Every election cycle has what pundits call “inflection points”: moments in a campaign that have some defining impact. Moments like Rick Perry in a 2012 debate forgetting the third department of the federal government he would shut down. Or like Marco Rubio deciding to go to Trump’s level of rancor.
Interestingly, the Wisconsin primary was one of those inflection points for both the GOP and Democratic races.
Ted Cruz’s big win all but assured that Republicans are headed to a contested convention in Cleveland. Yes, it’s still possible for Donald Trump to secure 1,237 delegates by the time the last vote is cast on June 7th in California, but it is very improbable.
And, with Bernie Sanders’s trouncing of Hillary Clinton in Wisconsin, he continues to chip away at what most had believed was an insurmountable lead in delegates. Part of why Clinton’s lead has appeared so daunting is because the vast majority of super delegates have committed to her over Sanders (469-31).
However, if you count only the pledged delegates (those are the normal delegates that you win in primaries and caucuses) Hillary leads Sanders by 1,298 to 1,079 – just 221. There are still 1,977 unpledged delegates remaining.
Still, Clinton has all those super delegates. But here is the caveat: a large number of those super delegates are Democrat elected officials (think Members of Congress, state legislators, etc.) who are ultimately going to act on self-interest. If they start to feel the pressure of Sanders’s momentum and see Sanders continue to tighten the race, Clinton could suffer defections of super delegates just like she did in 2008 when late in the primary season Barack Obama got the big mo.
Does Bernie have the big mo? Well, he has won 7 of the last 8 contests. He will win Wyoming this coming weekend. Polling shows that voters in New York, the state Hillary represented in the Senate and she should win handily, are warming to Sanders. Two months ago, Clinton led by more than 20 points; now it’s barely 10 points.
It’s looking increasingly likely that both the Republicans and the Democrats will face contested conventions. And that will be good for Republicans for two reasons: 1) the Democratic convention will be more chaotic than the Republican convention. Democratic base activists tend to be much more aggressive (especially towards law enforcement) than Republican activists and will create more tension, 2) and the Democratic convention comes the week after the Republican convention, so as we enter the General Election phase of the cycle the voters will have the imagery of chaos and tension seared into their minds from the nightly news coverage.
For Democrats, this could be Chicago 1968 all over again: 1968 Democratic Convention Riots