Mike Berman’s Washington Watch

April 23, 2016 11:56 AM

Looking Ahead to 2016 – Contest for President

Hillary Clinton’s strong victory in New York virtually assures her nomination as the Democratic candidate in 2016.

Trump’s solid win in New York makes it more likely that he can put together a first ballot win at the Republican convention in Cleveland.

There are about 170,000,000 people over the age of 35 living in the United States. The majority are citizens and thus eligible to run for President of the United States.

Of that number there are five people who are actively running for President. It is hard to imagine five more different individuals than this group. I leave to you to decide how qualified each of them is to hold the job.

On the Democratic side there is Bernie Sanders, who, through being an avowed socialist for all of his adult life, has described himself as an Independent during his tenure as a United States Senator, and then decided to run for President as a Democrat.

Then there is Hillary Clinton, probably one of the most experienced people to run for President in my lifetime. She learned the White House and much about government as the spouse of a two-term President. She then ran for and was twice elected to the U.S. Senate. She was a candidate for President in 2008 and then appointed Secretary of State by the person who defeated her, Barack Obama. If there is any downside to her career, she has been in public life for a long time and has accumulated numbers of people who do not like her. Her popularity has dropped further in this campaign.

Donald Trump, the leading Republican candidate, has never before run for public office. He is a highly successful businessman who understands the media and how to take advantage of it better than any candidate currently running. He also is in the unique position of primarily financing his campaign with personal funds and those unsolicited contributions which he receives.

Ted Cruz, a sitting United States Senator from Texas, has the distinction of being the most disliked member of the United States Senate in either Party for a variety of reasons, including calling the Majority Leader of Senate Republicans a liar on the Senate floor. However, he has built a campaign organization which is most capable of running a campaign under the Republican rules which allow each State to set its own primary or caucus rules.

And finally there is John Kasich, the sitting governor of Ohio, who previously served very successfully as a member of the United States House of Representatives. He hangs on, even though his only victory this year was in his home state.

Here are the results when respondents are asked to rate their positive or negative feelings toward each of the five candidates. [NBC/WSJ 4/10-14]

  Positive Negative
Bernie Sanders 45 36
Hillary Clinton 32 56
Donald Trump 24 65
Ted Cruz 26 49
John Kasich 31 19

In each Party’s group there is at least one candidate who is upset with the rules adopted by each Party for the nomination process. In the case of the Republicans, Trump ran a very public campaign, paying little attention to the rules by which each State selects its delegates to the national convention. For example, in Indiana all of the delegates to the convention have been selected by the Party apparatus before that State’s primary. Depending on the outcome of the primary, delegates will be required to vote for one candidate or another on the first ballot. After that they are free to vote as they choose. So, in fact, all of the delegates may actually be Cruz or Kasich supporters, some of whom will be required to vote for Trump on the first ballot, assuming he accumulates enough votes in the primary to earn some delegates.

Trump, who has basically run his campaign up until now with few if any really experienced staff, is now building an experienced team to deal with the intricacies of the Republican State and national convention rules. As Trump begins to deal with this issue there is growing tension between the new and old staffers. Only time will tell whether it is too little too late.

On the Democratic side, Sanders is far behind Clinton in gathering the support of the Super Delegates, a group of people who are delegates as a result of positions they hold in the Party or in public office. Following the 1968 convention in Chicago, the Democratic Party changed many of its rules. Will this be the year in which both Parties take a hard look at the current rules after the nominating fight is over?

About Donald Trump

On March 22, 2016, Peter Hart conducted a focus group in St. Louis, Missouri, as part of a series on behalf of the Annenberg Center for Public Policy at the University of Pennsylvania. This focus group took place five days after the Missouri primary.

The group was composed of a dozen Republican voters and Independent Republican-leaning voters. Five of the participants had voted for Trump in the Missouri GOP primary. The others either voted for his Republican opponents or are waiting until the general election.

What follows are excerpts from a memorandum describing the focus group, written by Peter Hart and his colleague Corrie Hunt.

For the Republican base, the question of Cruz vs. Trump comes down to character vs. strength. When these focus group participants in Missouri envision their ideal next president, those who cast their vote for Cruz in the Republican primary say they are looking for a president with “integrity” and “character,” someone who is “moral.” Trump, by contrast, appeals to primary voters who say the next president should be “strong,” “tough,” and “decisive.”

