Lurking in the Shadows

Dr. Malcolm Cross

It’s almost certain that the March 5 Super Tuesday results will give both Donald Trump and Joe Biden insurmountable delegate counts in their respective races for their respective parties’ presidential primaries.  But while the election returns to date show each is his party’s strongest contender, they also show that each candidate has weaknesses as well.  For one of those candidates, those weaknesses will prove fatal.

Donald Trump has so far won every primary and caucus by decisive or landslide margins.  But as Republican political analyst Karl Rove pointed out on the Wall Street Journal Editorial Report, he’s nonetheless doing worse than polls have predicted.  Nikki Haley’s large minorities are not enough to win her the nomination—one does not win an election by getting fewer votes than one’s opponent—but they indicate that within the GOP Trump’s support may be weaker than the polls say, And that many who vote against him in the primaries may refuse to support him in the general election.  This is especially true if one considers Trump to be the incumbent party standard bearer.  Normally incumbent presidents seeking second terms do far better in their parties’ primaries than Trump has done, while incumbent presidents who either lose primaries or win them by percentages similar to Trump’s may still win renomination but lose in the general election.  William Howard Taft, Herbert Hoover, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, and George H. W. Bush all met that fate.  This may also be the case for Trump—he’ll win the GOP nomination but lose to Joe Biden in November.  Maybe.

Joe Biden has easily won all the Democratic presidential primaries to date.  After all, his opponents are marginal and in some states, they’ve actually been kept off the ballot.  But Biden should still be concerned by the 100,000 Michigan voters, mostly Arab Americans, who cast blank ballots to protest his support for Israel in its war against Hamas.  In a large purple state which will be up for grabs this November, Biden can’t afford to lose the support of any voters—especially not a hundred thousand.  There’s no chance Arab Americans will switch their natural support from Biden to Trump, but a large enough number may decide not to vote at all, or vote for third parties as a continuing anti-Israel protest.  And their example may be followed by other progressive Democrats who dislike Biden’s pro-Israeli stance or his election-year efforts to strengthen our southern border.  Moreover, growing doubts about Biden’s age and cognitive abilities can only weaken him. Come November enough potential Biden supporters may decline to vote for him to throw the election in the marginal purple states for Trump.  The most recent New York  Times poll puts Trump 5 points ahead of Biden.

So come the night of Super Tuesday we can expect both Trump and Biden to run their respective tables and celebrate accordingly.  But they should remember that lurking in the shadows of their respective victories are harbingers of possible defeats.  Only one can win the White House this November.  The other will fall victim to whatever’s in the shadows. 

Malcolm L. Cross has lived in Stephenville and taught politics and government at Tarleton since 1987. His political and civic activities include service on the Stephenville City Council (2000-2014) and on the Erath County Republican Executive Committee (1990 to the present).  He was Mayor Pro Tem of Stephenville from 2008 to 2014.  He is a member of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church and the Stephenville Rotary Club and does volunteer work for the Boy Scouts of America. Views expressed in this column are his and do not reflect those of The Flash as a whole.

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