I think to a lot of people, that’ll be a fairly striking result, and maybe that has the potential to move some numbers.

Additionally, Clinton has shown some weakness amongst voters who supported her in 2008. For instance, she did not – part of the base of her coalition in 2008 were white working class voters. And really, Clinton did not do particularly well in white working class parts of New Hampshire. If you recall from 2008, some of Clinton’s best states were places like West Virginia and Kentucky, which are states that are – have pretty high white populations that are also kind of culturally conservative and blue collar. It’ll be interesting to see if Sanders could actually do well in some states like West Virginia and Kentucky. Going forward, Clinton’s – one of Clinton’s home states, Arkansas, votes, I believe, on March 1st. Arkansas is also a fairly white state where you’d expect Clinton to have a – kind of a home field advantage. And maybe she doesn’t. Maybe some of those downscale whites start moving away from her, too.

So there’s reason for Clinton to be optimistic in future contests, but also that the scale to which or the margin to which she lost New Hampshire has got to be a concern to her. So with that, I’m happy to open it up to questions.

MODERATOR: Okay. We’ll go back to Macedonia. Everyone wait for the mic. We’ve got --

QUESTION: Irina Gelevska, Macedonian TV. Do you think that after New Hampshire it’s too early to have assessment which candidate in the Republican Party will drop out, or whether they will wait for Nevada and South Carolina?

MR KONDIK: So I think that a lot of Republican leaders were hoping that after New Hampshire a number of candidates would drop out. Now, it looks like Chris Christie’s probably going to drop out, although that’s not confirmed yet. But certainly John Kasich’s not going to drop out after finishing in 2nd. It doesn’t look like Jeb Bush is going to drop out, at least at the moment. And so – there’s no reason for Rubio, Cruz, or Trump to leave, either. Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina and Jim Gilmore are kind of bit players at this point. Maybe they keep going; maybe they don’t, but they’re not really factors in the election at this point. But there still hasn’t been the kind of consolidation in what you’d consider to be the – what people call the establishment lane of this race. You still have probably Bush, Kasich, and then Rubio to some extent competing for those voters. I think that a lot of Republicans probably hope that Jeb Bush gets out after South Carolina, assuming he doesn’t do well. But as of this point, the race is not really consolidated.

It is important to note that if you would combine Christie, Kasich, and Bush, how they did in New Hampshire, they got about equal or maybe even a little bit better than what Trump got. So there was a demand in New Hampshire for that kind of candidate, a kind of establishment-oriented governors – Christie and Kasich sitting governors, Jeb Bush a former governor – but there’s just too many of them in order to actually compete with Trump and compete with the others.

MODERATOR: Okay, over here, Brazil.

QUESTION: Hi. Claudia Trevisan from the Brazilian newspaper Estado de Sao Paulo. In your opinion, among the candidates of the Republican Party more identified with the establishment, which one has more chance? Do you see a possibility of Kasich, being so moderate, occupying this place?

MR KONDIK: So I think a lot of people thought that Rubio would just sort of be kind of in the middle of the Republican Party, and forced to choose among, say, Rubio, Cruz, and Trump, the people to – the voters to Rubio’s left and the leaders to Rubio’s left would just go to him. And I think that’s still a possibility, but if Kasich and/or Bush remain in this race, Rubio doesn’t – a lot of those voters are going to go to Bush or Kasich.

Now, it’s possible that Rubio just crashes and that he does poorly in South Carolina and then maybe Rubio has to reassess whether he can stay in, at which point it’s possible that the party could unify around Kasich or Bush. Rubio seems potentially like the more natural person for that because he has a broader appeal in the party. If you look at his favorability numbers just nationally amongst Republicans, they’re just a lot better than Bush’s and Kasich’s. Bush’s and Kasich’s aren’t terrible, although Bush’s seemed pretty weak amongst Republicans for most of this cycle.

Kasich isn’t quite as well known, but in tacking to the center in New Hampshire, I think he’s – he was going place – he was sort of almost alienating kind of the mainstream of the Republican Party because he’s – even though I wouldn’t call him a moderate in terms of his governing style as governor of Ohio and when he was – in his 18 years in Congress, he has certainly positioned himself as the most moderate-seeming candidate in this race, and in a year where it seems like both the Republicans and the Democrats are getting more ideologically extreme, I don’t know if Kasich is a particularly good fit for where his party is going. Again, that’s why Rubio to me still makes some sense because he’s conservative, but he’s kind of a little bit more mainstream than Cruz or Trump is.

