The Presidential Race: Checkmate?

The Presidential Race: Checkmate?
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Why you should care

Because there are just a few weeks left before the election, and it’s coming down to the wire for those who are still undecided.


In about 100 days from now, OZY’s homepage will feature an interesting image: the new American President Hillary Rodham Clinton standing next to British Prime Minister Theresa May and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Three women, all baby boomers and none easily predicted to rise to the top, will hold the world’s power in their hands. Add to that the possibility that they could be joined by a female Chinese premier by 2020 and you have a planet undergoing a major makeover.

But we’ve jumped ahead too soon. First, back to last night.

“It is o-vah,” as Howard Cosell once said of this famous boxing match. And after Sunday evening, so it was with Donald Trump’s campaign. Indeed, absent something out of his or Clinton’s direct control — like another terror attack, shooting or hurricane — the former secretary of state will likely clinch the presidency. Sure, she was better than Trump in their second showdown. But that was not really the issue.

We haven’t seen this kind of implosion since the fall of George McGovern in ’72.

The real issue was that after Friday’s video revelation, Trump, who has withstood all manners of scandal, was finally on his last knee. The debate in Missouri offered perhaps one last chance to save his candidacy. But he probably did not get there. Instead, following an average performance, Trump will likely find himself nearly 20 points behind Clinton in some national polls by the end of this week (instead of 4 to 6 points back, as most polls show right now). He’ll also effectively be dropped by the Republican Party and perhaps without his campaign manager, who all but slipped and suggested as much on MSNBC. We haven’t seen this kind of implosion since the fall of George McGovern in ’72.

Given all of that, I won’t bother looking back at the debate in any real detail. Rather, let’s turn to what could unfold in the final weeks of this election season.

Mike Pence’s Next Move

The Indiana governor quickly congratulated his running mate following the debate, noting he was “proud to stand with you as we #MAGA” — “make America great again.” But he has to decide this week if he will abandon his other half and position himself for a run in 2020. And if Pence, the boy wonder of the moment, waits too long to make his Jimmy Stewart speech, he will be leapt over by other hungry competitors.

On the other hand, if Pence does say that he has a higher duty to God and family and abandons Trump, the question will become how hard the Donald goes after him. The final days could get messy with the former team divided against itself. Yet Pence could also end up with the largest write-in total in presidential history, with more than 2 million Americans who might follow Sen. Kelly Ayotte’s lead and mark down the former talk-radio host instead of voting for the billionaire, Clinton, Jill Stein or Aleppo (I mean, Gary Johnson).

An Early Voting Lead

What most observers don’t know, and what most Clinton campaign experts are joyful about, is not just that the Donald has imploded, but that he has done so just as crucial early voting is occurring in at least a dozen states this week, including Arizona and Ohio. And if early-voting patterns are similar to 2012, that means that by the time the Donald could “recover” from the latest scandal, nearly a third of the votes may have been cast and HRC’s lead in must-win states like Florida, North Carolina and Nevada could be insurmountable, as Clinton’s campaign manager Robby Mook recently forecast.

The 2020 Scrum

Oh, my. The next presidential race is already about to start. And it is going to be a dandy. As we recently shared, in addition to the names you might expect — Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, John Kasich and Rand Paul (remember him?) — you are about to see a public courting of Condi Rice like nothing you have seen since the GOP tried to persuade Colin Powell to run for president two decades ago. For a party still getting over an embarrassing primary run and now facing hostility among many women and minorities — and likely a soon-to-be booming economy — the once again Stanford professor and football fanatic may seem exactly like what the wounded GOP ordered. But will she answer their call?

Supreme Court Picks

Terror, energy and the economy would seem to be the biggest issues to discuss over the next 28 days. But you are about to hear a bunch on the Supreme Court from Republican senators who are desperate to hold on to their seats. They will rightly point out that the next president may nominate as many as four new justices. Senators like Pat Toomey, Ayotte and Ron Johnson will also make the case to their swing-state voters that having a moderating influence on who a new President Clinton picks will be critical.

More Ripple Effects

The Clinton landslide could end up not only impacting the Senate overall and maybe even the House, but bring in some intriguing new officeholders in the tide. One interesting woman to watch is Nevada Senate candidate Catherine Cortez Masto, who if she wins could become the first Latina senator — or perhaps tie for that honor if Loretta Sanchez wins an upset victory in California as well. In either or both cases, it could change a variety of important policy conversations going forward, including on immigration.

So there it is. One so-so debate — but a number of big-ripple impacts. Let the new games begin.

What do you expect to happen in the final weeks of this race? Send me a note at carlos.watson@ozymandias.com.

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The route to the White House: news, stories and analysis from on and off the presidential campaign trail.