Tag: kevin spann

Super Tuesday: Make or break for candidates

In light of recent events — Hillary Clinton’s modest win in Nevada, Donald Trump’s major victory in South Carolina and Jeb Bush exiting the race — Tuesday could be the day that decides it all.

Super Tuesday, as it has come to be known, is the day in which the greatest number of states cast their primary ballots. Eleven states, including Alabama, will hold both Republican and Democratic primaries.

Additionally, three other states will hold only Republican primaries.

On the Democratic end, with only Vermont — and to a lesser degree Massachusetts — looking like friendly territory for Sen. Bernie Sanders, Clinton has a chance at scoring a major victory. While a strong showing for Clinton on Super Tuesday probably would not force Sanders to exit the race, it would make him far easier to paint as a protest candidate, rather than a serious threat.

Though Sanders could theoretically recover from such an instance, it would be difficult to envision a favorable scenario for him. If Sanders does decently, however, Clinton’s window of opportunity will have basically closed, and Democrats will be in for a repeat of 2008, with the race going all the way into the summer.

Although it is unlikely, if Sanders does very well against Clinton, he could deal her a blow that she could not recover from. Super Tuesday may well be the Republican’s last window of opportunity to halt Donald Trump’s momentum.

If Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio — whose home turf is in theory the South — are unable to pull off some solid victories, then there is hardly any point in dragging the race out. As for Republican Gov. John Kasich, the path forward is nay uncharitable due to how out of step he has become with his party.

Ben Carson is in a similar boat; while he has exceeded expectations, it is hard to see him carrying any states at this point. When asked for insight, the JSU political science faculty expressed surprise that the race had come to this point.

Dr. Tim Barnett, professor of political science, said that if it were not for the high stakes on both sides, one could expect a great deal of raiding the other side’s primary — a situation that occurs in states where voters, who are not required to register as a member of a specific party, vote for the weakest candidate of the opposing party — since Democrats presumably have a better chance of victory against Trump, and Republicans a better chance against Sanders.

Former U.S. Congressman Glen Browder, professor emeritus of political science, is no stranger to the political game, and expressed concern for the volatility of the race. He said he wondered what the deep fractures within the two parties would mean for 2020.

Dr. Lori Owens, professor of political science, who is also a veteran of state and local politics, said the race has been “bizarre” so far. Owens said that Republicans’ window to defeat Trump seemed to be closing.

As for the Democrats, she said that Clinton will likely pull through, but that it had become obvious that she “has some challenges with voters that her husband and Barack Obama did not have.”

As for Alabama specifically, while the general climate seems to favor Trump and Clinton, there is little polling or ground support to back up these assumptions. As such, it should go without saying that every vote matters.

Kevin Spann
Political Columnist

Supreme Court vacancy intensifies presidential race

With the New Hampshire primary now behind us and the presidential race beginning to take shape, history has thrown the nation a curve ball in the form of an opening on the Supreme Court.

Following the primary voting in New Hampshire, the Republican field was narrowed down and conventional wisdom challenged. With the exit of two candidates once thought to be serious contenders, Sen. Rand Paul and Gov. Chris Christie, the Republican field seems destined to narrow to a three-way race.

As for the Democrats, Sen. Sander’s was the favorite to win the state, due to its proximity to his own.

However, his victory by over 50,000 votes may have proven that Clinton, who is still the frontrunner in nationwide polling, is in for a grueling race.

With the future of both parties up in the air due to the vast differences of their candidates, this weekend’s vacancy on the Supreme Court has further intensified the election.

On Feb. 13, Justice Antonin Scalia passed away while vacationing in Texas, reportedly due to natural causes.

Scalia’s departure has left the court now tied between liberals and conservatives, with Justice Anthony Kennedy’s swing vote becoming even more influential.

The Court’s opening has greatly increased intensity among candidates because the odds of President Obama appointing Scalia’s successor seem dim.

Within less than 24 hours of Scalia’s death, leading Republicans announced their commitment to blocking Senate confirmation of anyone the president puts forward.

