Trump vs Clinton matchup looking more likely after Saturday's votes

February 22, 2016 11:01 am 

By Matthew Rusling

WASHINGTON, Feb. 22 (PNA/Xinhua) — After Saturday's votes, it is increasingly likely that US bombastic billionaire Donald Trump will clinch the Republican nomination to face likely Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in the 2016 race to the White House, experts said.

On Saturday, Republicans held their latest primary in the state of South Carolina and Democrats held their latest caucuses in the state of Nevada, with Trump and Clinton coming out on top.

While the game is not over for Trump, analysts now say he has a serious shot at clinching the Republican Party (GOP) nomination against rivals Ted Cruz, a senator from Texas, and Marco Rubio, a senator from Florida.

"Trump has a 50 percent shot at being Republican presidential nominee and he is a lot more electable than most people realize. He is the second most electable behind Rubio, as of today," Republican strategist Ford O'Connell told Xinhua.

Referring to Saturday's GOP primary vote in South Carolina, Brookings Institution's senior fellow Darrell West told Xinhua that Trump solidified his front-runner status with a strong showing in South Carolina.

"That state shows that New Hampshire was not a fluke. He is in the lead as the primaries head to the Southern states," West added, referring to the previous GOP primary in the state of New Hampshire.

Trump lost to Cruz in the Iowa caucuses, but won the Republican primary in New Hampshire. Before the South Carolina primary, experts and pundits were unsure whether he could continue his winning streak.

Much of Trump's appeal comes amid the backdrop of an economy that is still struggling to move ahead after the 2008 economic crash, which sent the US and global economy reeling. There remain millions of people who are unemployed, and people are uneasy about the economy, wages and jobs.

Polls show Republican voters believe that Trump is the best choice to run the economy, and analysts said that is likely because of his status as a billionaire business tycoon, as opposed to Rubio and Cruz, neither of whom has ever run a business.

Moreover, Trump's supporters are fed up with what they view as lackluster leadership both in the White House and in the GOP-controlled Congress.

On foreign policy, many Trump supporters say they are tired of what they call the White House's lackluster response to the terrorist threat facing the United States and the West.

But while Trump is the GOP front-runner, Cruz and Rubio remain in a fight to be the alternative to Trump. Cruz won the Iowa Republican caucuses, while Rubio edged out Cruz to clinch the second place in the primary in South Carolina.

"Each of them did well enough to continue in the race. Cruz is strong with evangelical voters while Rubio is a favorite among the party establishment," West said.

At the same time, Saturday spelled the end of the candidacy of former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, who was just six months ago considered a shoo-in for the Republican nomination. But the somewhat mild mannered Bush was overshadowed by Trump's bombastic and in-your-face personality, and was unable to shine.

Indeed, the social and political winds are blowing against Bush, as voters in recent years have developed a strong dislike for political elites, and many Americans distrust Washington and believe the political class does not represent ordinary Americans.

That is behind much of the appeal of the three leading GOP candidates Trump, Cruz and Rubio, who are all considered political outsiders.

Meanwhile, former secretary of state Hillary Clinton on Saturday won her party's caucuses in the state of Nevada, clinching the win against his only rival Bernie Sanders, who bills himself a "Democratic socialist."

"Clinton gained an important victory in Nevada. She demonstrated her ability to win in a state hard hit economically and this will help her with working class Democrats going forward," West said.

Clinton narrowly defeated Sanders, a senator from Vermont, in the Iowa caucuses but lost the Democratic primary in New Hampshire on Feb. 9.

O'Connell said Clinton is expected to do well in the Southern states going forward, as the former first lady is a favorite among African Americans in the region, and in many states that bloc comprises half of the Democratic electorate.

While Sanders has drawn large crowds at rallies and has a strong base of support among millennials, it would be difficult for him to win as there is historically a strong sentiment against socialism in the United States, experts said. (PNA/Xinhua)



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