It took an Obama for Republicans to get a Trump. In this conversation with voters, it is clear that there are two ways in which Republicans’ experiences and perceptions of the Obama administration have paved the way for a Donald Trump. On the one hand, many of these voters are frustrated with a president they perceive as “weak” or “soft.” They blame terrorist attacks around the world on Obama’s policies and want a president who they believe will not be pushed around. Trump’s bombastic, macho strength is the antidote to eight years of “weak” leadership.

The other major factor that set the stage for a candidate such as Trump is the Republican establishment’s obstructionist approach to dealing with Obama. These voters are fed up with the dysfunction and constant fighting in Washington. Shaking their heads, they agree that Republican politicians seem more interested in fighting with the other side than getting things done.


Trump’s challenges moving forward are more about personality than policy. As Donald Trump looks to shore up the nomination and build a coalition going into the general election, he will need to win over Republicans and independents who would have preferred Cruz, Kasich, or one of the other myriad candidates seeking the nomination. The conversation in this focus group suggests that Trump will not face insurmountable hurdles in doing so. These voters do not fundamentally disagree with him on policies. In fact, eight of the 12 participants (including Trump supporters) do not believe that he will end up building a wall or deporting 11 million illegal immigrants. Like most presidential campaign promises, voters are less likely to hold the candidate to specific promises and use them instead as a guide.


Republicans find common ground in their intense animosity toward Hillary Clinton. These Republican and independent voters may disagree on whether Trump is the president the United States needs right now, but they unanimously agree that Hillary Clinton is not the answer. This is hardly a surprising insight, but more of an expected reality. The same could be said even more so of Sanders voters in their views toward either Cruz or Trump. Still, it is important to point out; Hillary Clinton is the glue that cements most of these voters to Trump in a general election. While there may be a few hold outs that cannot get past Trump’s brash, “unpresidential” demeanor or insults toward women, in the end at least 10 of the 12 participants in this group came together against Clinton. These voters display a level of anger toward Clinton that far surpasses their negative feelings toward President Obama. Whereas Obama calls to mind words like “dislike,” “snob,” and “useless,” for these voters, Hillary Clinton is a “criminal,” “deplorable,” and “evil.” This discussion suggests that in looking ahead to the general election, the question is whether their hatred toward Hillary will override their hesitation about Trump in November. For now, it is apparent that most Republican voters will fall in line even if Trump remains for some, a last resort.


A “brokered” convention likely would backfire. The path to the Republican nomination in 2016 is littered with crude insults, personal attacks, and shattered egos. Yet despite the vulgarities and fighting, Republicans and Republican-leaning independents remain willing to join together in support of whoever receives the most votes.


Final Note from Peter D. Hart:

Over the course of the past four presidential cycles, we have done a great number of focus groups for the Annenberg Center for Public Policy with voters of all stripes and types, but none has left me more dispirited than this group. This is not about participants being Trump voters or Republicans. We convened this group less than 24 hours after the terrorist attack in Brussels, and rather than being transformed in a way that signaled a change in what they expect from candidates seeking to be the kind of president needed in these times, they were so quickly ground into the minutiae of the day-to-day politics of this campaign. The stakes may be greater than ever, but the expectations for what is needed to unite a nation or lead the country in this tumultuous period are almost totally ignored. The greatness of the challenges ahead has been met by a public willing to accept candidates who do not challenge the nation to do better, but seek to play to its worst fears. While these St. Louis voters are solid citizens who worry about their economic security and have great fear for the terrorist attacks around the globe, sadly this discussion was less about demanding more from the candidates than it was settling and criticizing what is available in 2016. We have 225 plus days until the election. Having been in the business of public opinion for more than 50 years, I admire and respect voters and expect them to select what America wants and needs at the time of the election. I believe that to be true in 2016, but voters seem to have a long way to go to reach that point.

70% of married women have an unfavorable view of Donald Trump. [Purple Strategies Slice/ Bloomberg Poll. 4/5-10]

If Trump is elected President, when it comes to what he will do in office, 30% are excited (10%) or optimistic (20%) and 50% are scared.

If Cruz is elected President, when it comes to what he will do in office, 38% are excited (5%) or optimistic (33%) and 28% are scared.

In the case of Hillary Clinton, when it comes to what she will do in office 42% are excited (11%) or optimistic (31%) and 35% are scared.

When it comes to Bernie Sanders and what he will do in office, 45% are excited (15%) or optimistic (30%) and 27% are scared. [NYT/CBS 3/16].

Much attention was paid to the fact that Bernie Sanders left New York immediately after the April 14th debate, taking two days off the campaign trail, just 4 days before the New York primary, and went to the Vatican to participate in an inequality seminar. Although it was apparently not promised in advance he did have some time with the Pope.

