Nobody faintly interested in politics can ignore the campaigns. But nobody really knows much, leaving it to a largely inexperienced group of television pundits to state their opinions as fact. And everybody relies too heavily on polls.
So, for what it’s worth, here are my updated thoughts on the campaigns as they stand in mid-February.
Donald Trump. His popularity is based on his style and his clear opposition to business as usual. Amazingly, there is some substance to his ideas, occasionally on foreign policy, but his racism and free-swinging attacks turn many voters off. He probably can get no more than 40 percent of all Republicans. Not enough to win.
Ted Cruz. His main appeal is that he is not Trump and is a religious person. But he is not a compromiser and has no friends in the Senate because of his destructive approach. He does not offer enough of a viable alternative to win.
John Kasich, Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio. One of these should emerge as the mainstream GOP alternative to Trump and, unlike Cruz, at least two of them really would be different. Kasich, the Ohio governor, is a conservative by conviction and can still be pragmatic. Appeals to Democrats. Bush, the former Florida governor, seems to be an opportunistic conservative who does not project leadership qualities. Rubio is a conservative trying to pass himself off as mainstream. He also obviously lacks experience.
Could come down to Trump v. Kasich or Bush. Trump loses because he cannot win the general election.
Hillary Clinton. The most experienced person in the field, but acts as if she is privileged and is thus somewhat exempt from full-scale honesty. Not really a modern liberal, so probably could work with GOP. Friendly to big money interests. Probably would turn out to produce results like Obama and her husband.
Bernie Sanders. The most authentic candidate and holds the most progressive views. He favors big change, which others say he could not produce or pay for. If he won, his victory alone could provide at least some momentum toward changes he proposes. Appeals to young. If enough Democrats share his views on big money, he could win, but that’s not likely.
Somebody else. If Sanders defeats Clinton or comes close in races she should win, the Democrats could turn to an alternative. Vice President Biden, Secretary of State Kerry, California Gov. Brown come to mind. All old men.
Likely to come down to Clinton, a pragmatic but not popular choice.
The main event: Clinton facing Bush or Kasich. The country saved.
U.S. House of Representatives. Likely to remain Republican thanks to gerrymandered districts dating from 2010 state elections. But margin likely to be reduced if the Democratic presidential candidate does well or wins. There are enough close seats to allow the Democrats to close the gap. Maine’s second district is a good example.
U.S. Senate. Could swing to Democrats with more GOP-held seats up for grabs. This would be influenced by presidential race and lack of the ability to gerrymander. Democrats need a strong coordinated national campaign, which would mean sticking with Sanders if he were nominee.
U.S. Supreme Court. Beyond Scalia, almost certainly, there will be appointments to be made in the next four years. Much depends on the presidential and Senate elections to determine the Court’s approach to the domination of campaign finance by big money, attempts to suppress voting, health care and immigration. This was the hidden element of the 2016 elections, but now could be a focal point.
All national elections are important. This year’s could mark a transition, but to what? Pragmatism or deeper partisan war?
As for Maine, LePage helps Democrats gain control of the Senate and hold the House, because he worries people, who will want to limit his power.