Republicans have argued that a precedent has been set for presidents to not appoint Supreme Court Justices in their final year of office. However, President Reagan appointed a Justice in his final year though the contentious process began about half a year earlier. 

While Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham has sought to broker a deal to put forward a nominee palatable to conservatives, his chances in the current political environment seem slim.

As such, it appears likely that voters will have a say in not just the next president, but Scalia’s successor as well.

No matter who the next President is, he or she will have considerable trouble appointing a successor if partisanship and gridlock remain at the degree they are now.

Kevin Spann
Political Columnist

Primaries begin with a bang

On Monday, Iowa, who holds the distinction of being the first in the nation to cast ballots, held their Democrat and Republican caucuses.
In the grand scheme of things, Iowa is, of course, just one state with a fairly small pool of voters. However, the results of this state can have a dramatic impact on the election.
For instance, in 2008, President Barack Obama’s victory over Hillary Clinton and John Edwards in Iowa may well have made his eventual nomination possible. As for 2016, however, the results were a potential game changer on the Republican side, and an absolute nail biter for the Democrats.
Despite holding a steady lead in the polls, the controversial Donald Trump was defeated by Sen. Ted Cruz by about 6,000 votes. This came as something of an upset.
Besides being down in the polls, six-term Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad had spoken out against Cruz due to his opposition of ethanol subsidies, an important issue concerning Iowa’s agricultural interests.
Due to how Iowa awards delegates, however, the victory was not absolute for Cruz. He was awarded 8 delegates. Trump was awarded 7, and Sen. Marco Rubio 7 as well.
Additionally, on the Republican side, former Gov. Mike Huckabee’s poor showing has led him to suspend his campaign. This was a big disappointment for Huckabee. Despite winning Iowa in 2008, this year he garnered barely more than 3,000 votes.
Due to poor showings, one can also expect vultures to begin circling Rick Santorum, Jeb Bush, Carly Fiorina and others, making more dropouts likely. On the Democratic end of the aisle, supporters of  former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders had to wait well past midnight before a winner was declared.
All through the night, Clinton led Sanders by a paper-thin margin. Once all the totals were in, Clinton was declared the victor by a few decimal points.
If Democrats in Iowa used paper ballots rather than a convoluted method of debate, headcount and delegate selection, one could expect calls for a recount. Due to the extreme closeness of the results, Clinton was awarded 22 delegates and Sanders 21.
As such, debate will now center on whether this represents a tie, or if it will be deemed a win regardless of the margin. The Sander’s camp has called the results a tie, and one is hard pressed to argue with that analysis.
While things would of course be more heated had the Clinton camp outright lost the state, this is still a less than ideal result given that Sander’s is very popular in New Hampshire — the next state to cast their votes.
Democrats also saw a candidate exist the race. Former Gov. Martin O’Malley, whose role has basically been to be a traditional Democratic alternative to Clinton, has suspended his campaign.
O’Malley was the last man standing for Democrats not yet sold on Clinton or Sanders, and his departure has made this officially a two-person race. Next week, New Hampshire will cast their ballots and all eyes will be on Trump and Clinton as they try to regain their front-runner status.

Kevin Spann
Political Columnist

Alabama legislators revive lottery talk

Republican State Senator Jim McClendon has written a lottery proposal calling for a simple yes or no vote to be placed on the 2016 electoral ballot.

The proposal, however, will not ear mark what the lottery funds would be spent on.

It would merely determine whether voters would be comfortable with the legislature establishing some sort of lottery.

Democrat Craig Ford, who has introduced failing lottery legislation for years, has spoken out against this tactic.

Ford has argued that legislatures should make it clear what potential funds would go toward, rather than giving the legislature a blank check.

Ford has also pointed out the irony of Republicans in essence, saying that voters can trust the state government to use the funds wisely; this was one of their attacks against previous lottery proposals.

Ford has thus pledged to file a counter bill specifying that lottery funds go toward state scholarships.

Due to the dismal number of Democrats in both of Alabama’s state houses, if push comes to shove, Ford’s bill is unlikely to win out.

An education lottery similar to the one in Georgia has been a white whale for Alabama Democrats since the late 1990s.