And here’s the other thing, just to go off topic just a little bit. Trump does a little bit better among self-identified moderates than he does amongst more conservative voters. Although if you look at the exit polls from last night, there wasn’t that big of a difference amongst his support. But Kasich is going to try to do well in some other northeastern states. For instance, Massachusetts and Vermont vote on March 1st, the same day that a lot of the southern states vote.

Trump presents an obstacle in the northeast to both Kasich and maybe also to Bush if he perseveres because a lot of those states are like New Hampshire and Trump just got 35 percent of New Hampshire. So the problem with – the problem that Trump presents in analyzing this election is that his support doesn’t break neatly on ideological lines. His support is actually more kind of class and education-based. Generally speaking, he does better with people of lower incomes and people who have lower levels of education. He’s kind of a classic populist kind of candidate. And a lot of those voters are not necessarily ideologically conservative, but they’re – they may be conservative on some issues like maybe immigration and they don’t like the Republican Party leadership, and so they’re – may be inclined to vote for Trump.

So I know I got a little bit away from your direct question there, but I think it’s important to remember the Trump factor in assessing Kasich’s path, again, because New Hampshire is so – is similar to some of these states that come later, like Massachusetts and Vermont.

MODERATOR: Back there.

QUESTION: Hi, Shane McKeon, Medill News Service. So there are exit polls reporting that Senator Sanders won overwhelmingly among young people. I’m seeing 83 percent among voters 18 to 29. How large a problem is that for Secretary Clinton in South Carolina and Nevada and going forward in general?

MR KONDIK: So I think the key thing to remember is that Sanders is winning white young people in – overwhelmingly in New Hampshire and Iowa because those are – those states are – the electorates were all – were both – I think it was like 92 or 93 percent white. Now, if you look at – if you look at national polling, she does better the older the voters get across the racial spectrum, but one would expect her to improve as the states get more diverse. However, it does suggest a potential enthusiasm issue for Democrats in that they’re very reliant on younger voters in general elections, and of course, the younger voters are voting for Sanders.

Now, I think that certainly after two – the 2008 Democratic primary, there were a lot of questions as to whether Obama could reunite the party. It turns out he reunited the party quite easily. It might – maybe it’s a different story for Clinton, and she – the one thing she’ll have going in her favor is that she will have a Republican opponent that she can use as a way to motivate her own voters. But I do think it’s – it is kind of problematic for Clinton that the generally most unreliable general election voters for Democrats are the ones that like Sanders the best. You could see that maybe translating into a turnout issue.

The flipside that I would say is that if, in fact, Clinton does do well amongst nonwhite voters, another piece of the Democratic general election puzzle is ensuring that they get the kind of minority turnout they got in 2008 and 2012. That’s where Sanders has an electability question, because if Sanders isn’t doing well amongst nonwhite voters, then he potentially has a general election issue as well. But I think it’s all – it may also be a little dangerous to assume that the primary trends will translate to the general election. They’re different campaigns, but the huge deficit that Clinton has with younger voters is something that she needs to address, and maybe she can’t address it. Maybe Sanders has just locked up those younger, particularly white, voters.

And it also raises an interesting question about where the Democratic Party is going because if Sanders was nominated, he would probably be the most left-wing, liberal presidential candidate in American history. And we always talk about the Republicans becoming more conservative, which the party certainly is. But the Democrats are becoming more uniformly liberal too, and maybe future Democratic presidential candidates will look more like Sanders than look like Clinton, even if Clinton does in fact win this nomination, which I still think she probably will.

MODERATOR: Okay. Down here.

QUESTION: Hi, I’m Gilles Paris from Le Monde newspaper, [France]. How do you explain the obstacle that Mr. Sanders is facing among minorities? Is it ideology-based? Is it because he’s not very well known?

