Two men had a good night on Super Tuesday II, but only one of them has a shot at the nomination. Donald Trump won four of five states and almost all of the delegates outside of Ohio, where John Kasich won his first victory and 66 delegates. That brings Kasich’s total to 138, 42 fewer than Marco Rubio, who suspended his campaign after getting blown out by Trump in Florida. It’s also 267 fewer delegates than Ted Cruz, who came up nearly empty last night, and 502 fewer than Trump, who needs about 60% of the remaining delegates to win the nomination outright.
Cruz, who won only 34 delegates last night, called it “a good night,” and wants Kasich to withdraw:
Ted Cruz suggested John Kasich reconsider the viability of his Republican presidential campaign late Tuesday, saying the race was essentially a “head-to-head” battle between himself and Donald Trump. …
“I think tonight was a good night,” Cruz told NBC News after his primary night speech. “I think tonight we move much closer to a head-to-head matchup.”
He told NBC News it was “mathematically impossible” for Kasich to beat Trump and implied it might be time for the Ohio governor to follow Marco Rubio in bowing out of the race.
“The longer Kasich stays in the race, the more it benefits Trump,” Cruz said. “Unlike Kasich, our campaign number one has beaten Donald Trump over and over and over again nine different times.”
True — but Trump has beaten Cruz “over and over and over again” in twice as many states. That’s a silly argument, but the mathematical argument makes much more sense — once properly understood. Kasich has no shot at winning the nomination outright, as Cruz says, but the odds are getting better that none of the three make it to 1237 at this point. The rest of the primaries and caucuses are a mix of proportional and winner-take-all states that will make it somewhat tough for Trump to win 59% of the remaining 1009 delegates if the race consolidates to a two-man race. Cruz has to win something like 83% of the remaining delegates, which may not be mathematically impossible in a two-man race but it’s likely only a theoretical possibility.
Of course, Rubio’s withdrawal unbinds most of his 170 delegates, and Cruz hopes to pick those up on the first ballot. That would require him to pick up about two-thirds of the remaining delegates, somewhat more possible if still almost as unlikely He paid homage to Rubio’s efforts last night and explicitly called for his supporters to rally behind the Cruz banner:
In the end, Cruz is right, even if Kasich probably won’t take his advice, and even if Cruz is overlooking the real mathematics that should drive that decision. Cruz and the Never-Trump contingent needed Kasich to grab Ohio, especially after it became clear that Rubio couldn’t win Florida and keep the 99 delegates out of Trump’s column. Now that Kasich has succeeded in Ohio, the opposition to Trump needs a two-man race to get the nomination to the floor of the convention. The only way to hold the Republican Party together in a contested convention that doesn’t nominate Trump is to have someone else in the delegate lead by the time everyone gets to Cleveland. The only candidate left with that potential is Ted Cruz. That’s the only mathematics that matter now.