In which I engage my mental superpowers to predict precisely what happens from here on out!
IOWA: Clinton holds out for a convincing, if unspectacular, win. Trump mops the floor with Cruz, whose second-place finish is universally described as “bitterly disappointing.” Rubio puts in a surprisingly strong third-place showing.
NEW HAMPSHIRE: Sanders dominates, as expected. However, the media will then rush to instruct on how New Hampshire never picks winners anyway, and besides, Bernie’s from right next door. Nothing to see here folks, move along, Vox will solemnly declare. Trump wins again, as expected; Rubio, Bush, and Kasich roughly split second-place; Christie gets a devastatingly poor 5th and is forced to fold.
NEVADA DEM / SC GOP: The underreported NV caucus shapes the coming campaign for both sides; the media won’t ignore it in the future. Hillary rolls Sanders by roughly 15 points in NV. Bush rallies in SC for his strongest showing to-date, roughly splitting 2nd place with Rubio. The other “Establishment lane” candidates poll in the single digits.
SOUTH CAROLINA DEM / NV GOP: A lot of second-tier and lower candidates are history at this point. Dem side is now just Clinton and Sanders, the latter of whom gets trounced in SC. GOP side is Trump, Rubio, Cruz, Bush, and either Kasich or (less likely) Christie. A few deluded has-beens like Santorum and Carson may still be technically in the race, but will not factor in any significant way. Cruz’s and Kasich/Christie’s bad showings has everyone calling for their dropping out, although they probably won’t until after Super Tuesday. Most importantly of all, this is the first time Rubio tops Trump. Rubio has been trending upward in NV since October, and assuming Cruz implodes like Carson before him, Rubio has no reason why he can’t do well in this (relatively, anyway) Trump-skeptic state. The general consensus among media personalities is that the Dem race is finished. They will not be wrong.
SUPER TUESDAY: Or what is now called the “SEC primary” in more fashionable circles. Sanders is put out to pasture, winning only his home state of Vermont and perhaps one other. On the other side… I just can’t make any predictions. My hunch says that Trump will carry a plurality of the states, but not enough to decisively put away the competition. Rubio’s now emerging as the consensus anti-Trump, but he’s still getting dragged down by his competition, Bush foremost among them. Ironic enough that Jeb wound up being Donald Trump’s most reliable ally!
AFTER THAT: Clinton will be the Dem nominee. You didn’t really expect anything different, did you? On the other side, there are two likely scenarios: Either Trump wins, and someone like Jeb launches a third-party candidacy; or else someone else wins, and Trump launches the third-party candidacy.
Therefore, at the moment, for the reasons outlined above, combined with the heavy Democratic advantage in guaranteed blue states vs. guaranteed red states… the GOP committed electoral suicide when it gave up on California and New York, incidentally… anyway, I currently see no outcome other than Hillary Clinton taking the oath of office in less than a year.
Now, things do change in a hurry. If Trump were taken out early for whatever reason, and a GOP consensus could build behind someone else well in advance of Super Tuesday, I would be less sanguine about the chances of us Dems. And if Sanders were somehow able to pull off the upset of a lifetime, Michael Bloomberg would then jump in, and God knows what happens then. But at this point, with the disclaimer that we’ll be absent any major surprises or scandals, and with the disclaimer that I’m a confessed Bernie-bro, I’m (with those very important disclaimers!) calling it for Clinton in 2016.