With about half of the state and territorial primaries now behind us, Donald Trump continues to be the favorite to become the Republican nominee. His supporters regularly turn out by the tens of thousands for his increasingly violent rallies where Trump openly encourages his fans to aggressively confront protesters, something they often do with racial epithets or a literal punch to the face, as happened last week at a rally in North Carolina. The man who committed that assault even threatened to murder the man he attacked, should he run into him again. Rather than disavow the attacker, Trump has offered to pay for his legal defense.
With the North Carolina incident still in the national headlines, several days later thousands of anti-Trump protesters created chaos at the venue of his rally in Chicago, forcing the cancellation of his event and leading many right wing websites and Trump himself to declare that “organized leftists” were shouting down his freedom of speech. Many of those protesters are believed to be supporters of Bernie Sanders, and Trump has threatened to send his own supporters to disrupt Sanders rallies.
The Republican establishment, which initially dismissed or ignored Trump, is now in a state of perpetual panic as his nomination would surely imperil their down-ballot candidates, particularly in the Senate, where the GOP will be defending its four-seat majority with 24 of their incumbents up for reelection. Only 10 Senate Democrats are defending their seats this cycle and control of the Senate could swing either way even without anti-Trump sentiment damaging the GOP brand.
Also potentially affected by a Trump nomination would be the state gubernatorial races, with 12 states in play. In five of those states, Delaware, Missouri, New Hampshire, Vermont, and West Virginia, the Democratic governor is either retiring or is being term-limited out of office. GOP incumbents will be defending their seats in three states, Indiana, North Carolina, and Utah.
On the Democratic side of the presidential race, Hillary Clinton this week committed an unforced error when she declared that Nancy Reagan’s “low-key advocacy” had jump-started a “national conversation” about HIV and AIDS during her husband’s administration. Activists gasped, the press pounced, and Clinton responded later that same day with a one-line apology. Unsatisfied, nationally renowned activists such as Larry Kramer and Peter Staley continued to fume and the Clinton campaign wisely rushed out a second and expansive apology the following day.
Bernie Sanders took advantage of Clinton’s gaffe by issuing his own policy statement on HIV/AIDS in which he vows to fight to end pharmaceutical patents on HIV drugs and create a $3 billion annual prize to incentivize research into new drugs. Under Sanders’ plan, pharmaceuticals that win the prize will also have to surrender the patents for their new drugs, opening them up to immediate generic competition.
While Clinton continues to be the heavy favorite to win the Democratic nomination, last week Sanders pulled off an upset in Michigan, defying the pollsters and energizing his already famously passionate supporters. Clinton has so far won 12 states to Sanders’ nine and leads him in the delegates count 766-551 with 2383 delegates needed to secure the nomination. This week a whopping 792 delegates are up for grabs in five states: Florida, Missouri, Illinois, North Carolina, and Ohio. Clinton has far outstripped Sanders on the controversial super-delegates side, where she has 465 to Sanders’ 25.
Since the delegates in all Democratic primaries are awarded proportionally no matter who wins, it will be at least a month and maybe longer before either candidate could approach the magic number. For comparison, Clinton didn’t drop out of the 2008 race until early June, having won 1726 delegates by the time Barack Obama had clinched the nomination.