by Rod D. Martin
April 20, 2016

My quick take on last night’s New York primary, and the aftermath.

On the Republican side, Trump won big on home turf, but he won bigger behind the scenes, where he shook up his campaign staff and brought in some people who might be able to save what for over a month now has been a disaster.

The problem for Trump is that it’s really, really late in the game. Refusing to deploy proper field operations months ago — and shutting down some that existed — was boneheaded. The meme du jour is that Trump has been “winning by losing,” showing the “corruption” of the system in places like Colorado.

That’s complete spin. New York cannot change the very real danger that Trump can’t make it to 1,237: he would not be facing that problem if he’d had his act together for the last six weeks. So however adept he is at making lemonade out of lemons, the lemons are still lemons.

Cruz has the best political operation we’ve seen in modern times except for Obama’s in 2008. If Trump can’t make it to 1,237, Cruz will probably win the nomination on the second ballot.

The response to this — my own response, in fact, which I’ve been saying for months — is that if Trump loses this way, a lot of people will bolt the party. But here’s the new reality: if Trump wins, a lot of people are going to bolt the party too; and more importantly (as you read in my newsletter Saturday), a large and growing percentage of Sanders supporters say they will bolt the Democrat Party if Hillary wins too.

So does a Trump victory — or a Trump loss — guarantee GOP defeat this fall? Not necessarily. In fact, November may be the most raucous unpredictable contest in modern history, no matter who the candidates are, and with dramatically different turnout pictures depending on who’s in and who’s out.

But the bottom line remains 1,237. Trump made progress last night, and a lot more progress in hiring grown-ups to run his operation. But it’s awfully late in the game; and an open convention — which Cruz is likely to win — still remains the most likely bet.

On the Democrat side, Hillary won her (sort of) home state. But she certainly didn’t blow it away like Trump did. She got 139 delegates. Bernie Sanders got 106.

What this means is that Sanders is still just 246 delegates (out of 2,383 needed to win, not the 1,237 we’re used to hearing on the Republican side) behind. Yeah, yeah, superdelegates blah blah blah. As I keep saying, the superdelegates will flip to Sanders if he wins the pledged delegates (even Bill Clinton agrees). Last night did nothing to diminish the prospect that he might yet do just that.

It’s probably worth noting also that a sufficiently negative FBI report, even in lieu of an actual indictment, could flip enough superdelegates to get Bernie over the top, if he can keep the race this close. I’m not predicting that. I’m merely pointing it out.

Close is dangerous for Clinton, even if she’s leading. There are still a lot of races left. And a lot of them are out west, where Bernie has been romping and stomping.

So while it is still probable that Hillary will be the nominee, it is still more than a bit uncertain. And the growing trend in the polling showing that a large percentage of Sanders supporters will bolt the party if she’s the nominee is ominous for November. Even more than for Republicans, a Democrat victory is necessarily about turnout. Dent that significantly, and Hillary is doomed.

Ergo, my great and continued interest in Sanders. Every day he remains a serious contender makes it that much harder for Hillary to pull her party back together. Even now, it is not at all clear that she can.