Much less attention was paid to the fact that Hilary Clinton also left New York after the debate, and spent Friday and Saturday campaigning and raising money in California. Subsequently, that fundraising trip has generated considerable attention because of the high price tag for attendance.

78% of Democratic primary voters could see themselves supporting either Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders. 21% say they are not willing to support one or the other.

61% of Republican primary voters can see themselves as supporting either Kasich or Trump, while 63% of primary voters can see themselves supporting Cruz. [NBC/WSJ 4/10-14]


In a recent TV appearance, Susan Page of USAToday, may have landed on the best short description of Donald Trump’s success, “ He has perfect pitch when it comes to the feelings of the American public.”

How reliable are the various State polls taken during the Presidential contest? The answer is...it varies.

In the recent contest in Wisconsin, an average of polls taken between March 24th and April 3rd showed Bernie Sanders winning by 2.6% points. In fact he won by 13.4% points.

In that same contest, an average of polls taken during the same period shows Ted Cruz winning by 4.7% points. He won by 13.1 % points.

In the Michigan primary on March 8, 2016 an average of three polls taken the week before the election had Clinton running ahead from 13% points to 27% points. Sanders won by 1.5% points.

In the more recent contest in New York, in 9 surveys taken between April 4th and 14th, Trump led with an average of 53.4%, a spread of 31.3% points. Depending on the survey, his lead ranged from 23% points to 43% points.

His final election percentage was 61%, a lead of 36% points over Kasich and 46% points ahead of Cruz.

Also in New York, in the same 9 surveys, Clinton led with an average of 53.1%, a spread of 13.8% points. Depending on the survey her lead ranged from 18% points to 11% points.

Her final election percentage was 58%, a lead of 16% points over Sanders.

The campaign so far seems to have energized the Democratic Party while the campaign has caused a variety of splits in the Republican party.

The following are a series of charts that provide basic information about the 2016 election and the candidates.

1. The list of current candidates/those who have left the field

2. Select national polls

3. Polls in coming primary states

4. The money game

5. Delegates accrued through April 19th

6. Primary/caucus dates and state delegate numbers and allocation

7. The Primary Debates

8. The conventions

1. The current list of candidates

Three Republicans and two Democrats are currently seeking the right to carry their respective Party’s banner into the general election.

On the Field

Democrats Republicans

Hillary Clinton, 67

Bernie Sanders, 73

Ted Cruz, 44

Donald Trump, 68

John Kasich, 62

Fallen by the Wayside

Democrats Republicans

Jim Webb, 69: Dropped out 10/20*

Lincoln Chafee, 62: Dropped out 10/23

Lawrence Lessig, 54; Dropped out 11/2

Martin O’Malley, 52; Dropped out 2/2

Rick Perry, 65: Dropped out 9/11

Scott Walker, 47: Dropped out 9/21

Bobby Jindal, 43; Dropped out 11/17

Lindsay Graham, 59; Dropped out 11/20

George Pataki, 69; Dropped out 12/29

Rand Paul, 52; Dropped out 2/3/2016

Rick Santorum, 56; Dropped out 2/3

Mike Huckabee, 59; Dropped out 2/2

Chris Christie, 52; Dropped out 2/10

Carly Fiorina 60; Dropped out 2/10

Jim Gilmore, 65; Dropped out 2/12

Jeb Bush, 62; Dropped out 2/21

Ben Carson, 63; Dropped out 3/4

Marco Rubio, 43; Dropped out 3/15

2. Selected polls, March 29 through April 13

Although national polls are not particularly relevant at this stage of the nominations fights, the following are a selection of national polls through mid-April.


  McClatchy/Marist 3/29-3/31 IBD/TIPP 3/28-4/2 CBS News 4/8-4/12 Fox News 4/11-4/13 NBC/WSJ 4/10-14
Trump 40 38 42 45 40
Cruz 35 31 29 27 35
Kasich 20 19 18 25 24
Spread Trump +5 Trump +7 Trump +13 Trump +18 Trump +5


  McClatchy/Marist 3/29-3/31 IBD/TIPP 3/28-4/2 CBS News 4/8-4/12 Fox News 4/11-4/13 NBC/WSJ 4/10-14
Clinton 47 45 50 48 50
Sanders 49 44 44 46 48
Spread Sanders +2 Clinton +1 Clinton +6 Clinton +2 Clinton +2

Source: RealClearPolitics

3. Polls in coming primary States


  Monmouth 4/10-4/12
Trump 47
Cruz 19
Kasich 27
Spread Trump +20

  NBC 4/Marist 4/5-4/9
Clinton 58
Sanders 36
Spread Clinton +22


  CBS/YouGov 4/13-4/15
Trump 46
Cruz 26
Kasich 23
Spread Trump +20

  FOX News 4/4-4/7
Clinton 49
Sanders 38
Spread Clinton +11


  CBS News/YouGov 4/13-4/15
Trump 49
Cruz 31
Kasich 16
Spread Trump +18

  CBS/YouGov 4/13-4/15
Clinton 52
Sanders 40
Spread Clinton +12

4. The Money Game

Money raised by the current campaigns since the beginning of their respective campaigns through March 30th.