MR KONDIK: I do think he is not as well known in – amongst those voters maybe as he is in the Northeast. The other thing too is that think about how long Sanders had to cultivate Iowa and cultivate New Hampshire. He was able to – they’re both small states, they’re both kind of homogenous states, so you don’t have – you can – you don’t need to have different – really have a lot of different messages in states like that because a lot of the voters are very similar. And he was able to just work those states very heavily. As the calendar accelerates, it’s harder to focus that much on individual small states. I think on the – on March 1st there’s, I don’t know, I think there’s 10 to 15 states that vote that day – okay, so 12. And Sanders won’t be able to cultivate those places.

And I also think that – and I think this was actually true in 2008 too – is that Clinton came into both of those elections as the better-known candidate and also she started off with big leads. I think for many voters she was almost like the default candidate. It’s like the other candidates have to – Clinton just has to keep people in her camp, whereas the other candidates have to – have to kind of convince the Clinton voters to come over to them. And I think that’s probably true in this election as well, and that Sanders doesn’t have the obvious appeal to nonwhite voters that Obama did. So I think you might – you could also make the case that – I haven’t looked at the exit polling enough to kind of confirm this, but I just wonder if maybe some of the white voters in some of these small rural states just are more ideological – ideologically driven than black voters in the Democratic Party.

Another thing is that you would expect whites in South Carolina in particular probably to be a little bit more conservative than Iowa and New Hampshire. Again, the whole party is kind of moving to the left, but still, the South is just culturally just a different kind of region than the Northeast or even the Midwest.

So I know that was kind of a meandering question, but – or meandering answer, but I think those are maybe some of the factors going on with Sanders.

Now, there is something important here that we don’t quite know the effect of, and that is that what benefit does Sanders get from and what positive media coverage does Sanders get from actually winning and winning so big. He may not be as well known in some of these states to come as Clinton is, but he’s going to get well known. He also has a tremendous amount of money to spend, and I think he’s been spending it pretty effectively.

So there’s a campaign effect here that we haven’t quite seen yet that, if the numbers start to move, that’s when things get pretty perilous for Clinton. Because really, you look at the demographics of South Carolina, Clinton should win that state by similar margins to what New Hampshire – to how Sanders won New Hampshire. If she only wins South Carolina by 2, 3 points, like, that should be one of her best states. I think that if Sanders had not come through in New Hampshire the way he did, if he had only won by say 5 or 10, it would have been a lot easier to write that off. But winning by, what, I think it’s 22 points at last count, that’s pretty impressive. So Clinton has some – has to match that in some of these states.

Let me make one other – this is an important point to make about the Democratic nomination process, just as an aside. So those who were covering the race in 2008 I’m sure remember the, quote, “superdelegates,” which are – they’re about 15 percent of the delegates in the Democratic nominating process. Clinton has a lead amongst the superdelegates – party leaders and elected officials. She’s up 362 to 8 amongst the superdelegates. You need about – I think it’s about 2,250 or so delegates to win the Democratic nomination, so she’s got, I don’t know, do the math – about a sixth of the – a sixth or a seventh of the delegates she needs.

Now, these delegates can move as much as they want. If you recall in 2008, a lot of them started to switch to Obama when Obama became viable. But these are party leaders – people who don’t think Sanders is electable generally – they’re probably going to stick with Clinton unless she gets indicted, which is a possibility given the FBI investigation into her use of email – private email, or if something else happens. But Clinton starts with a lead in the delegates, and the way the delegates are apportioned on the Democratic side, it’s proportional. So in order to actually get a lot of delegates or a lot more delegates out of certain states than your closest competitor, you have to win big. You have to win like Sanders did in New Hampshire. In order to make up the deficit he has in the superdelegates, he can’t just be winning states 50/50. He needs to be winning states 65/35 to make up that superdelegate deficit.

So we talk about the demographics of Iowa and New Hampshire being favorable to Sanders and then maybe not so much the states that come later. One of the other big issues for Sanders is the fact that the party leadership has an actual voice in the nomination process through these superdelegates, and he’s getting killed amongst the superdelegates by Clinton, so that’s a big factor too.

