Yeah, as much as we’re all enjoying these fantasy scenarios in which the RNC wrests the nomination from Trump through some procedural chicanery and banishes him to the island of third-party losers, I think in the end they’ll convince themselves that they can ride the tiger. Crown Trump as the duly elected nominee once he has a majority of delegates, be good soldiers for him in the general election, and if he loses as badly as the smart set thinks he will, cross your fingers and hope that some of your new nationalist voters will stick around for the 2018 midterms and beyond. I think Trump will make it a little easier for them too during the general election. He has zero incentive to continue pandering to his base this summer and fall; he could go full communist and they’ll vote for him anyway. The way to beat Hillary is to tone down the authoritarian nonsense, start talking up economic populism, and do what little he can to sound more “presidential.” In the meantime, though, “I look forward to watching Sean Spicer defend religious tests and mass deportation,” tweets David Harsanyi. “Should do wonders for RNC’s future.” Hey, Spicer’s already started lying about Trump’s prediction of riots at the convention. Religious tests and mass deportation should be easy for him after that.
I wonder how many RNC officers will resign in protest rather than carry Trump’s water in the general election. The RNC is obliged to defend its nominee as an institution, but just as #NeverTrumpers are under no obligation to vote for him (sorry, Huck!), Spicer and Reince Priebus are under no obligation to work for him. We’ll see. Speaking of the general election, though: If the vote in California on June 7th looks anything like this poll, which currently has Trump leading Cruz 38/23, then you almost certainly won’t have to worry about a floor fight and cheating. Every projection I’ve seen from election nerds over the past two days has Trump over 1,000 delegates, and sometimes over 1,100, by the time the last five states vote on June 7th. California is the big prize that night, of course, with 172 delegates at stake. Those delegates are awarded winner-take-all by congressional district, so if Trump beats Cruz consistently across the state, even if it’s by just a few points, he’d win a huge windfall of delegates and very likely clinch the 1,237 he needs for the nomination. Obviously, lots of caveats apply. We’re nearly three months removed from California voting, and the poll, which was taken a week ago, includes Marco Rubio, who’s at 10 percent. Cruz will pick up some of that. Another recent poll has the race much tighter, with Trump up just five points over Cruz and another 33 percent split between Kasich and Rubio, giving Cruz even more hope. The dynamics of the race, with Trump potentially on the brink of clinching, will also heavily influence what Californians do, needless to say. John Kasich is at 20 percent in this poll but if he’s still in the game on June 7th and Cruz needs a goal-line stand in CA to block Trump from 1,237, some anti-Trump Kasich fans there will switch their vote to Cruz to help. The suspense that night could reach “overtime in the Super Bowl” levels, even though, er, it’s highly likely that Trump will be close enough to 1,237 even if he loses California that he’ll be able to clinch at the convention anyway by mopping up a few unbound delegates.
That is, unless Kasich quits sometime soon and makes this a two-man race. RCP’s Sean Trende ran some numbers to try to gauge just how badly Kasich’s continued presence in the race will hurt Cruz. Answer: Badly.
I ran two different scenarios in our delegate calculator. I won’t give you the specifics, but the general idea is this: I generally gave Trump 40 percent of the vote, to Cruz’s 35 percent and Kasich’s 25 percent. In New England, I gave Trump 60 percent of the vote to Kasich’s 25 percent and Cruz’s 15. In West Virginia, I gave Trump 60 percent, Cruz 25 percent and Kasich 15 percent. I also skipped Colorado, North Dakota, and American Samoa, since their delegations are unbound…
I then re-ran the scenario without Kasich, allocating 70 percent of his vote to Cruz and 30 percent to Trump…
The outcome is fairly stark. Under the first scenario, Trump wins 1,296 delegates and clinches the nomination on the last day of primary voting.
Under the second, Kasich-less scenario, however, Trump has 1,125 delegates, while Cruz collects 899. Given that under the second scenario, Cruz rattles off a string of wins at the end, and given the fact that Rubio’s and Kasich’s 300 delegates would probably disproportionately gravitate toward Cruz, this would likely be enough deny Trump the nomination.
Kasich staying in, if Trende’s guesstimates are right, is likely the difference between Trump as nominee and Cruz as nominee. It’s a 170-delegate difference to Trump’s totals alone. And to think, like most of the other anti-Trumpers out there, I was dumb enough to celebrate on Tuesday night when Kasich won Ohio, denying Trump a 66-delegate windfall even though it guaranteed that he’d stay in the race and continue to do terrible damage. That’s the sort of strategic shortsightedness that’s crippled Trump’s opponents for the past nine months. In a way, we deserve him.