David Wasserman

David Wasserman.

Trump, Cruz face ‘electability gap,’ in 2016 general election

David Wasserman: Trump’s star seems to be fading a bit as the election cycle moves into the phase where people actually vote, as opposed to candidates pointing to the vagaries of polling numbers.

One of presidential candidate Donald Trump’s predictions for last week’s Iowa Caucus came true—a lot of people came out to vote. Many of those, according to David Wasserman, House editor for the Cook Political Report, “voted against him.”

About 76 percent, Wasserman said during his luncheon address at the National Cotton Council’s annual meeting yesterday in Dallas, voted for someone else.

Wasserman implies that Trump’s star seems to be fading a bit as the election cycle moves into the phase where people actually vote, as opposed to candidates pointing to the vagaries of polling numbers.

He says Trump and another presidential aspirant, Texas Senator Ted Cruz, would face daunting odds in a general election.

“Bernie Sanders also has a tough road ahead of him,” Wasserman says. “But Sanders still matters.” He says Sanders’ ability to reach young voters reveals a weakness for the Democratic heir apparent Hillary Clinton, who he describes as “very beatable,” by the right candidate.

Wasserman says Florida Senator Marco Rubio’s poll numbers indicate he would be the most competitive. “Rubio has a significant shot.” He rises to the top by “the process of elimination,” Wasserman says. “Support for Jeb Bush, Chris Christi, and John Kasich is poor. I see an electability gap with Cruz and Trump.”

Wasserman does praise Cruz’s “data mining” ability and tagged him as “a brilliant strategist.”

Issues that will affect the November election, Wasserman says, include the changing dynamic of the electorate with many more voters—43 percent—identifying with neither party. He also says presidential primaries are decided by “the party hardliners, not the moderates.”

With only a two-person race, the Democrats will have a candidate chosen before their convention, he says. He sees a strong possibility that the Republicans’ will have a contested convention for the first time in decades.

He says negatives for Democrats include the historic difficulty of one party winning three presidential elections in a row. He also sees a potential for family fatigue—from either a Bush or a Clinton dynasty. Clinton also faces a “trust deficit,” he says. “And will she be able to excite the Obama coalition?”

For those reasons, Wasserman sees Hillary as vulnerable in the general election.

“But the GOP is also flirting with self-destruction,” he adds. “The Tea Party made a lot of promises and failed to deliver.”

He says Republican’s hard stand on social issues, their inability to attract non-white voters, and their “empathy problem,” remain challenges.

Wasserman says in coming primaries, some of the bottom tier, Christi, Bush, and Kasich, may not see numbers high enough to justify staying in the race. If that happens, the dynamics of the contest will shift. If those three finish five points behind the leaders, they may be finished after New Hampshire.

”Trump has been impressive in a ten-man race, but what will he do with two or three (competitors)?”

He says the Feb. 20 South Carolina primary will be important. “That’s a natural for Cruz and Trump.

He says the South Carolina primary is most critical for Trump and Cruz but adds that Rubio needs to “meet the delegate threshold percentage to win any delegates.” In some contests, candidates must win a certain percentage of the delegates up for grabs or go home empty-handed.

Wasserman says March 15 is the most important primary date with several important primaries across the country, some of which are “winner take all. This will be a crucial test for Rubio, Bush and Kasich.” He says Bush and Kasich may not be in the running by then.

Wasserman says Republicans will retain control of the House in November but could lose a half-dozen or so seats. The Senate will be in contention and could go either way

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