We are nearly there, folks. When this campaign got underway about a year ago, would anyone have predicted what we have now? Of course not. On the Democratic side, people regarded Sanders as a gadfly, not a challenger. On the Republican side, let’s say you had a betting pool, sort of like March Madness, to see who would be left in mid-March, and in what order. Who would have bet on Trump, Cruz, Rubio, and Kasich, in that order? No one! Guessing it would have been like winning the Powerball lottery.

The general agreement is that if Trump wins Ohio and Florida on Tuesday, he’ll go to Cleveland in July with enough delegates to win on the first ballot. Ohio and Florida are winner-take-all states, and they have 165 delegates between them. The total number of delegates at stake on Tuesday is 358, distributed among Florida (99), Ohio (66), Illinois (69), Missouri (52), and North Carolina (72). The party so badly wants to deny Trump a double winner-take-all, Florida and Ohio, that Rubio’s camp has told its supporters to vote for Kasich in Ohio. Kasich has a good chance to win in Ohio. Rubio does not have a good chance to win in Florida.

What do the polls show in Illinois, Missouri, and North Carolina? After Michigan’s inaccurate poll numbers, which showed Clinton romping over Sanders before she lost to him there, prognosticators are a little hesitant to make predictions. We’ll just have to see how many people vote on Tuesday, and who they vote for.

What is the most likely outcome over the next four months? That Trump will go to Cleveland with a substantial delegate lead, but not quite enough, 1,237, to win on the first ballot. That situation recalls 1976, when Ford led Reagan by several dozen delegates, but was just shy of a majority. With a lead like that, and with Ford a sitting president, the party was not going to hand the nomination to an upstart. Ford asked Reagan to say a few words at the convention, and it turned out to be a speech that helped him win the nomination in 1980.

This time, the upstart has the lead, and we have no one with the prestige of incumbency. The general calculations seem correct: if the party denies Trump the nomination, it loses Trump’s supporters. If the party nominates Trump, it loses a lot of old line Republicans. Either way, the party has some rough times ahead.

The Democrats have some rough times ahead, too, though for different reasons. Clinton is not an especially strong candidate. If she obtains the nomination this time, a lot of Democrats will vote for her, some enthusiastically, some not so much. You have to wonder how many will hold their noses in the electoral stockyards on election day, and how many will stay home. The same question applies to Republicans and independents, of course. If the Democrats stay home and Trump continues to rouse up all those angry voters, we could have Benito in the Oval office.

The last significant question is who the Libertarians will nominate. I don’t ask that because I think the Libertarian candidate can win. I just think people ought to have an alternative they feel they can respect. The Libertarians nominated Gary Johnson, former governor of New Mexico, in 2012. He received well over a million votes that year, about one percent of the total. He has stated that he would like to run again this year. We have to hope the Libertarian party agrees he is the best candidate they have.

We started out with a look at the upcoming primaries, scheduled for March 15, but naturally November is on everyone’s mind as well. Between March 15 and November 8, we have three party conventions, counting the Libertarians. People stopped caring about the conventions a while ago, but I can tell you the Republican convention may offer a little suspense this year. Generally, though, the party likes to work out who it wants to nominate before the convention opens. In 1976, the key maneuvering occurred before they counted delegate votes in Kansas City’s convention hall. We’ll see if that happens this year.

Meantime, as they say at the local cinema, enjoy the show!

Related articles

Who is the real carnival barker? Donald Trump or John Oliver?

Reagan’s ’76 GOP Nomination