MODERATOR: Okay, back there in the --

QUESTION: Yeah, hi. My name is Lauri Tankler, Estonian Public Broadcasting TV. I wanted to ask you to go back to the Republican race in New Hampshire and the fact that Donald Trump actually got the turnout without having a strong ground game. So, two questions. One, with Donald Trump leading nationally among Republicans, do you see that there is a possibility to even stop him as, I’m guessing, there’s some journalists who still think that the GOP has a plan to stop him?

And the other thing is, was this kind of like the death of the ground game, like people going door to door, phoning and everybody? I understand Trump didn’t do that well in Iowa, but he still got second place without the ground game. Now he got first place without the ground game. So what does that mean? What are your thoughts in terms of what does that mean for the ground game?

MR KONDIK: Let me tackle the second point first. That is, I think it’s dangerous to compare Trump to past or future candidates in that he is this kind of a celebrity candidate, he’s getting a ton of media attention, he dominates – he’s dominated the airwaves for more than half a year. It’s possible that he may be able to get away with things that other candidates can’t in terms of not having a significant ground game and not spending a ton of money on television. So I don’t necessarily know if it’s the death of the ground game so much so as that Trump is just an unusual candidate.

However, it may also be a suggestion that some of the campaign tactics that party operatives hold up as being very important maybe aren’t quite as important as they say. There’s an entire industry in the United States set up to cut television ads, to identify likely voters and create ground games – I mean, this is a lucrative industry for a lot of people, and political scientists argue all the time with campaign operatives as to how important these campaign strategies are. And maybe they’re not that important. Maybe there are other ways to win.

And I do think that there’s a great comparison made by John Sides, who’s at George Washington, and Lynn Vavreck of UCLA. They wrote this book called “The Gamble,” which I highly recommend, about the 2012 race. And they talked about campaign tools like ground games and television advertising as, like, a tug of war in which if both sides are spending – and I guess in a primary it’s multiple sides – if everyone’s spending roughly even on these factors, then the tug of war – the rope doesn’t move all that much because both sides are exerting a lot of force. If – but if one side spends a ton and the other side doesn’t spend anything, then you could see the rope move some. And that’s – that was generally the case in 2012, so it suggests that the campaign apparatus is important, but only – it’s only important because the other side’s doing it too.

But for Trump, that hasn’t really been the case in this primary, because again, not spending a lot of money, not spending a lot of money on the ground game, but also he hasn’t really been attacked all that much either, which I think is also interesting. There hasn’t been a real dedicated television campaign against him. I will suspect – I would suspect that that will come later, but at some point, does he just become impossible to stop? I don’t think we’re at that point yet, but that’s another factor here, which I think gets at your first question or maybe doesn’t.

QUESTION: Yeah. It’s – if we did see that he is turning out the voters in terms of what the polling says that he has and he does have the national lead which is more than 15 or 20 points higher than number two, is he inevitable?

MR KONDIK: So he got about 35 percent in New Hampshire. We’ll see how he does in South Carolina. I think that Trump really needs – if – I think he really needs to go to the convention with a majority of the delegates in order to win, because I think if the convention ends up being contested – as in no one has enough delegates to actually win the nomination – Trump doesn’t seem like the kind of person who would come out of a convention like that. So I don’t think – I don’t even know if 35 percent is necessarily good enough for him, particularly as the field gets smaller and other candidates start getting 25, 30 percent of the vote. I mentioned that if you were to combine Bush, Christie, Kasich, you’d get about the same as Trump got in New Hampshire.

Now, that assumes that Trump doesn’t have room to grow. Maybe he does. I’m still skeptical of that, because I do – his numbers in the GOP are – they’re good. They’re a lot better than when he got into the race, but I think there’s still a pretty significant part of the party and also the voters that don’t want him to be the nominee. It’s just that those voters can’t coalesce around anyone at this point. But if Trump starts getting 40, 45 percent in some of these races, then yeah, he could win the nomination, for sure.

QUESTION: [Claudia Trevisan, O Estado de Sao Paulo, Brazil] How possible is it for Mr. Bloomberg to run, do you think?