Hillary Clinton - $189.5 million
Bernie Sanders - $184 million
Ted Cruz - $79 million
John Kasich - $12.1 million through February
Donald Trump - $34.7 million of his own money through February

5. Delegates accrued through April 19th and total votes received

The Republicans (1,237 needed to win)

  Trump Cruz Kasich Rubio
  845 559 147 171
Popular vote 8,716,136 6,387,243 3,175,166  

The Democrats (2,382 needed to win)

  Clinton Sanders
Delegates won 1428 1151
Super Delegates 502 38
Total 1930 1189
Popular vote 10,387,916 7,699,652

[Note: The popular vote numbers do not count those who participated in caucuses.] Source: Real Clear Politics

6. Remaining Primary/Caucus dates and state delegate numbers and allocation

Included are the number of delegates assigned to each Party in each State yet to hold a primary or caucus and how the delegates will be allocated. The DNC mandates a proportional allocation for all States. The RNC allows States more flexibility.


April 26:
- Connecticut - (70D - Prop) (28R - Hybrid)
- Delaware - (31D - Prop) (16R - Winner take All)
- Maryland - (118D - Prop) (38R - Hybrid)
- Pennsylvania - (210D - Prop) (71R - Hybrid)
- Rhode Island - (33D - Prop) (19R - Prop)


May 3:
- Indiana - (92D - Prop) (57R - Hybrid)

May 10:
- Nebraska GOP primary - (36R - Winner take All)
- West Virginia - (37D - Prop) (34R - Hybrid)

May 17:
- Kentucky Dem primary - (61D - Prop)
- Oregon - (73D - Prop) (28R - Prop)

May 24:
- Washington GOP - (44R - Prop)


June 7:
- California - (546D - Prop) (172R - Hybrid)
- Montana - (28D - Prop) (27R - Winner take All)
- New Jersey - (142D - Prop) (51R - Winner take All)
- New Mexico - (43D - Prop) (24R - Prop)
- South Dakota - (25D - Prop) (29R - Winner take All)
- North Dakota Dem - (23D - Prop)

June 14:
- Washington, DC Dems - (46D - Prop)

States that the RNC reports will not hold Presidential preference votes in 2016:

- North Dakota - (28R - Conv)
- Wyoming - (29R - Conv)

Sources: RNC website, Balletopedia, US Presidential Election News

7. Presidential Primary Debates

At this time neither Party has scheduled a primary debate after April 14th.

Republican primary debates:

1. Fox News, August 6, 2015, Cleveland, Ohio – Completed
2. CNN, September 16, 2015, Simi Valley, California - Completed
3. CNBC, October 28, 2015, Boulder, Colorado - Completed
4. Fox Business, November 10, 2015, Milwaukee, Wisconsin - Completed
5. CNN, December 15, 2015, Las Vegas, Nevada - Completed
6. Fox Business, January 14, 2015, Charleston, South Carolina - Completed
7. Fox News, January 28, 2016, Des Moines, Iowa - Completed
8. ABC News, February 6, 2016, Manchester, New Hampshire - Completed
9. CBS News, February 13, 2016, Greenville, South Carolina -Completed
10. CNN, February 25, 2016, Houston, Texas - Completed
11. Fox News, March 3, 2016, Detroit, Michigan - Completed
12. CNN, March 10, 2016, Miami, Florida - Completed


You will recall that the DNC set a limit of 6 on the number of Presidential primary debates. The DNC had set that limit even though folks generally thought it was too few. Bernie Sanders was asking for more debates early on. After the Des Moines debate, the Clinton campaign decided it was in favor of additional debates.

