Republican Andrea Allen and Democrat L.J. Bryant said Friday (March 11) that the next several days after a Republican presidential debate this week could provide a key test for all candidates this year. Both Allen and Bryant, who co-lead the NEA Political Animals, spoke to Talk Business & Politics about the state of the 2016 campaign.
Republicans debated Thursday night (March 10) in Miami on CNN, with most of the questions centering around foreign policy.
Allen said Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., who has trailed both Donald Trump and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, in Florida, did well while Trump sounded more presidential in the debate. Bryant said Rubio may have been damaged from prior debates and campaign stops due to talk about Trump. “It was a quiet debate (Thursday). I think Rubio suffered over the ‘hand’ comment and may have drove votes to Cruz,” Bryant said.
On Tuesday (March 15), there are Republican primaries in Ohio, Florida, Illinois, Missouri and the Northern Marianas while Democrats will decide primaries in Florida, Illinois, Missouri, North Carolina and Ohio. As of Friday, Real Clear Politics showed Trump with a 459 to 360 delegate lead over Cruz, while Rubio had 152 delegates and Kasich had 54. Hillary Clinton leads U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., by a 1,223 to 574 delegate margin.
Both Allen and Bryant said Gov. John Kasich, R-Ohio, did good as well. Allen said Kasich has developed as the top establishment candidate in the field, while Bryant said Kasich discussed liberal or libertarian themes like climate change and same sex marriage.
As for the Democrats, both said U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Trump are drawing the same type of voters. However, Bryant said Trump, especially if he is the Republican nominee, could create more battleground states. “Trump could be negative in a state like Nevada with the Hispanic vote, but could be positive in states like Wisconsin and Michigan,” Bryant said.
Allen said the endorsement of Trump Friday by former candidate Ben Carson will definitely help Trump, especially with evangelical voters. In the endorsement, Carson said Trump was the right choice for the job and was “a voice of the people to be heard.”
Both also said that Arkansas will likely have a voice in the general election, especially when it comes to political operatives. Sarah Huckabee Sanders is working as an advisor for Trump, while Alice Stewart and Clint Reed work as advisors for Cruz and Rubio, respectively. Also, Black Rock native Eric Blackwell works with the Hillary Clinton campaign, Allen said.