I’m not a pollyanna. Ted Cruz is in a tough fight for the nomination. If he loses on Tuesday in Indiana I think the wind goes out of his campaign and Trump goes to the convention with 1,237 delegates and the momentum necessary to stop any attempt to challenge the credentials of his delegates and, ultimately, ultimately he takes the nomination. The polls have been so wild and erratic this primary season that only an imbecile would rely upon them for even a hint at the direction of the race, much less the actual outcome. We will know Tuesday night whether or not Cruz is able to credibly continue a campaign.
The media knows this. They are also heavily invested in the Trump candidacy for a couple of reasons. First, they have donated some two BILLION dollars of free media because Trump is a revenue center for news organizations. Some outlets, like FoxNews, should name their building in his honor. Second, they don’t think Trump can win the White House — their preferred outcome — but if he does they know it will be business as usual in Washington because Trump has made a career off crony capitalism and using the power of government to make money. Hence today’s New York Time headline Donald Trump Doesn’t Need Indiana Anymore.
The main reason is Mr. Trump’s success on Tuesday among Pennsylvania’s 54 unpledged delegates. Even though none of them are officially bound to a candidate, 31 of the 54 spots went to delegates preferred by Mr. Trump. And before the election, others had said they would vote for the winner of their district (Mr. Trump won all of the state’s districts). My colleague Jeremy W. Peters reported that Mr. Trump “appeared to have won about 40 of Pennsylvania’s 54 unbound delegates.”
This is simply an attempt to spook voters and Cruz supporters and Cruz loyalist who are delegates into thinking the fight is over.
The fact is that we really don’t know the loyalties of the Pennsylvania delegates. In the current environment where Trump supporters, incited by the activities of Trump henchman Roger Stone, are sending death threats to delegates who do not support Donald Trump the odds of anyone saying they oppose Trump goes down by a considerable amount. They may vote for Trump. They may not. There is certainly zero reason to raise their head and live through a couple of months of fear and intimidation. And very, very few people know how these people feel because the price of intimating you will not vote for Trump is simply too high. Given the organizational capacity of the Trump campaign, we aren’t even sure that the 31 delegates he preferred will vote for him. This is the campaign, you will recall, that circulated a list of Trump-preferred candidates at the Colorado convention that contained mostly Ted Cruz loyalists.
They could be right. They could equally be wrong. And writing this story as if they had actual facts is dishonest. But honest reporting, or even dishonest reporting, is not what is going on here. Think of this as a marketing piece. A trailer, if you will, for the rest of the GOP primary season.
For the media to keep Trump’s campaign alive for reasons of revenue generation, they have to create the illusion of a horse race that does not hinge on Indiana. Because if it does hinge on Indiana and Cruz wins that state, then there is no more drama to be had until the GOP convention because nothing that happens until then changes the status quo. With the specious story about Pennsylvania, the story and horse race lives because then Trump still has to win California and the media can chronicle that race:
Of course, he would prefer to win most of Indiana’s delegates. Without them, he would probably face some drama on the first ballot at the Republican convention. The Pennsylvania unbound delegates remain free agents, allowed to vote for whomever they want, and the same is true for other unbound delegates that Mr. Trump would try to woo.
A win in Indiana would allow him to win with even a narrow victory in California.
But the old analysis, based solely on pledged delegates, no longer holds: Winning in Indiana doesn’t seem necessary for him to win the nomination.
What they are saying, contra their headline, is that to sew up the nomination, yes, Trump very much needs to win Indiana. But they have created a narrative where if he does win in Indiana and goes on to win California, then we are right back to the horse race and the speculation about Pennsylvania’s delegates can be rolled out again for more horse race. Because, as the reporter well knows, we simply do not know what these unbound delegates will do.
This is concern trolling for the sake of revenue generation. It is not news or news analysis.