Beginning of the end: Let the voting begin!

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Photo by Joan Marcus. Photo by Joan Marcus.

We’re going to kick off this week’s column with an unusual bit of product placement. Although we rarely endorse anything outside of C-SPAN call-in shows, we would like to take this moment to declare the Broadway musical Hamilton the best piece of politically inspired stagecraft since Frost/Nixon, and the best musical about the Founding Fathers ever (sorry, 1776). Seriously, if you need a soundtrack for the current presidential election season (which kicked into high gear this week with the first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses), beg, borrow or steal a copy of the Broadway cast recording, and set aside two hours to listen to it from beginning to end. If you reach the point where Thomas Jefferson saunters in and belts out the Rush-meets-Elvis number “What’d I Miss?” (he’s been in France, see) and still aren’t hooked, then I’m not sure we can still be friends.

Anyway, as we enter this year’s completely unpredictable primary season, Hamilton provides a great reminder that American politics has always been filled with strivers and miscreants, and that our current crop of candidates—as cartoonish as some of them may be—pales in comparison to the epic characters who helped found this great nation.

Which brings us, perforce, to the current GOP frontrunners, Donald Trump, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio. Now that Cruz has won the Iowa caucus vote, we can safely say the Republican Party establishment is screaming into its panic pillow. On the Democratic side, wild-maned Vermont socialist Bernie Sanders nearly pulled off an upset win against Hillary Clinton. But as we’ve said all along, the chances that Bernie will manage to engineer a repeat of Barack Obama’s winning 2008 primary campaign are infinitesimally small, and we fully expect him to be out of the race by May at the very latest.

Now all eyes turn to the New Hampshire primary, where Trump is favored to win (God help us all). The real battle on the Republican side will be for second place, which, at this writing, polls show as a four-way tie between Cruz, Rubio, Ohio Governor John Kasich and professional punch line Jeb Bush. With Rubio’s strong third-place finish in Iowa, he will probably nab second in New Hampshire (and perhaps even vault into the lead for the elephant’s South Carolina primary on February 20)—clearly the anti-Trump candidate. For the donkeys, there’s a good chance that Bernie could win this one. But as for his long-term chances, please see above.

And then (finally!) comes March 1, when 12 states (including Virginia) and American Samoa go to the polls to try to impose some order on this chaotic process. If Trump carries two of the first three GOP contests, this will be the final firewall to stop his momentum. In Virginia, expect polling place fireworks as Trump supporters find themselves confronted with the Republican Party of Virginia’s “loyalty pledge,” which will require them to either declare themselves a Republican or go home without voting. As for the Democrats, we are completely certain that Clinton will carry the day by a sizable margin.

But we were also certain that Trump would have been laughed out of the race by now, so what do we know?

Odd Dominion is an unabashedly liberal, twice-monthly op-ed column covering Virginia politics.