Short Relief: Presidential election isn't over until it's over

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Every day, the press is full of news stories and opinion pieces about how despicable is Donald Trump, what an embarrassment the campaign is for the Republican nomination, and how the Republican party is in disarray and destined for ignominious humiliation in the November general election.

This past Sunday, The New York Times reported Trump would be the most unpopular general election candidate since World War II.

While Trump has come close to beating Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton in the Real Clear Politics general election poll average twice, the first time on Dec. 6, 2015, and the second time on Feb. 1, he has never beaten her in that poll average, and her lead over him has been increasing since March 1. The current spread is 10.6 percentage points. Trump didn’t help himself in recent interviews with Chris Matthews and Maureen Dowd.

Ted Cruz beat Clinton between Jan. 7 and March 19, but has been loosing to her since then. My personal preference, John Kasich, has been beating Clinton since Feb. 11, but he has only won 143 GOP delegates to Cruz’s 463 and Trump’s 736.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the aisle, an outsider is causing trouble, too. Bernie Sanders has vowed to stay in the race until the end, and he is driving Clinton to the left when she would like to be pivoting to the middle.

After the recent contests in Alaska, Hawaii, and Washington, Clinton had won 20 contests and Sanders 15. Sanders had 975 earned delegates to Clinton’s 1,243. Clinton had 469 superdelegates to Sanders’ 29, giving her an overall lead of 1,712 delegates to 1,004.

The Democratic Party delegate selection rules say that all voters who wish to participate as Democrats may do so. They prohibit any fee or test for party membership. They provide that meetings be open to all members. They prohibit discrimination, and adopt affirmative action and inclusion programs.

The rules require 2,383 of a total 4,763 delegates to win the nomination. Of those, about 4,046 are earned delegates apportioned amongst the states in relation to their historical Democratic vote, and pledged to particular candidates pursuant to primaries and caucuses; 719 of the 4,763 are unpledged superdelegates, who are free to decide whom to support on their own.

These superdelegates are party elites such as former Democratic presidents and vice presidents, current Democratic governors, members of Congress, and 435 members of the Democratic National Committee. To date, they have overwhelmingly supported Clinton.

That doesn’t sit well with Sanders’ supporters. If superdelegates were committed consistent with earned delegates, the delegate count would be more like Clinton 1,527, Sanders 1,188.

So far, the Democratic campaign has been relatively civil and dignified. That’s because Sanders has focused on the issue of income inequality. He has largely refrained from attacking Clinton where she is most vulnerable, such as her involvement in the Obama Administration’s disastrous foreign policy, and her anti-democratic use of a private email system to conduct official government business.

But there are signs that civility is fraying. Clinton’s surrogates have been taking shots at Sanders. Perhaps the most laughable were the columnists who criticized Sanders for being disrespectful and interrupting Clinton. The way I saw the Democratic debates, Clinton interrupted more than anyone, and dragged out her answers to monopolize time and force others to stop her.

Feeling stung by Sanders’s accusations that she is bought by, and beholden to, big Wall Street money, Clinton snapped at a Greenpeace activist that Sanders is lying about her. The bottom line is that there is a remarkable amount of antipathy toward Clinton within her party, as exemplified by Susan Sarandon’s criticisms of Clinton as a failure and a coward.

Sanders has youth and enthusiasm on his side. Last month, he raised a record $44 million. His chances of securing the nomination depend on Clinton’s appeal waning now that the campaign has turned to the north and west, and on those superdelegates feeling pressure to rethink their position.

The Democrats have been ignoring these problems. If Republicans can get our party in order, we might be able to pull out a win in November.

Halsey Frank is a Portland resident, attorney and former chairman of the Republican City Committee.

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