Looking for Plan B

Donald-Trump1Apparently, the populist revolt is real. Just weeks ago your columnist confidently predicted that Donald Trump could not win the Republican nomination because 70% of Republicans would not vote for him under any circumstances. He is now either the first or second choice of some 50%. Running second is Ben Carson, who has similarly never held any political office. Ditto for Carly Fiorina who was the stand out beneficiary of the first debate. Between them, these three are the first choice of more than half of Republicans.

Bernie Sanders is still holding a lead in New Hampshire and has now caught up with Hillary Clinton in Iowa. Institutionally he faces difficulties that do not apply to Trump. He lacks the fundraising base of the Clintons and the overwhelmingly white electorates of Iowa and New Hampshire matches the Republican electorate in other states, but not the Democratic primary electorate of South Carolina and Nevada, the two states which vote next. 

And, in Britain, the man this columnist described as the British Bernie Sanders has just been overwhelmingly elected leader of the Labour Party. He secured 60% of the first preference votes in a four-way instant-runoff vote. He will lead Labour in Parliament despite the fact that only 14 of Labour’s 232 MPs are thought to have voted for him. 

Party establishments seem to be unpopular. Populist parties which oppose international trade, international organizations and (usually) immigration are gaining in support right across the democratic world. Do America’s parties have a Plan B for coping with these revolts?

The Republicans’ Plan B is simple. The convention is a year away and the first votes are not until January. Rick Perry, Howard Dean, Michele Bachmann, Rudy Giuliani and Hillary Clinton are among those who led in the polls at this point in recent election cycles. John McCain and John McCain both seemed dead in the water at this point but went on to win their parties’ nominations. But columnists – including Common Sense – have been predicting Trump’s implosion for a while, and it hasn’t happened yet.

Democrats still believe that Sanders can be defeated. He has horrible levels of polling with minorities, and that should kill his campaign in the South and the West. Only in New England are there states which reliably vote for the Democrats but have overwhelmingly white electorates. 

But what if Hillary Clinton’s handling of the email scandal gets worse? Or a smoking gun emerges? The one thing Republicans do not have is a shortage of credible candidates – just a tendency to prefer the less credible ones. It would be hard for anyone to emerge as a challenger to Clinton at this point. Such a candidate would need to raise a billion dollars, draw on a campaign talent pool which she has already sucked dry, and get on the ballot in the primary states, for which some deadlines are already approaching. Joe Biden could do it, but has his own weaknesses. 

If Clinton were actually to withdraw, then all bets are off. Elizabeth Warren could raise the money, but may prefer staying in the Senate. Andrew Cuomo would inherit a big part of Clinton’s highly professional campaign team. But the interesting option is four term governor of California, Jerry Brown. He succeeded Ronald Reagan in the 70s and made a comeback in 2010 to succeed Arnold Schwarzenegger. It would be his fourth presidential run. 

qlQuentin Langley is a Senior Lecturer in Marketing at the University of Bedfordshire Business School as well as a freelance columnist published in the UK and all parts of the US. He blogs on social media and crisis communications at brandjacknews.com

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