Even as Donald Trump holds commanding leads in presidential polling, I’ve maintained that an establishment candidate still has the inside track to winning the nomination. As my Cook Political Report colleague David Wasserman outlined, the rules of the game are designed to favor the success of more-moderate candidates. If Trump or Ted Cruz wins the early-state contests, the proportional rules of allocating delegates will prevent either from running up the score. And the winner-take all rules for many of the more moderate “blue” states on March 15 and beyond should favor a more pragmatic Republican down the stretch—at least on paper.
But these calculations are based on a premise that I’m having a bit more trouble accepting these days—that blue-state Republicans are more likely to support the establishment candidate than their red-state counterparts. It’s an especially shaky assumption to make with Trump, given the political pedigree of his strongest supporters. To put it another way, many of Trump’s supporters are self-described moderates and view him as the more centrist candidate. (Based on his history of holding liberal positions and past donations to prominent Democrats, they have a point.)