Scott Rasmussen: What’s scarier: Trump-Sanders or Bush-Clinton?
It’s been amusing in recent weeks to watch Washington pundits grappling with Trumpmania and the surge of Bernie Sanders. To say that the rise of these unusual candidates has been unsettling for the political elites would be a gross understatement.
Still, while the process is causing them some angst, most insiders still expect the final contenders to be Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush. Some suggest that the zaniness of Donald Trump as frontrunner will eventually scare Republican voters back to the safe and comfortable choice of another Bush. Others see Clinton as the only viable option for the Democrats.
They could be right. Clinton and Bush both have more money and connections and support among their party elites than any other candidate (probably more than all the other candidates combined). In a normal year, that’s enough to clinch the nomination.
It’s impossible to completely discount the possibility of a dynasty run-off, but the odds are heavily against it. This is not a normal year. Among many voters in both parties, the possibility of a Bush-Clinton election is more frightening than a choice between Trump and Sanders.
Such a statement is incomprehensible to those in the political class. They view Bush and Clinton as experienced hands who know how the game of politics and government is supposed to be played. But that’s precisely what most voters hate. They are fed up with the status quo. If the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again while expecting a different outcome, many voters see a Bush-Clinton match as simply insane.
To be clear, a Trump-Sanders match-up is even less likely than Bush-Clinton. But the reality of Election 2016 is that many voters would prefer the extremists to the insiders. Moving beyond Trump and Sanders, a majority of voters in each party would probably prefer a choice between Ted Cruz and Elizabeth Warren rather than Clinton vs. Bush.
The hatred of the status quo is stronger among Republicans than Democrats. That makes it more difficult for Bush to win the nomination than Clinton. Another challenge for the choice of the GOP establishment is the fact that Trump is dominating the campaign chatter.
The fact that Trump is getting all the attention is good news for other GOP candidates. He provides cover while emerging candidates learn the ropes. Everybody running for president struggles some at the beginning. The scrutiny is unlike anything they’ve experienced before. The stress of being in a presidential debate is another unique and difficult experience. But Trump provides candidates like Scott Walker, Marco Rubio and Cruz the chance to get their act together out of the spotlight.
If Trump fades, these other candidates will be much better positioned to challenge Bush than they are today. And, let’s face it, if Trump fades his support will go to anybody but Bush.
On the Democratic side, Clinton is still the favorite for her party’s nomination. However, that outcome is not quite as certain as it appeared a few months ago. Things can change quickly when the party’s base voters are in the mood for change.
Whatever happens, the current support for Trump and Sanders is a serious demand for change.
The political class is not yet taking it seriously.