Mock Con: The task before us

Conley Hurst

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The 2016 W&L Mock Convention is almost here.

Anticipation is building, and, for those making the key decisions, so is the stress. By the end of this week, only one Republican candidate will remain standing. The political world is watching, and we will answer the call.

Mock Con has developed quite the reputation over the years given its impressive history. Since 1948, the W&L prediction has been wrong only twice. The most recent was 2008 when we picked Hillary over Obama. Since ’48, there have been no incorrect Republican selections. If history has anything to say about it, we have a good shot at getting it right this time around.

But we don’t just rely on history. This weekend’s event is the culmination of many months’ work. In essence, Mock Con is one massive research project. As a Mock Con state chair, I’ve been intimately involved with that process. I’ve done hours and hours of research on my state alone. I’ve established contacts and studied polls. Every one of my fellow state chairs has done the same thing. In any typical election cycle, we’d be well poised for success.

But, 2016 is far from a typical election cycle.

The simple fact is that this year’s Republican primary is almost impossibly difficult to predict with any certainty so early in the game.

First of all, there’s the sheer number of candidates. Time has managed to shrink the field somewhat, but it’s still the most cluttered we’ve seen in a while.

Secondly, the Iowa Caucus revealed that Trump does not have the firm support that some polling might have suggested. It also showed that Rubio can compete against Trump and Cruz in a blue-collar, conservative state. Despite finishing third, Rubio has proven that he’s in it for the long haul.

Thirdly, there’s the fracturing of the GOP that’s taking place before our eyes. Gone is the simple dichotomy between the establishment and the Tea Party. No longer do we have a candidate like Romney or McCain who could glide to the finish line by slowly building consensus between the two. More and more, we are seeing the Republican Party split into three groups: the establishment, the Tea Party and the Trump coalition. Candidates now tend to fit into one of these groups with few crossovers. Sometimes the divisions can be fierce. For example, the establishment hates Ted Cruz, a favorite son of the anti-establishment Tea Party. (PSA: Calling your own majority leader a liar isn’t the best way to make friends.) All in all, there is unprecedented division within the Republican Party and the fissures have grown dangerously deep.

Somehow the race will settle itself eventually. But there’s no telling how this will happen. Despite Trump’s lead in the polls, I don’t think his brash appeal can survive the entire primary. Despite Cruz’s strong grassroots support, the establishment would never allow him to take the nomination. And as popular as Rubio has become in some circles, I’m not sure if he has the ability to unite a party that’s torn to shreds.

This week, the ball is in our court. We will try our best to make sense of the hectic campaign before us. I’ll admit, I’m not feeling confident. But if we somehow find a way to add 2016 to the long list of Mock Con successes, we will be remembered.

Here’s to getting it right.