MR KONDIK: So the reporting on Bloomberg has been that I think he’s looking for sort of a way to the middle of the electorate, particularly if maybe Sanders or Trump were the party nominees, or maybe Sanders and Cruz or something like that. I think it’s important for Hillary Clinton to do well in Nevada and South Carolina to try to crowd out Bloomberg, because I think Democrats should worry that if Bloomberg actually got in, to the extent that he got votes they might come a little bit more from the Democratic as opposed to the Republican column because Bloomberg was elected as the Republican mayor of New York City, but he’s not really a conservative. He’s not really a Republican. I would say on the issue positions, he – if you didn’t know who he was and you just looked at his position on the issues, I think you’d assume he’s a Democrat, and probably a liberal Democrat at that, at least on a number of things. And I think Democrats should worry that might – that he might cut into their votes a little bit more than the Republicans’.

Now, few – a few sort of standard things that happen to third-party candidates is that they generally poll better than they perform on Election Day. And so maybe if Bloomberg got in, he’d start polling at 20, 25 percent or something. But given how polarized the American electorate is, we wouldn’t expect him to get 20, 25 percent of the vote, even with polarizing nominees. I think that the American electorate is motivated both by partisanship – support of their own party nominee – but also an intense and growing dislike of the other party, and I think that might reinforce party loyalty to the point where both parties may – voters in both parties may decide to a large extent that voting for Bloomberg is sort of throwing away their vote.

So as to your actual question, “Is Bloomberg likely to run?” I would think probably not. But if he was looking for an opening, he probably got a little bit more justification for that from the results in New Hampshire. And again, just to reiterate what I said, I think he’s probably going to be watching Clinton pretty intently in Nevada and South Carolina, because there are – the filing deadlines to get on the ballot in the 50 states start coming in late April as an Independent. But some of these states – I think Texas is one of the first ones – we did a story on this at our – for our Crystal Ball newsletter, centerforpolitics.org\crystalball. If you look in our archives the last few months, we did a table with all of the filing deadlines, and South Dakota and Texas – I think some of the first ones in late April. But in some of these states, you have to get 100,000 or more signatures to get on the ballot, which requires a significant organizational effort. And I think Bloomberg has suggested that March might be the target date if he were to get in, and I think that’s pretty reasonable because you can’t just announce in late April and expect to immediately get on the ballot in some of these places.

So Clinton, in my mind, is not only fighting Sanders in Nevada and South Carolina; she may also be fighting Bloomberg because she needs to show a little bit of strength maybe to push him out. But as to handicapping his decision, it’s kind of like when Joe Biden was thinking of running for President – ultimately, only he knows. So I never really bought that Biden was really going to get in, but it looked like he might all up until the time when he did his announcement. So with Bloomberg, I would suspect not, but who knows. He may wake up – he’s a billionaire. He may wake up and decide, hey, I want to do this.

QUESTION: Considering what we have seen so far, how long do we expect this process to be? When do you think we are going to have some clarity on both parties? And when was the last time you saw what seems to be likely a very long primary process?

MR KONDIK: So in 2008, the primary process technically went all the way, not to the convention but through all the states. However, it was clear for months before June that Obama had the inside track to be the nominee even as Clinton was winning two-thirds of the vote in West Virginia and Kentucky and – but the problem for Democrats is that – or for the second place person on the Democratic side is that the delegates are awarded proportionally, and so it’s so hard to really make up ground. That’s why really all Clinton needs to do is essentially play even for the rest of the process and she’ll win because of the super delegates.

So the Democratic race could go until June again, it’s just that it may effectively be over in early March if Clinton, say, does really well on that Super Tuesday in March in the South. She may build a little bit of a delegate lead and reassure the super delegates, which is probably good enough, at which case she would just be in this long slog with Sanders, losing some states, but the ultimate outcome wouldn't necessarily be in doubt.

But the other thing hanging over this race is that there’s the question of the emails for Clinton, which I don’t think you can just totally discount. And if something were to happen that forced her from the race, then it becomes very difficult to handicap because you could see – you could still see Joe Biden or someone else get in and try to deny Sanders a majority at the convention, at which case maybe Biden could be nominated at the convention. Again, this is all super hypothetical, but it’s just something you have to keep in the back of your mind even if you look at the Democratic race and say, oh, well Clinton’s probably going to be the nominee still. So the answer on the Democratic side is that we may have a good idea here pretty soon who the nominee is going to be, but the process could still go for a very long time.