As the state’s revenues have repeatedly come up short compared to the state’s expenditures, a number of Republicans have begun to soften their stance on the issue.

As recently as last year, Del Marsh, the Republican President Pro Tempore of the State Senate, opened the door to considering the expansion of Indian casinos and dog tracks. However, such talk seems to have halted. Don Siegelman, the last Democrat to occupy the governor’s mansion, successfully pushed for an education lottery to be placed on the ballot in 1999.

Despite the lottery proposal being a key issue of his election, when put before the voters, the measure failed by over 100,000 votes.

The measure came up short for various reasons. The concept of legalizing gambling offended some religious voters.

Others felt that if the lottery came up short on funds, the state would be forced to pay the difference. Some speculated that political allies of the governor would profit from administering the lottery.

Since the proposal’s failure, virtually every prominent Democrat in the state has sought to try again. Given the pathetic shape of the state’s Democratic Party, one could even argue that the lottery is their last remaining issue that resonates with voters who are not already committed Democrats.

This debate, like previous ones, may also end up being much ado about nothing, given that Republicans have not yet united around McClendon’s proposal.

Before the proposal even came forward, State Senator Shay Shelnutt had already announced his intentions to put an early end to any lottery or gambling talk in the coming session.

State Representative Rich Wingo has also signaled that he will oppose any gambling legislation on religious grounds. Meanwhile, power players like Gov. Robert Bentley, Senator Marsh and Representative Hubbard, have yet to take any stance on the proposal.

Kevin Spann
Political Columnist

GOP candidate controversy causes civil war among Democrats

With the controversial Donald Trump, and Senator Ted Cruz dominating the Republican primary there has been a great deal of speculation about how either of their victories may handicap the Republicans going into the presidential election.

There has been a great deal of rumbling among both the donor class and more moderate members of the party about how they may oversleep on election day, vote third party, or even do the unthinkable and cross the aisle to vote for Hillary Clinton.

Such talk has come from even prominent members of the party including former Republican standard bearer Bob Dole and Senator Lindsey Graham who have both jokingly threatened to sleep in if the nominee is Cruz or Trump, respectively.

This talk of a fractured Republican Party has made Democrats optimistic of their chances in the coming November. This optimism may be rather misplaced though giving the deep fractures brewing within their own ranks.

Largely ignored by the media the prospect of Democrats going into November equally divided is growing more and more likely. Once dismissed as a long shot whose role was merely to bring up issues, Independent Senator Bernie Sanders has begun to seriously threaten Clinton.

While Clinton’s national lead in the polls has fluctuated from robust to modest, Sander’s has made the race a competitive one in the early voting states. In Iowa, Clinton’s lead is perhaps within the margin of error, and in New Hampshire, Sander seems more likely to pull off a modest victory than not.

Conventional wisdom argues that Clinton will throw up a firewall as more conservative Democrats in the South and Midwest begin to vote. Even if this strategy proves successful, Clinton may well be in trouble going into November. Even with few endorsements from elected Democrats above the local level, no super pac funds, and a lack of endorsements from liberal interest groups, Sanders has struck a nerve within large stretches of the party.

Particularly troubling for the Clinton camp is the minority of Sanders supporters who are not inclined to shake hands at the end of the primary and back whoever the winner is. A vocal minority of the Sanders faction have taken an “all or nothing” stance.

A number of editorials have run in liberal-friendly publications such as the Huffington Post and Salon arguing that progressives would be better off throwing the 2016 race than backing Clinton.

A “Bernie or Bust” campaign has even been launched with the goal of gathering enough supporters willing to write in Sanders name in the general election to in essence blackmail the Democratic party into accepting him as their nominee.

The movement, unsanctioned by the Sanders campaign, has already attracted over 36,000 supporters. While these numbers are relatively small in the grand scheme of things now, they should still be troubling.

Democrat loyalists would of course hope to avoid repeating the 2000 presidential election during which a prominent liberal alternative to Al Gore perhaps stopped the party from carrying otherwise winnable states like New Hampshire or more importantly Florida.

Kevin Spann
Political Columnist