“If you think you’re leading and no one is following, you’re only taking a walk.” – Afghan Proverb

April 5, 2016

STATESBORO, GEORGIA – How have we gotten here?

Tonight is a victory for the spoiler as Bernie Sanders and Ted Cruz took the Wisconsin Primary, a contest that highlights both the apparent faults of both parties’ frontrunners and gestures to their inherent flaws. Long considered a liberal stronghold, it’s a state that not only elected Scott Walker twice but upheld his legitimacy after a substantial challenge in 2012, a validation few imagined and even less championed.

How far we’ve come. Cruz won tonight’s upset with the assistance of Walker, a candidate so vile he went from secret frontrunner to disgraced dropout in record time and dropped out nearly three months before a single vote was cast. It’s a partnering that only the most masochistic liberal could envision. Cruz toured the state with Walker and consistently referenced the governor’s motorcycle, an anecdote that was supposed to ingratiate the pudding-brained Walker to the electorate. He sucked up to every conservative talk-show host in the Badger State, a tour that more than likely resulted in checks and promises the Texas senator will never find himself in a position to pay back.

If the governor and the Right Wing media in Wisconsin powered Cruz over the line, it set the stage for Sanders to take his sixth straight victory. This is an electorate ready to storm the statehouse with pitchforks and torches and carry Walker out into the square for a tar and feathering, a ride on a rail, or something much, much worse. Much easier than violence, they were happy to knock on doors, call voters, and donate to the ATM that is the Sanders Fundraising Apparatus.

More importantly, the win cements Sanders’ claim that momentum belongs to him and furthers the narrative that gave Barrack Obama his presidency: that Clinton cannot win The Big One. Just as it happened in 2008, it now looks more and more like Clinton’s ability to maintain a campaign’s progress, both in strength and message, is in doubt. It was only two weeks ago, when the Secretary swept Illinois, Florida, Missouri, North Carolina, and, the big prize, Florida, the contest seemed at its logical end. Talking heads were discussing how Clinton was in a position to call a metaphorical truce with her opponent and begin the hard work of winning his supporters to her cause.

Now, the first week of March, she’s trading barbs with Sanders in the press and fighting with voters in the rope line. Two weeks from now one of the richest prizes in the process: New York, the state Clinton served as senator, her stomping grounds where she should never win by anything less than twenty-five points. The numbers now paint a tightening race as Sanders is within breathing distance of Clinton, and though everyone expects her to pull it out, will it be the landslide that closes the door for good?

Doubtful. Sanders has the money and now he has the leverage. The votes he’s gotten so far give him not only momentum but a considerable share of the Democratic electorate. If he’s able to hold on and steal a state here and there, there’s no telling where this leads. And with the FBI saying their investigation into Clinton’s E-mails should conclude in May, there’s a possibility this race could change quickly.

Of course, the only way this happens now is if the Democratic superdelegates, a group of unbound delegates who run the party apparatus, feel the wind shift directions and cross the street to join Sanders. Some may very well do so after Wisconsin, but a mass exodus will only take place if either New York or California end up in his column. Both are gargantuan tasks, but neither is impossible.

On the other side of the equation, impossibility is the story of the night. After his loss Donald Trump will have to win nearly seventy percent of all remaining delegates to win the nomination outright, a practically impossible feat. Cruz and Kasich, both mathematically eliminated from achieving the same thing, can now only spoil the road for Trump and ensure a contested convention.

Trump’s problems run deep now. He wasn’t helped, of course, in the past week when his campaign manager Corey Lewandowski was charged with battery of reporter Michelle Fields, a development that has all but erased Lewandowski’s power and has thrown the campaign into disarray. Without his influence, Trump has floundered in the past few weeks and has allowed Cruz and Kasich to sneak into the conversation and snipe delegates. Worse yet was Trump’s recent missteps, including his disastrous interview with The Washington Post and even more damaging assertion on Hardball that he’d be in favor of women who’d gotten abortions to be punished by the law.

More telling than his off-the-cuff mistake was his reaction, a confusing hodgepodge of denials that did him more harm than good. In the past Trump had set a precedent of never apologizing, of never stepping back, a precedent that made this week’s scrambling so curious. Then, today, when speaking with a few of my sources in the Trump campaign, I was told that the mood was apoplectic inside, that staffers around the country were being laid off and that those who weren’t were busy updating their resumes and calling in favors.

Lewandowski’s troubles are dragging Trump down, but more than that, they’re leading to a frenzy that’s consuming the day-to-day business that should be prepping the candidate for the general election. Whenever Trump isn’t on stage – and even his rallies are losing their energy – he should be in front of a board of advisors drilling him with facts, figures, and the necessary information he’ll need to binge on to step on a stage with the Democratic nominee, not to mention if he happens to get the keys to the Oval House.

Even more immediate, Cruz and Kasich, as well as the Anti-Trump Movement, which is more than willing to submarine the Republican Party if it means keeping Trump out of the election, are running circles around the mogul in preparing for the upcoming convention, a contest that’ll more than likely now be the site at which the nominee is chosen. Both Cruz and Kasich have hired the most experienced and intelligent convention experts and have greased the wheels at the state level, where delegates have already pledged to vote for them after the first vote, a vote where Trump will most certainly not be named the nominee, and will shift the balance of power starting with the second vote. Trump’s movement on that front, according to insiders, has been more to speculate what he’ll do than to contact the necessary agents.

It’s shaping up to be a long summer for one Donald J. Trump. If Lewandowski was the secret force behind his candidacy, and that’s looking more and more possible by the day, Trump is flying into uncharted territory without much in the way of help. Those who are jumping ship say access to Trump, especially at the peak of his popularity, was hard to come by and policed by his campaign manager, who seemed to enjoy his power over the phenomenon. The braintrust who’s left in the vacuum have either had nothing to do with Trump’s success or aren’t up to the job in the first place. Everyone else has found new work or discovered their conscience.

Soon Trump will step out from his self-maintained reality and discover, while intending to lead, he’d taken a long walk with no one there to follow. He’ll no doubt scan the horizon futilely in search of something resembling an answer. Maybe he’ll even ask aloud how he got there, with no voice left to answer.