On the Republican side, the process does go through the start of June. And one of the most important states – or the biggest state – California votes on the first Tuesday in June – I think June 5th or June 7th. I forget the exact date, but – so that’s a prize waiting at the end if the votes continue to go on. However, we’ll – about 75 percent of the delegates will be decided by April, by early April, which is also when Mitt Romney kind of officially won the nomination last time. So we may have a good sense of things by the end of March, I think. But Trump is such a nontraditional potential nominee – so is Cruz, actually – that it’s going to be hard for the other – the other candidates are not going to want to surrender to one of them, nor is the party leadership going to want, say, Rubio, Bush, or Kasich, or whoever’s left, to surrender. And so even if Trump or Cruz built a delegate lead, I think some of the other candidates might think, “Well, if I can just stay in this race and deny them a majority of the delegates, then maybe I can win at the convention.”

So it was different in 2012 and really 2008 as well because John McCain and Mitt Romney, despite having some troubles during the nomination process, were certainly acceptable to the party leadership, and the other candidates who were competing with them (a) recognized that they weren’t going to win, and (b) I think also felt comfortable surrendering to candidates like McCain and Romney because they were mainstream, traditional kinds of potential nominees. The mere fact that Cruz and/or Trump could be the frontrunners may motivate other candidates to stay in because there’s going to be a big part of the party who doesn’t want them to be the nominees.

So I guess what I’m suggesting is that the Democratic race could go for a very long time, even if we have a sense as to who’s going to win it. And there – there’s some signs that the Republican race may go very long as well. But there are a lot of delegates that are won in March, so we may have a good sense of it by the end of March.

QUESTION: [Gilles Paris, Le Monde, France] A quick follow-up on this question. Technically, until when are you able to enter the race? You were mentioning Joe Biden.

MR KONDIK: So it – a lot – it depends on a lot of different states. They have different filing deadlines. We have a – happy to send you the list, if you’d like, but the thing is is that – it’s kind of complicated, but Democratic delegates in particular are – they’re bound to their candidate, but there’s some wiggle room there, as my understanding of it is. And so if – let’s say Hillary Clinton was indicted, just hypothetically, okay? And I’m not predicting that’ll happen or anything like that, but it’s a possibility. Her delegates would have to go somewhere, and couldn’t they maybe just instead of going to Sanders go to a late-entering candidate? And then almost – Clinton on a ballot line in some state where Biden couldn’t get on could almost be like a proxy vote for Biden. And all Biden would have to do is – he might not be able to win the necessary amount of delegates, but if he could get enough through write-in campaigns, through co-opting Clinton delegates, through the superdelegates – almost all of which would switch not from Clinton to Sanders, but from Clinton to Biden – then he could potentially build up a – enough power to stop Sanders at the convention, at which case the convention could swing to Biden.

So again, not something I’m predicting, but there are ways around the rules and the filing deadlines, I think. I think that the rules particularly on the Democratic side are to me a little squishy.

MODERATOR: Okay. We’ll take a question from New York. Please go ahead.

QUESTION: Hi. Ania Nussbaum for France Television [TF2]. You said that the next Republican debate will be seminal for Rubio. At the same time that Rubio did not do well yesterday because anyways he was never so popular in New Hampshire. So in the end, what do you think is the important of these debates on the electorate? And do we have data that shows how important they are?

And second question: Just could you tell us a bit more about the superdelegates? Who are they in both parties? Thank you.

MR KONDIK: Sure. So I saw some exit polling information yesterday that seemed to suggest that Rubio – that people who decided late did not necessarily – that Rubio didn’t really do worse among late deciders than people who decided earlier, which suggests that maybe the debate wasn’t as significant as we think. But it’s also possible that Rubio had room to grow that didn’t materialize because of his poor debate. I do think the debate is pretty important for Rubio. I think less so to reassure the voting public as to reassure the Republican Party leadership, which I think was – wants to move to him, and we’ve seen some members of Congress endorse Rubio. But he just needs to build a little bit of I think positive news coverage in order to do well in South Carolina. I mean, part of what happens to these candidates is that if something bad happens at the debate, and then it compounds because the press develops a narrative about it, and then you’re just getting a barrage of negative cover. Really, the same thing might have happened to some degree to Trump before Iowa because he skipped that debate, which I think was probably a mistake the Thursday before Iowa voted. So again, the debates are important, again, because they sort of help set the narrative for the week to come. The debate – the Republican debate is on Saturday and then South Carolina votes the following Saturday, so it’s a little bit – it’s spaced a little bit further apart than this previous debate was to New Hampshire.

