CNN will be hosting another debate on Thursday. There is a good chance that Ben Carson will be out by then leaving only four on the stage. Kasich is terrible, and probably won’t get much speaking time. Leaving really just three debaters on stage:
- Path to victory – Continue to win a split electorate. Win a majority of delegates on March 1st, narrowly win the winner take all states and amass a large delegate lead. For this to work both Rubio and Cruz must stay in the race since Trump loses 1 on 1
- Debate – Doesn’t need to do anything. Really just needs to weather the storm. Apparently it is impossible for him to drop below 30% of the vote.
- Path to victory – Come out of SEC Tuesday with a substantial lead over Rubio. Raise enough money to win decisively where possible and avoid states where he cannot win (New Hampshire). Rubio must be ground down by a lack of delegates. Cruz must block Rubio for second in proportional states, and either win or have Trump win in winner take all states. Ideally Cruz can convert a small portion of Trump’s support (7 points or so) he can be in first nationally (subtract 7 from Trump, add those to Cruz, account for momentum boost).
- Debate – Will need to convince Trump’s supporters to vote for him instead. Trump’s supporters are largely moderates who are sick of being deceived by the people they elect. They don’t mind Trump’s flops since they don’t view him as authentic. Basically a liar you know is better than someone trying to play you for a fool. Cruz will need to demonstrate two things 1) Trump actually is a liar and intends to flip on the few things his backers actually do care about (immigration, bail outs, cronyism) 2) Cruz is actually believable on these things.
- Path to victory – Rubio is in a tougher spot. Rubio cannot actually grab Trump’s support since Rubio is exactly what Trump supporters are voting against. Rubio might manage to pick up most of Bush and Kasich support, but that will be difficult. Those voters are likely more discouraged than up for grabs. Rubio also cannot convert enough of Cruz’ support to take the lead. Rubio has to manage to thread the March 1st needle where Trump does not build an insurmountable lead, but Cruz does not end up in first place. Then Rubio will vie for Winner Take All states hoping that he can come in ahead of Trump (who is absolutely trouncing him in Florida right now).
- Debate – Rubio needs Trump brought down a peg or two, even if that means elevating Cruz, because Rubio cannot win until late March and if the race is over by then it is not in Rubio’s favor. Basically Rubio absolutely must attack Trump decisively demonstrating two things 1) Trump is weaker than he appears 2) Rubio is a legitimate fighter.
My best guess at this point: Rubio and Cruz spend the night attacking each other and ignoring Trump. Around Feb 27th there is a concerted effort to attack Trump but it ends up being too little too late. Cruz and Trump walk away with the lion’s share of the delegates, but Rubio is not decisively defeated. Cruz remains in the race since he is in 2nd for delegates, Rubio remains in the race since he has a ton of money donated, and Trump remains in the race for giggles. The winner take all states tip towards Trump, and Rubio continues to pick up a few delegates with Cruz grabbing not so many after March 1st. We go into June with Trump in a decisive lead but Cruz having an actual path to victory if and only if Rubio were to give full throated support to a Cruz nomination. That is, if Cruz could win California, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, and South Dakota AND Rubio pledged his delegates to Cruz then Cruz would win at the convention. Otherwise Trump wins. So, does Rubio back his frenemy or stay in to the bitter end?
Thank you George Bush, thank you Mitch McConnell, thank you John Boehner, thank you Nikki Haley, thank you Chris Christie, thank you John Kasich, than you Rince Preibus. It is from your hard work making sure your supporters get the best deal possible, your dedication to compromise, your flexibility on fulfilling campaign promises, your insistence to see our nominee is well liked by congress, and your focus on the short term that we are staring at the likelihood of either a President Trump, Clinton, or Sanders. Your leadership of this party has squandered the first opportunity in 40 years to build a bench capable of overturning Roe v. Wade. You have brought us to the point where the next president will build in a medicare option to the exchanges and we can all count on friends of congress getting special benefits written into federal law. You have ensured that the freedom of religion will be fully demoted to the freedom of worship – so long as the worship is not offensive. May we see in 2018 candidates running as “Tea Party” rather than “Republican.” I hate you all and I wish to see you join the Whigs.