Latest primaries bolster front-runner status for Clinton, Trump, GVSU expert says

Erika King
Erika King

The latest round of primary elections across the country have solidified the positions of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump as the front-runners of their respective parties, according to Erika King, a political science professor at Grand Valley.

Clinton was able to win four states (pending a close race with Bernie Sanders in Missouri), as was Trump, losing only to Gov. John Kasich in Ohio.

(Listen to King's full interview here.)

"Hillary Clinton had a very good night, and she and her supporters should be pleased," King said. "She solidified the base she was reaching out to, which includes minority voters and older voters, who we know vote with more regularity than other demographic groups."

King also said that the March 15 primaries were big for the former secretary of state because it showed she could win states in geographically diverse segments of the country. 

Despite losing four states and finishing in nearly a dead heat in Missouri, Bernie Sanders has said he will continue his candidacy despite being significantly behind in the delegate count. 

"He has a very dedicated, extremely energized and enthusiastic base of supporters as well, but they are simply outnumbered by the Clinton supporters," King said. "What's even more important is, we are in the stretch of the campaign where it's all about counting the delegates, and she is pulling away from him. She has about two-thirds of the delegates needed to get a majority at the national convention, and is doing it with the help of the superdelegates who are solidly in her corner."

Some pundits have speculated that Sanders is staying in the race only to continue to force Clinton to address Sanders' main campaign issue, which is income inequality. King said that Sanders is a candidate with a passionate message that resonates with his supporters, and that Clinton is taking notice.

"If you listen to or read Clinton's rhetoric, you notice that she is adopting more and more of the Sanders' rhetoric about inequality in America," King said.

While Sanders could still theoretically earn the delegates needed for the nomination, King said his path to the nomination is significantly more difficult after Tuesday's votes.

On the Republican side, Trump continued his trend of piling up delegates in states across different regions of the country, including the big prize of Florida, though he didn't take the critical Midwestern state of Ohio, which was one of the two winner-take-all contests. King said the big question after a Kasich win in Ohio, his first, is if Kasich's campaign can translate that win into broader support.

"The so-called establishment would like to see Kasich be able to expand his popularity and win more delegates, be able to take this contest into the convention with nobody having an absolute majority of the votes," King said.

The big question for the GOP, King said, is if Donald Trump can get enough delegates in the remaining primaries to secure the nomination by having a majority of delegates, or if Kasich and Sen. Ted Cruz and earn enough delegates to force a contested convention.

"Even if Trump doesn't get an outright majority of the delegates, he will go into the July convention significantly ahead of either of his two competitors," King said.