News Analysis: Trump surges ahead in Republican primaries, but game far from over

By Matthew Rusling

WASHINGTON, Feb. 25 (Xinhua) — U.S. Republican front-runner Donald Trump throttled the competition in Tuesday’s primary in Nevada, coming out far ahead of other candidates. But a Trump win is not yet a done deal, as the primaries are not yet over, experts said.

The in-your-face business tycoon was just this past summer regarded by many as a candidate who would never stand a chance of winning the nomination, but now has beaten analysts’ predictions as his popularity surges on Americans’ distaste for Washington’s political establishment.

“The big primaries are still ahead so this is far from being a lock. But (Trump) is in a very strong position,” Julian Zelizer, professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University, told Xinhua.

Brookings Institution’s senior fellow Darrell West said that Trump now is “in a strong position for the Republican nomination.”

“He has won in the Northeast, South, and West, and done well in many different demographic categories,” West told Xinhua.

“In Nevada, he attracted many Latino voters, which will be a big help to Republicans in the fall election,” West said of Tuesday’s primary in the U.S. state of Nevada.

Trump entered the presidential race at a time when unemployment is still high in the U.S., several years after the economy took a nose dive in 2008. There is palpable anger among Americans about the economy, which is now in its eighth year of sluggishness, and there are increasing fears among Republican Party (GOP) rank-and-file voters that the country is increasingly vulnerable to terrorism.

Trump’s supporters believe neither the White House nor the GOP-led Congress have done much to change the situation, and are desperate for change.

Still, while rival Senator Marco Rubio trailed Trump by more than 20 points in Tuesday’s primary, experts said neither Rubio nor Senator Ted Cruz, who won the Iowa caucuses, are out of the picture yet.

“Rubio and Cruz remain contenders, but are fighting to become the alternative to Trump,” West said.

“As long as the two of them plus Carson and Kasich stay in the race, it will divide the anti-Trump vote and help the frontrunner continue to win by getting 35 to 40 percent of the vote,” West said of rival contenders Ben Carson, a retired nuerosurgeon, and Ohio Governor John Kasich.

Zelizer said that if Rubio can solidify a few victories next week he could emerge in decent shape. “Trump’s success is so unpredictable and volatile, the race still remains unsettled,” he said.

Indeed, this primary season has surprised pundits, analysts and much of the American public, and turned the expectations of political pundits on their heads.

While just six months ago former Florida Governor Jeb Bush was considered a shoo-in for the GOP nomination, the race has turned out to be significantly more competitive than analysts initially predicted. Bush dropped out of the race after the primary in South Carolina on Feb. 20.

Once the dust settles and a winner from each of the two parties emerges, competition is expected to be fierce in the general elections. That will be especially the case if the race ends up being Trump against Hillary Clinton, the front-runner in the Democratic Party.

If the nominees are Trump and Clinton, each will start with high negatives and some personal disadvantages, West noted.

“I would give Clinton the edge on economic issues, but Trump has benefited from all the chaos and disorder that exists around the world. He will be very aggressive at defining the terms of debate and putting (Clinton) on the defensive,” he said.

People should not underestimate Trump because he has done much better than anyone expected, he added.

“In addition, he has been successful by spending very little money. That will change in the fall when a lot of big money comes in to defeat Clinton,” West said.


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