Wednesday, March 02, 2016

EDITORIAL >> Big winners on Tuesday

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump continued their march across the South on Super Tuesday toward to their parties’ nomination after also winning big recently in South Carolina. They easily won in Arkansas, while racking up impressive numbers in most of the contested races in a dozen states yesterday.

Super Tuesday primaries, held mostly in the South, has now set the stage for one of the strangest presidential contests in American history if indeed Clinton and Trump are their parties’ nominees this summer. A nasty presidential election awaits in November.

On Tuesday, the Republicans had 595 delegates up for grabs, or about half of the 1,237 needed for the nomination. The Democrats had 859 delegates at stake, more than a third of the 2,383 required for the nomination. Trump and Clinton grabbed the most delegates by far, putting them on the path toward capturing their parties’ nomination.

Trump overwhelmed the Republican field, winning at least 139 delegates Tuesday and a total of 257 so far. Clinton won delegates in almost every region, losing only in Sen. Bernie Sanders’ home state of Vermont, along with Minnesota, Colorado and Oklahoma. He picked up 189 delegates to Clinton’s 373. She leads overall with 508-295 delegates — plus she has 457 superdelegates against his 22 superdelegates.

Sanders peaked briefly and is unlikely to do well in many primary states in the future. Trump is also close to vanquishing his last two serious opponents.

Despite all the criticism about their alleged ethical lapses and other shortcomings, Clinton and Trump did at least as well as the polls predicted. Trump did especially well against his now-desperate opponents in the Republican primaries, virtually sweeping aside all challengers, some of whom might now be thinking about calling it quits and perhaps throwing their support behind the frontrunner.

Sanders will continue to challenge Clinton at least through March. Trump and Clinton should wrap up the nomination in April or May. The delegate count is overwhelmingly in Clinton’s and Trump’s favor.

Clinton will lead a united party, while Trump battles to win support from the Republican establishment. That will not be easy. The Republican presidential hopefuls who trail Trump could unite against him, but the odds are against Sen. Ted Cruz, who yesterday won only his home state of Texas and neighboring Oklahoma. Sen. Marco Rubio fared even worse: He won only in Minnesota and hopes to win his home state of Florida on March 15.

Trump said Tuesday night he looks forward to a long campaign against Clinton, who is well ahead in the polls against the billionaire businessman. Establishment Republicans could abandon Trump, who will have a hard time unifying his party after his insurgent candidacy surprised all the experts and alienated traditional Republicans from the party.

Most Republicans will reluctantly rally around Trump if he’s their nominee, although some GOP officials have threatened to bolt and back a third-party candidate or even endorse Clinton. Mitt Romney’s former chief of staff said he prefers Hillary over Trump, and it wouldn’t shock anyone if Romney, the 2012 Republican nominee, and Jeb Bush, who dropped out after a miserable showing in the primaries, both shun Trump in the fall campaign.

Clinton is certain to benefit from Republican infighting, not seen since 1964, when Barry Goldwater became the standard bearer and was swept away in a landslide against President Johnson. To be sure, the Republican Party bounced back four years later and ushered in the Reagan revolution. A Trump candidacy has put that legacy in jeopardy.

Sen. Eddie Joe Williams (R-Cabot) and Sen. Jane English (R-North Little Rock) beat back tea party candidates funded with loads of dark money, some of it traced to a northwest Arkansas millionaire. It was hard to tell what the motives were, other than to kill the Medicaid expansion and wreck the state’s budget, which would have ended the governor’s highway program, more funding for schools and countless other programs. Let us hope Gov. Asa Hutchinson retains his supermajority to continue these programs with help from English and Williams.

In January, the Jacksonville and the Maumelle District Courts will become one and have jurisdiction over all of Pulaski County. Rita Bailey, currently the Wrightsville and Cammack Village judge, and state Sen. David Johnson (D-Little Rock) battled for the position with Bailey easily winning the position. She will succeed Jacksonville District Judge Robert Batton, who is retiring after almost 40 years on the bench.

Millions of dollars from out of state also helped elect Dan Kemp chief justice of the state Supreme Court in a brutal race against Courtney Goodson. Shawn Womack was also elected to the Supreme Court over Clark Mason, again with the nastiest advertising in memory.

Congratulations to Lonoke County Sheriff John Staley, who was re-elected in a landslide. For Lonoke County District Court judge, Clint McGue leads longtime Judge Joe O’Bryan and John Flynn. There will be a runoff on Nov. 8.