Now that the Super Tuesday counting is finished for the most part, we’re going to be hearing multiple declarations of victory alongside demands that the wheat be separated from the chaff. Yesterday morning I was wondering whether there would be some clarity by now. Either Trump would turn out to be impervious to assault and sweep ten states or the power of a hashtag (#NeverTrump) combined with a blitz of information about Donald’s record would suddenly pop the balloon. What we got was closer to the former, but the latter did seem to at least soften some of Trump’s victory margins and kept him from taking everything but Texas as many people were predicting. Everyone got a trophy of sorts last night, with Ted Cruz being the biggest surprise (three wins instead of just Texas) and even Rubio scraped out his only first place finish on Ed Morrissey’s home turf.
Still, if this were anyone other than Donald J. Trump we were talking about, this election would be essentially over. And yet somehow it’s not. As we’ve been saying for a while now, it’s all going to come down to the delegate math. ABC did a late night roundup of where we stand on that front.
THE TALLY: With 12 states awarding delegates, see how the delegate totals stack up when the dust settles.
With some delegates still to be allocated, Donald Trump had won at least 192 Super Tuesday delegates and Ted Cruz at least 132. Marco Rubio had won at least 66 delegates, John Kasich 19 and Ben Carson three. There were 595 GOP delegates at stake in 11 states.
Overall, Trump led with 274 delegates, Cruz 149, Rubio 82. It takes 1,237 delegates to win the Republican nomination for president.
Those numbers were posted a bit prematurely and as of this morning it looks a little bit more like this:
I think the general consensus at this point is that neither Cruz nor Rubio is looking at making it to 1,237 by the time the voting is done. If that’s true, then their only goal is to keep picking off enough delegates here and there to keep Trump from a majority. That may be a route to seizing (as opposed to winning) the nomination, but it’s also a path to imploding what’s left of the party as we know it. Still, a plan is a plan. The old (as in last week) conventional wisdom was that everyone else except for either Rubio or Cruz should drop out and the one left standing would take down The Donald at last. After last night that plan isn’t looking nearly as promising. It guarantees Trump at least second place delegates in all the rest of the proportional states. At National Review, Charles C.W. Cooke argues that perhaps it’s time for nobody to drop out.
Who, if anyone, should now drop out?
It is fashionable tonight to propose that Marco Rubio is “done.” I disagree. In fact, I’d argue that Rubio did not have anything like as bad a night as people are suggesting. Until the exit polls got everyone riled up, it was broadly accepted that the SEC was not Rubio’s stronghold, that he was understandably behind in the polls, and that his primary task was less to win outright than to rack up delegates. He achieved that task, running ahead of his polling almost everywhere and staying neatly within his targets. In fact, one could make a case that he did much better than merely meeting his bottom line: Unexpectedly, he almost won Virginia, securing only one fewer delegate there than did Donald Trump; if current trends continue, he will have won Minnesota outright; and, barring a late collapse, he will have managed to keep himself above 20 percent in at least two of Texas, Tennessee, and Georgia. Ceteris paribus, Rubio will thus leave the evening with a win under his belt and with enough delegates to keep his hand in.
I have to read that with a rather hefty grain of salt, primarily because Cooke is one of the authors of National Review’s “Against Trump” initiative and seems determined to find a solution where Rubio winds up being the nominee. While the Minnesota caucuses were a nice shot in the arm for the Florida senator, it’s not much. And aside from that he mostly came in third. His 87 delegates leave him nearly 200 behind Trump already with some more states coming up where he is not polling well. And that includes his home state.
If Trump’s numbers continue to soften under the ongoing assault, it’s still possible that he can be held to less than 1,237 delegates, but I wouldn’t put much money on it. If The Donald is for real he will have to find a way to lock this thing up in the next two weeks. If he can’t manage that then we’re in for a long, dark summer.