|Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton|
Of course, we don't have a national presidential election. Rather the race for the presidency is decided by 51 separate contests held in the states and the District of Columbia The fight is over the selection of electors in each state, the total of which is equal to the number of Senators and Representatives each state has. (D.C. also has three electors via constitutional amendment.) The Founders didn't trust democracy and thought average people might be too inflamed by the passions of the moment to exercise the best judgment on who should be President. Instead Electors chosen by the people would be the sort of enlightened folks who would exercise the best judgment about which candidate should be President. Very quickly though the Electoral College became a rubber-stamp of the popular vote within the states. The Electoral College never became the deliberative body (each state's delegation was to meet and debate their choice after the popular election) that the Founders expected.
But the Electoral College remains and it is the only thing that counts. In May of last year, University of Virginia political scientist Larry J. Sabato in May of 2015 put together an electoral college map that looked like this:
This week Sabato released an updated Electoral College map presuming a Hillary Clinton-Donald Trump matchup. As he did with the May 2015 map, Sabato used each state’s electoral history, developing demographics, and current polling data to make his projection. The result shows that Clinton would beat Trump in an Electoral College landslide.
Sabato also provides a helpful table showing the movement of the states in the new analysis:
According to Sabato, Cruz would be the better general election candidate than Trump, holding some Republican states while possibly turning some Democratic-leaning states into toss-ups. But Sabato notes that even Cruz is a far weaker general election candidate than other candidates. Reardless of the outcome of the nomination fight, Sabato says the GOP will remain divided by the bruising nomination fight:
Most important of all, the national Republican Party appears certain to remain deeply divided, whether Trump or Cruz is the nominee. If the prize is taken from Trump via convention maneuvering when he has by far the most delegates and is reasonably close to a majority (1,237 delegates), a sizable percentage of Trump voters could defect to a third-party ticket or sit out the election. If Trump wins the Republican crown, we would also expect a considerable chunk of GOP voters to go elsewhere on the ballot, or go fishing entirely on Election Day.
Thus, it could be the nightmare scenario for the party of Lincoln: Heads you lose, tails you lose.
The irony is that Hillary Clinton is a beatable candidate. She has unique vulnerabilities, many a product of being shopworn after a quarter-century of public controversies. Other Republican candidates, had they been the party standard-bearer (such as John Kasich or Marco Rubio), might well have started as the frontrunner. But Rubio is long gone, and Kasich is far behind Trump and Cruz — with no credible pathway to the nomination that we’ve heard. If either is selected as the vice presidential nominee, it will not fundamentally change the election picture. VP candidates almost never do.The events of these past two weeks might well signify the beginning of the end of Donald Trump as GOP nominee. He's likely to lose Wisconsin, perhaps badly,and other states such as Indiana, leaving the New York businessman short of the 1237 delegates he needs for the nomination. If Trump is short on the first ballot, he is very unlikely to make up the difference on the second ballot as many of the delegates obligated to vote for Trump on the first ballot due to his winning their states' contests are not actual Trump supporters. I also do not think it is a given that second place Cruz then wins the nomination on the second ballot though. The nomination could be thrown open to a complete outsider. I've long argued that former Texas Governor Rick Perry, a staunch conservative with a record of accomplishment would have been the best nominee Perry, is certainly never been considered pro-Establishment and he could have bridged the gap between the two camps.
Regardless, it appears that a Trump nomination might not only hand the White House to the Democrats...again, but it might be so lopsided that it gives the Democrats control of the Senate and House. That makes it imperative at the very least that the Republicans put an acceptable candidate at the top of the ticket.