It is hard to fathom the fact that Donald Trump, who currently leads the GOP presidential field with 319 delegates, is actually not a shoo-in for the nomination at this stage. Despite the talking head punditry and calls for either Cruz or Rubio to drop out of the race, this is far from over. The RNC designed the rules and the primary schedule to get an early winner and avoid a protracted race as in 2012 so that the party could coalesce around a nominee. It isn’t happening. Again, the delegate allocation rules determine this outcome when there are three viable candidates in the mix.
Undoubtedly, some here and elsewhere will make the point that the only way Trump could be stopped from gaining the nomination is for Rubio or Cruz to drop out to make it a two-man race. If the goal is to put the brakes on Trump, that can be done but time is running out.
Here is a sampling of the media’s reaction to Super Tuesday as concerns Trump:
- The #NeverTrump Crowd Should Get a Life at PJ Media
- Making History: Clinton and Trump Blaze Trails at CNN
- Trump Dominates, But Republicans Are Still Split at the Weekly Standard
- Fractured Field Is Pushing Trump to Nomination at RealClearPolitics
- Game Over: Trump is Now Unstoppable at Fox News
- Trump’s Success Shows He’s Changing the GOP at New York Daily News
According to these headlines, why have any more primaries? Even though Trump is only 25% of the way to the magic number, apparently the handwriting is on the wall. The rest should just move over and acept the inevitable- Donald Trump is the GOP nominee.
Except there are a few things wrong with this defeatist analysis. First, these same pundits were calling for Trump to take 10 of the 11 states that awarded delegates on Tuesday, expecting only a loss in Texas. Instead, he took seven. Everyone was expecting it to be a delegate bonanza for Trump. Instead as of the current count, Trump picked up 238 delegates to 209 for Cruz. That is pretty close even though Trump widened the gap over Cruz by a net total of 29 delegates. But considering what was forecast, it was a pretty good day for Cruz. Now, of course, the talk turns to despite that good Cruz showing, the schedule of primaries now turns against Cruz.
Even that may be a mistake. The South was supposed to be Cruz’ firewall. His victories here would have mitigated losses elsewhere when the schedule turned against him. By that time, the theory went, he would have a large delegate lead and momentum. Of course, Trump got in the way, the firewall evaporated and Cruz should just get out. Except, Cruz beat Trump outside the South in Oklahoma, Alaska and even Minnesota where Trump finished a distant third. I guess we will not see too much Trump real estate investment in Minnesota any time soon.
Furthermore, Trump had a large lead over his nearest competitors in Virginia. He narrowly won by 28,000 of over 1 million votes cast. And in a general election, Virginia is now a swing state, not a reliable red state like Georgia or Texas. This is not attempting some spin to negate the inevitability argument on the pro-Trump side. The fact remains that despite the punditry and the headlines, Trump still has about 65% of the electorate against him.
Some months ago, pundits here and elsewhere were talking about the Trump ceiling and they estimated it would top out at around 35%. On Tuesday- the alleged great night for him-, Donald Trump garnered 35% of the popular vote in the eleven states that awarded delegates. Even if we remove Texas from that equation, he tops out at 38%. That recent poll by CNN showing Trump with 49% is a farce.
Hence, Donald Trump, despite his bombastic rhetoric to the contrary, is not really growing the party. To the extent that he is doing that, he is inviting in Democrats. It is like stocking the corporate board room with cronies so that it makes your hostile takeover of the company much easier. Is that the GOP wants or can endure?
Furthermore, as many have noted, most of Trump’s victories have been in open or semi-open primary states. Whenever the process was closed to Republicans, Trump’s performance drops. Coming up we have an almost perfect laboratory situation in the real world to test this hypothesis. Most of the upcoming contests are closed primaries or caucuses. The Nevada caucus, which Trump won handily, was a joke by most accounts. Regardless, should Trump score significant victories in these contests, then perhaps there is some merit in his rhetoric. But if Cruz and/or Rubio score victories, then we can make an educated guess on what is happening here.
Finally, there is a growing movement in the Republican Party and among conservatives to purge each of Donald Trump. The debate last week brought up many points about Donald Trump that seemed to get under his skin. Rubio and Cruz were starting to strip the fake veneer of his business success, possibly his personal wealth, and some shady dealings that invoke the words “fraud” and “rip off” and “illegal immigrants.” Trump did not help himself over the weekend regarding the KKK gaffe. In fact, one poll showed that only 27% of voters on Tuesday had heard of it and even less had heard of Trump’s use of illegal immigrants to help build Trump Towers and even fewer still heard of Trump University. If Rubio and Cruz can continue to hammer away at his alleged yuuuuge greatness, who knows what can eventually happen?
As an aside: Did Chris Christie look like a punished bulldog at Trump’s press conference or what? For someone who was once a rising star in the GOP, Christie has certainly sunk to new depths. But, I guess when your dreams of occupying the White House (is Taft’s tub still available?) were dashed and you are term-limited in your part-time job as Governor of New Jersey, one guesses this is what happens. It is pretty pitiful, but Christie deserves all that he has sown.
Christie: “Did he just call me his bitch?”