Trump’s trump card: Blue-state Republicans

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.)