March 2, 2016

Cornell Professors Weigh in On Super Tuesday Results

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After Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump emerged as victors from Super Tuesday, Prof. William Jacobson, law, and Prof. M. Elizabeth Sanders, government, shared their beliefs about what the results imply for the 2016 presidential election.

Clinton and Trump were both declared victors in seven primaries. Bernie Sanders won the remaining four states in the Democratic primaries, while Republicans Ted Cruz was victorious in two states and Marco Rubio in one.

Prof. Sanders said that she believes these election results demonstrate the contention and controversy that have characterized this election cycle, calling the victories the product of “remarkable times.”­­

“Trump and Clinton just swept the primaries. Rubio has failed the Republican establishment by winning only one state,” she said. “Cruz, on the basis of winning three states — two tonight, plus Iowa — is now positioning himself to the right of Trump, claiming he is the only true conservative.”

Prof. Sanders said she believes that because Clinton is a political candidate, whose principles, like Trump’s, have shown “great flexibility,” she is curious if her more leftist leaning stances would change in the general election.

“An important question is whether Clinton, who in her speech Tuesday night clearly channeled Bernie Sanders, would retain her new Sanders-like commitments in the general election and the presidency,” Sanders said. “She is a politician whose principles and policy commitments have, like Trump’s, shown great flexibility.”

The results of Super Tuesday make Trump the likely Republican nominee, absent the narrowing the field of candidates to a single contender, a strategy which could result in a more united force of opposition countering Trump, according to Jacobson.

“After tonight, unless the Republican field narrows to a single main challenger, Donald Trump will be the nominee even though in most states he’s not breaking the 40 percent barrier,” he said.

Jacobson also shared his speculations about which Republican candidate could face-off against Trump as a single challenger.

“Cruz would seem the logical challenger since he has won three states, but the GOP establishment hates Cruz even more than it hates Trump,” Jacobson said.

“Rubio could be an establishment alternative, but he seems to hold more promise than performance.”

Although Jacobson said he believes the only way to prevent Trump from gaining the nomination would be to narrow the Republican candidates to a single challenger, he said he believes this option is growing increasingly unlikely.

“In the present posture … it seems likely [that] both Cruz and Rubio will stay in at least through the mid-March, winner-take-all primaries, and that benefits Trump who may pick up boatloads of delegates without ever winning a majority of the popular vote,” he said.

Unlike Jacobson, Sanders said she believes that the Super Tuesday results reveal that fight for the Republican nomination has narrowed to Cruz and Trump.

“So, while Trump may have hoped to keep Cruz in the race to block Rubio, the stage is now set for a very hostile fight to the finish between Cruz and Trump, one of which will it seems safe to say — carry the Republican flag against Hillary Clinton.”

Cruz and Trump’s primary victories reveal the disenchantment many Americans feel from the Republican elite, according to Sanders.

“Much is at stake here,” Sanders said. “Trump and Cruz are both unpredictable candidates outside the center of their party. Their strength tells us that there is great unhappiness with the Republican elite, and the solutions they offer their voters could lead to great domestic conflict.”

Sanders said she believes a Trump-Clinton race could converge on key issues.

“A Trump-Clinton election contest would be extremely negative, but they may not be very far apart on major economic or foreign policy issues,” Sanders said. “Clinton may even be the more conservative of the two.”