The polls have now made clear that Donald Trump is enjoying the benefits of having wrapped up the Republican nomination before Hillary has wrapped up the Democratic counterpart. Two polls released in the last three days show Trump with a narrow lead, and another shows a virtual tie. Whereas polls three weeks ago showed Trump trailing by 7-10 points nationally, they now show that the race is a dead heat.
Overall, Trump has been bolstered by the fact that the overwhelming majority of elected Republicans, including his former rivals, have either endorsed him or remained silent. While there are a number of prominent Republicans who have not yet been heard from, the number who have gone full #NeverTrump have been pretty limited – everyone in the Bush family, Mitt Romney, and Ben Sasse are by far the most prominent names. Paul Ryan remains ambivalent but he sounds like he will eventually get in line. By far the lion’s share of prominent Republicans are either openly supporting Trump or in “wait and see” mode.
So while Trump’s unity has been far less universal and far rockier than any other previous Republican nominee, he’s seeing the polling benefits of not being under constant attack from other Republicans. He’ll probably receive another from the convention itself.
Meanwhile, as Hillary continues to slide relative to Trump in the polls, she has to be telling her skittish donors and operatives not to worry, and that she’ll receive her very own unity bounce after Bernie is vanquished, and at that time she’ll regain control of the race for good.
But the way Bernie is playing out the end of this race, you have to wonder if that will actually be true. Sure, the GOP primary was even more bruising than the Democratic one, but it is well and truly over at this point. All the contestants have surrendered to Trump. None of them will be at the convention arguing loudly to their supporters that Trump only won because the rules are rigged (even though, interestingly, Bernie Sanders has gotten a larger share of the Democrat vote than Donald Trump has gotten of the Republican vote so far). Trump’s presence at the convention will be an almost entirely celebratory one, and anyone who won’t fall in line won’t get invited to speak.
On the other hand, Bernie is loudly telling his supporters that he is going to contest this thing all the way to the convention. And he is telling his supporters – inaccurately – that the reason he is primed to lose is because the establishment has rigged the game against him (in reality, he is losing badly in votes cast).
If the Nevada Democratic convention was any indication last weekend, the DNC might well be a repeat of 1968, with Bernie at the head of the riots. One only need to look at Bernie’s bristling reaction to the suggestion that he and his supporters were at fault for the chaos and violence to know that, at the moment, Bernie does not intend to play nice at the convention.
Granted, after the votes are counted and Bernie has time to reflect, he might change his tune and become more conciliatory – but at the moment, Hillary and her supporters are facing the reality that the Democratic convention might be an ugly, violence marred embarrassment to the whole party – Hillary included.
If that happens, and especially if Bernie refuses to endorse her at the end (or worse, runs as an independent) then the truly unthinkable might happen – Donald Trump might actually become President. Right now, the only person who appears to have the power to prevent that is Bernie Sanders himself.