The presidential race could feature a contest between conservative firebrand Ted Cruz and establishment Democrat Hillary Clinton, according to Charlie Cook, the respected political observer and publisher of the Cook Political Report.
Iowa will winnow down the conservative upstart Republican candidates, and the New Hampshire primary will thin out the traditional side of the Republican Party, Cook told attendees at the American Institute of CPAs’ Personal Financial Planning Section conference Wednesday in Las Vegas.
“The number three and four [finishers] are going to be gone, and an establishment Republican will be a real contender” after New Hampshire, he said.
The races on both sides “really don’t get going until March,” when a number of important states have primaries, Cook added.
But in the meantime, the field will narrow.
“On the conservative side, you keep reading about Trump running away” with the race, he said. But Trump’s 35 percent support from Republican voters “tells you that 65 percent are not for him.”
“Trump’s support is pretty inelastic and not likely to grow beyond where he is,” Cook said. “He is a vehicle for [angry voters], and they’re not done venting their spleens.”
Cook said that in voter focus groups, Trump supporters were enthusiastic about his positions, but that “about 30 minutes into it, you start to hear, ‘I like him, but … ,’ with comments about his temperament, judgment and personality.”
“My hunch is … when they’re done venting, and they go into selecting-a-president mode … they’re going to look for a more plausible vehicle for that anger,” Cook said.
“My guess is the angry vote will gravitate to Cruz.”