Establishment Republicans are in freak mode trying to find a way to stop Donald Trump who is the odds-on favorite to head the GOP ticket in November. It does not look like that will happen on March 1st – Super Tuesday. Trump is leading in eight of the eleven states that vote Tuesday, and he is likely to win a large number of delegates in the other three states where he currently trails. Perhaps Republicans should have thought about stopping Trump a little sooner.
For all practical purposes, the Republican presidential race has come down to three candidates—Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, and Marco Rubio. Governor John Kasich and Dr. Ben Carson are both in the race still, but neither have a serious shot at winning save for an earth-shattering development. Trump has the momentum and the broadest base of support. Rubio is now being backed by the establishment as their consensus candidate. Ted Cruz has stumbled over charges his campaign is using dirty tricks to win.
Trump leads in the polls in Alabama, Alaska, Georgia, Massachusetts, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Vermont, and Virginia. Together, these states have 362 delegates up for grabs. He trails by close margins in Arkansas, Minnesota, and Texas—the home state of Ted Cruz. These states have 221 delegates at stake, with the majority of those in Texas with its 155 delegates.
The numbers do not favor any of the challengers. For one thing, a candidate must get 20 percent of the vote in many of these states to qualify for any delegates. In Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, and Vermont, no candidate not named Trump has twenty percent or more in the polls. If that holds, Trump gets all the delegates in those states. Trump is below 20 percent only in Minnesota.
If Trump performs as expected Tuesday, where 25 percent of all delegates are elected, he may have too big of a lead to stop. This is especially true if he takes a majority of the delegates in Texas whether he wins or comes in second to Ted Cruz. The next delegate-rich states are Florida, Rubio’s home state, and Ohio, the state where Kasich is the sitting governor. Trump currently has a big lead in Florida and a shot at besting Kasich in Ohio.
Until recently, Cruz and Rubio were ignoring Trump and attacking each other. In last week’s Republican debate, Cruz and Rubio ganged up on Trump with one attack after another, calling him a con artist, a fraud, and worse—a liberal. Unfortunately, since much of the time the candidates were all talking at the same time, most of the punches failed to land. They looked like kids fighting in a school yard not presidential candidates. In a draw, Trump wins by default.
Rubio looks like a phony as the fair-haired boy of the establishment. He came into office as a Tea Party darling, calling himself the first Tea Party senator. He lost favor with conservatives for supporting comprehensive immigration reform. Almost as soon as the bill passed, Rubio disavowed the bill, making him look like the consummate flip flopper. To divert attention from his questionable actions, Rubio is calling Trump a con artist.
Cruz is hated by most of his colleagues in the Senate for his theatrics, particularly his role in shutting down the government. He was the early favorite of Evangelical Christians, but has lost that demographic to Trump. Cruz has jumped on Mitt Romney’s bandwagon demanding Trump release his taxes even though neither Cruz nor Rubio have released theirs either. Sunday, Cruz accused Trump of having Mafia ties.
If Trump is the nominee, he may not have a unified Republican Party behind him. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell is urging Republican Senators to disavow Trump even to the point of running anti-Trump TV ads in order to distance them from Trump. So, this presidential election may be the most exciting in decades. Stay tuned.