Hillary Clinton is probably a smidgen angry after last night’s upset loss in Indiana to the unyielding Bernie Sanders and his supporters, but it’s not the loss in Indiana that has her worrying. The former First Lady, senator, and Secretary of State’s lead over the Vermont Senator for president is solid, and by all measure she’s winning — and practically won — the race to be the Democratic nominee for president, but Indiana did make it a hell of a lot harder to walk into the general election with any kind of momentum, and that is because Ted Cruz dropped out of the race on the Republican side.
With Ted “Zodiac Killer” Cruz out of the race — and John Kasich, but he never mattered much anyway — Donald Trump is the Republican nominee for President. With Teddy and Johnny gone, Trump gets to go after Hillary Clinton hard and without distraction, spending all his time and resources campaigning against her. So far this race, not one opponent has been able to withstand a Trump onslaught, and one has to wonder if Hillary Clinton will see a hit to her image as Trump takes aim.
This is terrible news for Clinton, who not only has to campaign against a firebrand liberal in Bernie Sanders and his supporters, many of whom really dislike her, but also against the entire Republican Party — or at least those who are rallying behind Donald Trump. Campaigning against one opponent is tough enough, evidenced by the fight and resolve of Sanders to take the Democratic primary all the way to the convention in Philadelphia this June and his habit of winning states he wasn’t expected to, but what’s coming up is going to prove even more challenging.
If Bernie Sanders were to drop out of the race, which we don’t support for different reasons than you’re thinking, Clinton could begin the process of moving more towards the political center with her policy stances, endearing herself to the Democratic base by default (because who doesn’t love the status quo of the two party system?) and to moderate Republicans and independents who fear Donald Trump. But with Sanders still in the race and winning states, she won’t be able to make that shift just yet. If she’s going to continue to have the overwhelmingly strongest argument to be the Democratic nominee for the White House, she’ll need to start winning regularly again in the Democratic primary by staying left of her comfort zone. Winning a few closed primary states was a nice distraction from the losing that’s hampered the Clinton campaign since the start of April, but she cannot afford to let Bernie Sanders capture any kind of momentum heading into Philadelphia for the convention.
This will give Donald Trump the opportunity he needs to go after her and go after her hard, taking her to task over any number of scandals that follow her around, whether fabricated (Benghazi) or legitimate, in addition to whipping up the GOP base with fear-based attacks depicting Clinton as an über liberal commie. Those of us on the left who know much about politics know she’s not über liberal at all, but that won’t stop Donald Trump from claiming otherwise, and he’ll be aided by the fact that Clinton must continue to moonlight as a progressive to keep Sanders at bay long enough to eliminate all doubts about her spot in the general election.
Ted Cruz would have at least been enough of a distraction to Trump that Hillary Clinton could continue to sidestep Republican attacks while finishing the Democratic race and securing the nomination. With him gone all bets are off. Trump has to be ecstatic today. His last real threat in the Republican race is gone, and the GOP’s favorite Democratic punching bag not named Barack Obama is his next target. Trump has not yet united the Republican establishment, and he might not, but running against Hillary Clinton at least gives him a shot of doing that. Once the dust settles from Cruz pulling out–something his father should have done back in 1970–there’s a pretty good chance his supporters will settle in behind Donald Trump, because that’s the way the two party system works, and then it becomes a real race between Trump and Clinton.
As it stands right now, Hillary Clinton holds a decent lead in a hypothetical head-to-head matchup against Trump, averaging about a 6 point lead over Donald Trump since early April, according t0 Real Clear Politics. That number is down from April 1, however, when Clinton boasted an advantage of over 10 points. In fact, a poll released on April 28 found her losing to Donald Trump for the first time in a head-to-head poll. Granted, that was a Rasmussen Reports poll, and they’re, well, they’re not the best. But it still leaves the possibility open that Trump could close and overcome that gap, and it’s a far cry from the 13 point lead Bernie Sanders has averaged in beating Trump, meaning that the heat is on Hillary Clinton now more than ever.
Hillary Clinton is in the driver’s seat in the Democratic race for the White House, but with Ted Cruz gone and Donald Trump just waiting for the right opportunity to strike, things are about to get a whole lot more interesting. If Hillary Clinton stumbles or begins to lose ground to Donald Trump, there will be more talk of a potential Bernie Sanders nomination, from some, but what’s more likely is that Hillary Clinton will face a much tougher challenge in November than anyone expected just a few months ago.
As wild and crazy as this primary season has been, something tells me it’s time to bust out the popcorn and turn off Netflix, because things are about to get real entertaining in the race for the White House.