On the question of the superdelegates, these are party officials, also every sitting member of the House – every sitting Democratic member of the House, Senate, and the governors are superdelegates. And again, Clinton has endorsements from more than half of the sitting members of Congress, which I think count as superdelegate votes, effectively. The Republicans don’t have formal superdelegates the way that the Democrats do, but they do have – each state has three unaligned delegates. They’re effectively superdelegates, and they also are free to vote their conscience. Generally, they’re free to vote their conscience. In some states, they are bound. But there’s a small number of what you’d consider to be superdelegates on the Republican side, but they’re a far smaller percentage of the total delegates than the Democratic superdelegates are.

QUESTION: [Claudia Trevisan, O Estado, Brazil] Could you compare, like, what are the driving forces behind Trump and Sanders? Do you see them as the – kind of the same phenomenon in the extreme opposes of the ideological spectrum?

MR KONDIK: I actually don’t. I think that – I feel like Sanders’ support is ideological and Trump’s really isn’t. The Trump supporters are not necessarily as economically conservative as maybe the mainstream of the Republican Party is. The Republican Party is very concerned with tax cuts for the wealthy, for instance. While Trump did put out his own tax plan that was pretty similar to typical Republican tax plans, Trump doesn’t talk about cutting taxes on the campaign trail. I think his appeal is sort of more cultural.

And I think it – I think the Trump phenomenon also reveals that there – over the last few decades, the Republican Party has brought a lot of working class whites into the party who were kind of the people you would consider to be Reagan Democrats, if you’re familiar with that term – blue-collar whites who historically would’ve been Democrats who moved to the Republican Party for – kind of for cultural reasons. And those voters are not – they’re probably more concerned with issues like immigration, and they’re very worried about their own economic instability. Trump is speaking to them in ways that the standard Republican Party maybe doesn’t.

For Sanders – so that’s why I say it’s – Trump support is kind of non-ideological. The Sanders piece of it I think is more ideological in that he is making actual policy proposals that are more liberal than what Clinton is making. He’s proposing – excuse me – tuition-free college is one of them. He’s not really defending the Affordable Care Act; he’s saying that it needs to go further, that we need to have a kind of single-payer – I guess almost kind of a Great Britain-style health care system in the United States. And he’s – he’s just making – he’s making proposals that are just to the clear left of where the Democratic Party is and where Hillary Clinton is, and I think there’s some appeal there.

Although, I also think that Clinton’s own missteps – there’s been this sort of cloud of scandal around the Clintons ever since they’ve been in national public life, and the most recent story is this server issue that I think has turned off some Democrats, because they may frankly be worried about her future and they may also be ready maybe to turn the page from the Clinton years, both Bill Clinton and also Hillary Clinton’s 2008 campaign. So that would be a non-ideological component of Sanders support, but I think to a large degree his – he generates enthusiasm by just being more liberal than Clinton is.

And I think that that is a suggestion that – everyone talks about the Republican Party moving further to the right, which is true, but that the Democrats also are moving further to the left. And there’s this growing ideological chasm between the parties, and you can extend that to ideological scoring in the U.S. house, where 40 years ago there used to be a lot of Democrats who would vote more conservatively than Republicans and more Republicans who were more liberal, et cetera. Now there’s hardly any crossover between – the most conservative Democrat is still more liberal than the most liberal Republican. That’s true in both the House and the Senate, and I think that those – we see those trends in how Americans view themselves ideologically and also where the presidential race is going.

MODERATOR: Okay, our last question now.

QUESTION: Son Taek Wang from YTN – it’s South Korean cable TV news channel. Two questions. First one is a follow-up question about the driving force of kind of outsider wave. I think I read a article which said – discussed some commonalities between Trump side and Sanders side that is kind of frustration about establishment things. So what do you think about this frustration from the public, from this side and that side?

