VICTORY LAP: Trump romped.
won seven out of eleven contests yesterday on Super Tuesday, putting him in the driver's seat as the overwhelming favorite for the Republican nomination for president. Here's the results with nearly all precincts reporting, via the New York Times:
Trump dominated. This is what it looks like when the clear frontrunner starts to become the presumptive nominee. If it was anyone else, we would say the race was over. There's basically no chance for any other candidate to beat Trump outright. Republicans last-ditch hopes are now based in the dream of a contested convention. But at this point, Trump is in a strong position to simply win the majority of the delegates, which would give him the nomination on the first vote unless the GOP tries something radical like changing the rules in midstream.
Trump slightly underperformed in a number of states and Ted Cruz pulled off a minor upset over the Donald in Oklahoma. The barrage of attacks on Trump arguably hurt him slightly among late-deciding voters. Trump's "ceiling" continues to inch upwards — in his four best states, he got between 39 and 49 percent of the vote, but he didn't totally blow away the field in terms of the popular vote (on net, he got around 36 percent of the popular vote, or 39 percent if you don't count Cruz's home state of Texas).
In other words, while this was a dominant performance, there was, perhaps, a tiny opening to at least slow down the Trump train. Unfortunately for Trump's opponents, however, the night shaped up extremely well for his long-term chances to win the nomination because of the shape of the contest to come and the way that delegates are awarded.
In a funny way, Trump's perfect strategic scenario last night was to win big but not dominate too much
— so long as no single opponent emerged as the clear rival. Trump benefits from a divided field, so small victories for his three main rivals help set the stage for Trump to romp in the contests to come (he is the runaway favorite in a divided field, and we're about to get to some big winner-take-all states that could give Trump an insurmountable lead even if he stalls at 35 to 40 percent of the popular vote).
That's just what happened. Trump's rivals are doing their pathetic "you get out, no YOU get out
" routine, but none of the candidates (well, other than WTF Carson) have any reason to drop out after last night. Ted Cruz had the second best night, with a big win in his home state of Texas and two more wins in Oklahoma and Alaska. He has now won four states in total and is in second place in the delegate count, well back of Trump but with almost double what Rubio has in third place. But Rubio also had some small victories: he finally won a state, Minnesota. A small-turnout caucus in friendly territory for Rubio isn't much to claim marcomentum, but it is a win, and Rubio finished a strong second in Virginia. Meanwhile, even John Kasich, mostly forgotten, had a strong second in Vermont, nearly catching Trump, and tied Rubio for a distant second in Massachusetts. Kasich has much friendlier territory to come, including his home state of Ohio, winner-take-all.
So all of them will soldier on, and Trump will keep winning. A sign of just how desperate the GOP is: the establishment is now hoping that everyone sticks around, which assures that Trump will keep winning states but gives them a sliver of hope of a contested convention. They're admitting they can't beat Trump, in other words. They're just praying for chaos.
Trump won 203 delegates on Super Tuesday, Ted Cruz won 144, Rubio won 71, Kasich won 19, and Carson won 3. That puts the total delegate count at:
Here's Nate Cohn at the New York Times
on just how great Trump's night was, and how well this is setting up for the frontrunner in the weeks to come:
Still, with Mr. Cruz and Mr. Kasich all beating or exceeding expectations, and Mr. Rubio failing to counter with strength of his own, it is hard to imagine either Mr. Kasich or Mr. Cruz leaving the race soon.
Yet there’s not much time for a single candidate to emerge before Mr. Trump takes a big and perhaps insurmountable lead.
By March 15, nearly 60 percent of all the delegates to the Republican nomination will have been awarded. On that date, five large states will cast ballots, and several, including Florida and Ohio, are winner-take-all states. Illinois and Missouri award their delegates in a way that will most likely assure a lopsided margin for the victor.
If Mr. Trump isn’t defeated on that date, he will be in a very strong position to amass a majority of delegates by the end of the primary season. If Mr. Trump won on March 15 and then won by even a little afterward, say by a margin as small as three percentage points, he would probably end with a majority of delegates — enough to avoid a contested convention.
Meanwhile, this was just a terrible night for Rubio. He finished below 20 percent in three states with 20-percent thresholds in order to pick up delegates — Massachusetts, Texas, and Vermont, shutting him out of delegates in those states. His one win in Minnesota was a healthy margin, but that's the state that allocates delegates most proportionally, so it barely made a dent (he got one more delegate than Cruz and three more than Trump, despite beating both handily). He lost in the primary states where he thought he had a fighting chance — Arkansas and Virginia. Cruz stayed ahead of him in the South. Rubio has managed to play the media expectations game well enough that, at least at first, pundits didn't laugh at him when he kept giving victory speeches after huge losses. But the illusion is gone. Rubio is a failed candidate who loses over and over again.
And that's good news for Trump. Rubio is arguably the candidate with the strongest chance to defeat Trump one on one, but will almost certainly never get that chance, with Cruz easily outperforming him and Kasich getting enough success to keep the wheels turning. Kasich is grabbing moderate GOP voters that don't like Trump, votes Rubio desperately needs. Arguably, Kasich has a better long-shot path to the nomination at this point, but the establishment has cast their lot with Rubio. Unfortunately for the establishment, Republican voters have rejected him. If Rubio didn't have establishment backing, his campaign would be over.
Arkansas was much like the rest of the country: Rubio finished third despite an endorsement from Gov. Asa Hutchinson and a load of other major Republican lawmakers. I managed to predict the order correctly here: Trump-Cruz-Rubio in a close race. Trump and Cruz did just about as well as I expected while Rubio did a little worse.
If Rubio can pull off a win in his home state of Florida, it might be possible to deny Trump the majority of delegates. But Trump has been dominating the polls in Florida for months, with a lead averaging almost 20 points. Rumors were floating last night that Florida Gov. Rick Scott may endorse Trump, which would probably be the nail in the coffin for Rubio. If Trump wins Florida — as he is the prohibitive favorite to do — he will be on the path to get the needed 1,237 delegates with relative ease. Trump also has leads in winner-take-all states Ohio and Illinois. The race may be over for all intents and purposes on March 15.
Can the Republican machine gang up to stop him somehow? Maybe, but it's going to require anti-democratic shenanigans at the convention that will enrage Trump's base of supporters to a degree that Republicans might lose a huge chunk of their votes and throw away the general election. There's almost no doubt that Trump will have the most delegates and popular votes — there's a very, very good chance that Trump will have the majority of delegate
s. For all of the dreaming and scheming you're going to read about this week, it's really not even clear that the GOP can stop him at the convention even if they want to.
The most likely scenario, by far, is that the next Republican nominee for president is Donald J. Trump.
via fivethirtyeight, here's the cumulative popular vote totals across the 15 states that have voted: