Unconventional wisdom: Trump wins a three way race anyway

Tomorrow is the GOP Nevada caucus, where the majority of pollsters willing to dip a toe in that witch’s brew seem to think that Donald Trump is out to a huge lead when matched against the current field of five contenders. After that we have only a week until Super Tuesday, when 12 states will send Republicans to the polls in primaries or caucuses. (The Democrats also get American Samoa, but we’ll skip that vital battle for now.) Again, if the current polling doesn’t shift significantly, the prognosticators think that The Donald is on track to win a significant number out of that dozens states as well. (NY Post)

Donald Trump is leading in 10 of the 14 states set to vote in Republican primaries or caucuses over the next two weeks.

Recent polls show that Trump is ahead in Nevada, Alabama, Alaska, Georgia, Massachusetts, Tennessee, Virginia, Oklahoma, Minnesota and Louisiana.

According to Real Clear Politics, his biggest lead is in Massachusetts, where he is 35 points ahead of Marco Rubio.

Trump’s lowest margin of victory is predicted to come in Minnesota, where he leads Rubio by 6 points.

Granted, some of that polling is a bit stale and there have been plenty of headlines rolling under the bridge since then so perhaps things aren’t quite as rosy for Trump as they appear. But what if those numbers are still holding firm this weekend? Those states add up to a large pile of delegates. It’s prompting some folks, such as my radio partner Doug Mataconis, to wonder if perhaps the non-Trump ship has already sailed. The conventional wisdom I’ve been hearing for the past week or more is that Trump will finally meet his Waterloo when either Rubio or Cruz drop out and the rest of the party coalesces around them. Neither of them seem to have any incentive to drop out before next week if I’m any judge of matters, but that’s the current narrative. But is it correct? At National Review, David French offers a different view of the near term future. Keeping in mind that he’s a vocal anti-Trump voice, David opines that, particularly if Kasich and Carson stick around, Trump still has the numbers to essentially clear the deck in the newly defined “three man race.”

Donald Trump Will Easily Beat Ted Cruz and Marc Rubio in a Three-Man Race

If the race continues with Rubio and Cruz tearing each other apart — and with Kasich and Carson loving their way to ten percent — Trump’s solid base will be more than enough to win the vast majority of the states between now and March 15. The only real question will be whether Rubio or Cruz starts to achieve some degree of separation, but so far the margin between the two candidates has been 4.5 percent (Iowa), 1.1 percent (New Hampshire), and a razor-thin 0.2 percent (South Carolina). In Nevada, the RealClearPolitics average puts them — you guessed it — exactly one point apart.

Not only does the conservative fratricide limit either candidate’s ability to break out, it’s allowing Trump to sail forward in the face of remarkably light headwinds.

This isn’t crazy talk at all. We won’t know for sure until next Tuesday night, but Cruz and Rubio seem to be locked in what is effectively a tie. That provides zero incentive for either of them to get out and in a lot of these states a split like that simply doesn’t give either of them enough leverage to catch up to Donald Trump. And – again, barring a major sea change – the next two weeks aren’t looking all that much different. Eight more states go in the week after Super Tuesday and then five on March 15th which carry 358 delegates by themselves. In case you haven’t purchased your 2016 calendars yet, that’s three weeks from tomorrow.

Kasich seems serious about sticking around until Ohio (on the 15th) and even if Carson dropped out I’m not so sure that some of his remaining followers wouldn’t go to Trump anyway. So we can treat this as a three man race if you like, but French may be on to something here. Between tomorrow and the close of polling on March 15th there are 1,320 delegates up for grabs. Trump needs 1169 on top of what he already secured to hit the magic number. Realistically, with some proportional states left after March 15th and a few where he will still be popular enough for a win, he can still count on picking some up as he goes, so how many of these 1320 does he really need to nail down? For all the talk of being the last man standing to take on Trump and presumably overwhelm him, this thing could be over before before Cruz and Trump finish their stare down next week.


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David Strom 9:21 PM on February 02, 2023