Democratic primary debates:

1. CNN, October 13, 2015, Nevada- Completed
2. CBS News, November 14, 2015, Des Moines, Iowa - Completed
3. ABC News, December 19, 2015, Manchester, New Hampshire - Completed
4. NBC News, January17, 2016, Charleston, South Carolina - Completed
5. CNN, January 25, 2016, Des Moines, Iowa - Completed
6. MSNBC, February 4, 2016, Durham, New Hampshire - Completed
7. PBS, February 11, 2016, Milwaukee, Wisconsin – Completed
8. OPEN, March 6, 2016, Flint, Michigan – Completed
9. Univison, March 9, 2016, Miami, Florida – Completed
10. CNN , April 14, 2016 – Brooklyn, New York - Completed

Here are the audience sizes for the debates held through April 14th.

Republican - Fox News, August 6, 2015, Ohio – 24 million viewers

Republican - CNN, September 16, 2015, California -23 million viewers

Democrat - CNN, October 13, 2015 – 15.8 million viewers

Republican – CNBC, October 28, 2015 – 14 million viewers

Republican – Fox Business News, November 10, 2015 – 13.5 million viewers

Democrat – CBS/WSJ, November 14, 2015 - 8.5 million viewers

Republican - CNN, December 15, 2015, Nevada – 18 million viewers

Democrat - ABC, December 19, 2015, New Hampshire – 6.7 million viewers

Republican – Fox Business, January 14, 2016 – S. – 11 million viewers

Democratic – NBC – January 17, 2016 – South Carolina – 10.2 million viewers

Democratic – CNN – January 25, 2016 – Iowa – 3.2 million viewers

Republican – Fox News – January 28, 2016 – Iowa- 12.5 million viewers

Democratic – MSNBC – February 4, 2016 – New Hampshire - 4.5 million viewers

Republican - ABC News, February 6, 2016 - New Hampshire- 13.2 million viewers

Democratic – PBS – February 11, 2016 – Wisconsin- 8.03 million viewers

Republican - CBS News, February 13, 2016 - South Carolina- 13.51 million viewers

Republican - CNN, February 25, 2016 – Texas- 14.5 million viewers

Republican – Fox News, March 3, 2016 – Michigan- 16.8 million viewers

Democratic – OPEN, March 6, 2016 – Michigan - 5.5 million viewers

Democratic – Univision, March 9, 2016 – Florida - 5.9 million viewers

Republican - CNN, March 10, 2016, Florida- 11.9 million viewers

Democratic – CNN, April 14, 2016, Brooklyn, New York – 5.6 million viewers

Republican debates have drawn a total audience of 185.91 million viewers, an average of 15.49 million viewers. The Democratic debates have drawn 73.9 million viewers, an average of 8.2 million viewers.

8. The Conventions

For quite some time the working assumption was that the Republican convention would include considerable fireworks, while the Democratic convention would be relatively calm.

Now it appears that both conventions will be worth the price of admission.

Republicans: July 18-21, Cleveland, Ohio

Democrats: July 25-28, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

In describing the coming Republican and Democratic conventions they are often referred to as “brokered” or “contested” conventions. The former description really does not apply, while the second description is likely accurate.

The last truly brokered convention of which I am aware was the Democratic convention in 1968 in Chicago. The city was the subject of a variety of demonstrations relating to the Vietnam War. (I was there as part of the Hubert Humphrey team).

Ultimately, Mayor Daley came out for Hubert Humphrey and brought his delegation with him. Other leaders of delegations who would follow their lead were John Connelly of Texas, Jess Unruh of New York, and Mayor Joseph Barr of Pittsburgh and Mayor James Tate of Philadelphia. Following their lead, Humphrey was easily nominated.

The “Brokered Convention” that Wasn’t

The year was 1976; Bob Strauss was Chairman of the Democratic National Committee. (Strauss was an important mentor in my political career and a person for whom I continue to have great affection.)

Early that year I was back living in Minneapolis and got a call from Strauss’s office in D.C. He wanted to see me the next morning and asked that I not tell anyone about the meeting.

When I arrived at his office he told me that the coming convention was likely to be brokered and that he was going to be part of the brokering. He wanted me to come up with a list of 40-50 Party leaders, who would be at the convention, who would need to be brought together to help in the selection of a candidate. He also wanted me to locate a room at the convention hall that could hold a meeting of that size. He warned me to that I was to keep the whole thing a secret.

I headed back to Minneapolis and began working on the list on the plane.

The next morning I got a call from a well-known reporter from the Minneapolis Tribune who told me that he understood that I was to be part of an effort to broker the convention. Taken somewhat aback I asked if I could call him right back.

I called Strauss at his office in Washington and asked him how the reporter might have heard of the effort on which I was to assist him.

Bob apologized and said he should have called. He had been at the Godfrey Sperling breakfast that morning and told the assembled reporters of the plan. And so ended the effort to broker the convention.

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