Only Ted Cruz or Donald Trump can win the GOP nomination. Only Marco Rubio and John Kasich can decide which one does.
Let’s eliminate the delusional scenarios. First, John Kasich cannot win. With only 7% of the vote and a handful of delegates, there is no way for him to catch up. He is “Establishment” and nearly 70% of the Republican voters don’t want anything to do with that whole group. (I will not attempt to define “Establishment,” but the voters know it when they see it.) Count the votes. Ain’t happening.
Second, Marco Rubio cannot win. He is in third place, with 21 percent of the vote, and fading. Tea Party credentials aside, he has been labeled Establishment because of immigration. Even if he wins Florida, which he won’t, where else is he even close? He and his PACs may have driven voters away from Trump here of late, but those voters have gone to Cruz, not Rubio. Numbers don’t lie.
Third, Mitt Romney, David Brooks, and others are encouraging the rank and file to vote for Rubio and Kasich as a way to deny Trump the 1,237 delegates he needs. According to their plan, the Convention would then open up to the possible selection of Rubio, Kasich, or even Paul Ryan. Utter fantasy.
We have to wonder if Romney is in the secret pay of the Trump campaign, because all this plan would do is siphon off votes that otherwise would go to Cruz, thus handing the winner-take-all states to Trump. But even if Trump went to Cleveland short of the 1,237-delegate benchmark, he and Cruz would still boast 75 percent of the delegation between them.
The one thing that unites these delegates above all else is their utter disgust at decades of Republican appeasement and, in their minds, outright betrayal. They will not throw up their hands and accept some Establishment also-ran who couldn’t even win his home state.
Only Trump or Cruz can win. In a head-to-head vote, Cruz wins, but with Trump in the delegate lead and early voting already under way (especially in winner-take-all states like Ohio and Florida), Cruz’s window is closing.
If Rubio and Kasich want Trump to win, they should continue their campaigns. If they are willing for Cruz to win, they need to drop out very, very soon. Today would be good, if it’s not too late already.
Before the voting began, I predicted that Cruz would get the nomination, perhaps in a landslide, but now his pathway to victory is in serious jeopardy. Actually, most of what I predicted is happening, only much too slowly.
For example, I was right about Donald Trump’s ceiling. He has been getting about 34 percent of the total vote, about what his poll numbers suggested back in January. I thought he might lose some of those votes with time, but not so. His supporters are holding firm. I thought his ground game would be suspect, but his voters are getting themselves to the polls. You can’t deny that Trump has motivated an entirely new group of GOP voters.
I thought Cruz would gain ground, and he has. He has been getting about 29 percent, a big jump over the 20 percent in his January polling. Credit his ground game and his picking up votes from Carson, Undecided, and the also-rans, as expected. Also credit his superior debate performances.
The “Insurgent” candidates (Trump, Cruz, and Ben Carson) are pulling in a combined total of 68 percent of the vote, almost exactly the Insurgent total from January polling. (Note: had we included Carly Fiorina and Rand Paul in the Insurgent total back in January, we would have been almost dead center on the 68 percent we are measuring today.) As I predicted, these votes are not migrating to the Establishment candidates. And they won’t.
So where did I go wrong? Critically, I underestimated the propensity of well-meaning and otherwise rational people to throw away their votes on also-rans like Carson and Kasich, even after it was clear they could not win. After the March 8 primaries, we can add Rubio to that list. How much longer will this go on? And how many more votes will be wasted?
Also, I underestimated the conviction of the Trump voters to stick with their man, with total disregard for profanity, antics, inexperience, etc. They are so angry about the genteel elites rolling over while our economy is being destroyed and our freedoms dismantled, they are ready to take a chance on the strong-man who will at least fight against the socialist destroyers. They would eventually accept Cruz if they have to, but they will stick with Trump all the way to Cleveland.
In the final analysis, only Cruz can beat Trump, but he will need help. Senator Rubio and Governor Kasich, which will it be?