Via the Free Beacon, this could be just the sort of last-minute gamechanger Cruz needs to be competitive in New York tonight.
Interestingly, you know who won’t be taking cyanide if Cruz beats Trump for the nomination? His old pal, Mitch McConnell:
“When a nominee gets to 1,237 he will actually be the candidate. If he doesn’t, there will be a second ballot. And about 60% of the delegates who are bound on the first ballot will be free to do what they want to on a second ballot,” he said. “And I’m increasingly optimistic that there may actually be a second ballot.”
Without naming Donald Trump, McConnell mentioned that “some candidates” complained it is “somehow tricky to follow the rules of the convention” but he said, “[We] are going to follow the rules of the convention.”
I know, I know — “maybe he’s hoping for a white-knight nominee like Paul Ryan!” I doubt it. McConnell’s a student of procedure; it hasn’t escaped him, I’m sure, that Trump’s and Cruz’s delegates are planning to rewrite the rules at the convention to bar white-knight nominees. It’ll be a binary choice between them. If McConnell’s “optimistic” about a second ballot, what he’s saying is that he’s optimistic that someone besides Trump will be nominated. And in this case, there’s only one person whom that could be.
If you’re trying to gauge your own cyanide-taking prospects, the hard truth is that only a very few primaries still left on the calendar matter much to deciding the nomination. That’s because the outcome in most is easy to predict barring something unusual happening over the next eight weeks. Trump’s going to stomp the competition tonight in New York, then he’s going to stomp them again next week in the remaining mid-Atlantic states. Cruz should clean up in plains states like Nebraska, Montana, and South Dakota that are still to come. There are just two states left with real mystery surrounding them: One is the big one, California, which is nearly two months away, the other is Indiana — which votes in just two weeks. Read Nate Cohn’s primer for why Indiana’s so important and why it’s a black box right now. Is Indiana more like Michigan, where Trump won handily, or Wisconsin, where Cruz won handily? Or is it more like Ohio, where Kasich won handily? We … don’t know, because no one has polled it lately. (Really!) Indiana is crucial because Trump’s expected to pile up somewhere between 1,050 and 1,150 delegates by the time California votes on June 7th. There are 172 delegates at stake there, which means whether he clinches before the convention may well depend on whether he’s closer to 1,050 or 1,150 by the time Californians go to the polls. The state that determines that is likely to be Indiana, which has 57 delegates in play on May 3 and which could conceivably break for any of the remaining three candidates.
The problem for Cruz, and the reason why Cruz-haters like King might want to hold off on the cyanide for now, is that he’s destined to limp into Indiana on a losing streak. And not a second-place losing streak, either: It’s probable that he’ll finish third in multiple New York districts tonight behind Kasich and may well finish third in some of the other mid-Atlantic states, like Maryland, next week. What does it do to his chances in Indiana if some chunk of voters there perceive him as “fading” when they go to vote on May 3rd? Even worse, asks David Byler, what does it do to his delegate-wrangling operation? The more Trump looks likely to win, the more reluctant unbound delegates will be to cross him by signing on with Cruz. And if Cruz does lose Indiana, does that put some of the plains states he’s counting on in play for Trump? If it does, the race is all but over. Maybe I can borrow King’s untaken cyanide.