And another one is: Does the campaign strategy or campaign tactics-wise – who do you think is the smartest of candidate from both sides?

MR KONDIK: Let me answer the second question first. I think Sanders is running a great campaign. Now, he – what is – what’s been so great for him is that he doesn’t really have to hold fundraisers. You may remember from his speech last night, he said, “Let’s hold a fundraiser,” and he asked people to send him money and they did – (laughter) – and that was it. And that kind of enthusiasm and grassroots fundraising network is just something that’s very hard to replicate. It’s very much like Obama 2008. And I don’t think Sanders is as talented of a candidate as Obama 2008, but certainly, the grassroots enthusiasm is very similar.

And I also think that Sanders has run some of the best ads we’ve seen. In order to sort of – I mean, he talks about – I mean, Sanders’s campaign is not necessarily a candidate-centric campaign. It’s about a movement, and that’s – a lot of his ads talk about that, the one that’s called America with – I think that’s the one with the Simon and Garfunkel song. It’s a very positive message and it makes the campaign something bigger than himself.

And you have to give Trump a lot of credit, too, even though his campaign is less nuts and bolts and more just him being on television a lot and being very skilled in terms of creating wedge issues in the Republican Party that he can exploit. Some of the proposals that he’s made or statements he’s made that seem totally outrageous to a lot of people, like insulting John McCain and calling for a ban on Muslims entering the country, which are – particularly the latter one is – I think a lot of people interpret that as a borderline or actually racist thing to say, but Trump doesn’t care, and there are a lot of people with him on it.

So I would actually say the two of them are running the best campaigns. It’s just that they’re actually polar opposites in that Sanders is not candidate-focused much at all; it’s message-focused. And Trump, it’s all about him. And actually, if you look at Trump’s support, one way to measure Trump’s support is there is a scale in which pollsters ask people about how – basically, how authoritarian they should be on how they raise their children, and basically, the people who are more authoritarian in outlook – both in child-raising – child-rearing and also in terms of how they look at American – how they look at politics – are much more likely to support Trump. I mean, he’s kind of a – he’s a – he’s running as almost the kind of authoritarian figure, someone who, through strength of will, can make the country better. And so that’s an interesting little aside.

And then your first point – I’m sorry, I forgot your first point.

QUESTION: First, I just – I had a follow-up question about her that – so I think I read an article that this – there’s an outsider wave Republican side and Democratic side too. There’s these common grounds between two sides that is kind of frustration against --

MR KONDIK: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- the establishment.

MR KONDIK: Yeah, and I think – I think a – there’s a lot of – despite the fact that a lot of the top-line economic statistics are good, for a lot of people, they never recovered from the 2008 crash. In fact, some parts of the country arguably haven’t recovered since the 1980 – 1982 economic crisis and the closure of steel plants across the country. I think the anger about that economic instability – you can trace that to Ross Perot’s campaigns in the ’90s, when Pat Buchanan ran for the Republican nomination in 1992 and 1996.

I think that – I think the commonality between the Trump and Sanders supporters is the feeling that both big business and big government is not really working for them. The Trump supporters are more critical of big government, the Sanders supporters are more critical of big business, but I think it’s a reaction to a lack of faith in not just the establishment of the parties, but maybe also the ruling class of the country in terms of our big corporations and also our big governmental entities. And I suspect that if wages were increasing by a significant amount instead of being stagnant, Trump and Sanders would probably have a lot less support.

But we’re just at this point of perpetual economic instability in a lot of places in the country. I mean, look at some of the places where Trump does his campaign rallies. I think he was in, like, Lowell, Massachusetts; other places that are kind of – towns that are down on their luck. And those – some of these places have been down on their luck for a long time, and Trump is speaking to the voters in these places in ways that other candidates have not. And so that’s a commonality between the two campaigns, is this acknowledgment that even as unemployment goes down and GDP growth is fairly decent, there’s a – that growth is not necessarily trickling down to people lower down on the educational scale and lower down on the income scale.

MODERATOR: Okay. If there are no further questions, this event is now concluded. I want to thank Mr. Kondik and I want to thank our journalists. Thanks.

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