ATHENS, Ga. -- Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders are gaining traction with their anti-establishment messages, one of Georgia’s most respected political scientists says, and it’s not inconceivable that one of them -- Trump -- could end up in the White House.
“I think it’s conceivable — not likely — but conceivable that we end up with a President Trump,” said Charles Bullock, a University of Georgia political science professor and author of many books on elections and politics.
“(They) have tapped into a wellspring of anger, probably fear — maybe it’s fear generating the anger. I suspect it probably has something to do with the state of the economy,” Bullock said.
He said many voters have made it through the most recent recession, but they’re being paid less than they were before. Upset by this, they blame the system of the economy and look for a leader who can tell them what’s wrong with it.
“That’s what Trump essentially is telling them — not in great detail. He’s saying if you elect me, I’m going to take care of it,” Bullock said.
He added that the primaries show Trump is bringing out voters who may not have voted in the past. Polls show his supporters tend to be people without a college education and those who have a low income, Bullock said.
“That’s why Trump said last week that he loved the poorly educated. So, there’s some reciprocity there,” Bullock said.
The Democrat frontrunner is Hillary Clinton, who is sweeping up votes in the South, her firewall, but Bullock says that’s not all it seems.
“What’s interesting about this is this firewall ... with one exception, none of those states are going to vote for her in November,” Bullock said, adding the exception could be Virginia.
Bullock said last week’s Michigan primary results are more insightful because the state has a demographic most representative of the nation as a whole. Trump and Sanders both won in Michigan.
Because many voters seem to be unsatisfied with career politicians and their party’s establishment, voters may end up instead valuing a candidate’s personality over his or her policies, Bullock said.
He said Tuesday primaries are deal breakers for several GOP presidential candidates and could affect the Democrat race, as voters in Florida, Illinois, Missouri, North Carolina and Ohio will go to the polls.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich is predicted to drop out of the race if he doesn’t win Ohio. Although U.S. Rep. Marco Rubio, of Florida, has said he will not drop out of the race if he doesn’t win Florida, Bullock questions his political future.
“If you can’t carry your own state, where do you go from there? What’s plan B?” said Bullock.
If Trump wins the Republican primaries for all five states, it would give him an enormous lead, but not an unbeatable one, Bullock said.
“He would not have the majority yet of the delegates, but he’ll move a lot closer,” Bullock said. “He’ll still have U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, of Texas, to contend with.”
For the Democrats, this week’s primaries could boost Vermont Sen. Sanders ahead of Clinton in public opinion, Bullock said.
“If Sanders begins winning these Midwest states, it may cause some of the Democratic super delegates to begin to think, ‘Wow, what’s happening here?’” he said.