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Eye On Candidates
February 23, 2016

Trump on Course for Nomination?

Following businessman Donald Trump’s big win in South Carolina, a growing number of people seem to think he is more likely than not to be the 2016 Republican nominee. Several articles this morning address the issue of Trump’s candidacy and whether he could be stopped. From Bloomberg Politics:

Four Problems With the 'Winnowing' Theory of Trump's Downfall

The theory is that Trump, who notched his second consecutive primary victory on Saturday, is a factional candidate with a “hard ceiling” of support limited to the one-third of the party. While that has propelled him to victory in crowded field in New Hampshire and South Carolina, if other candidates quit, argue some anti-Trump conservatives, those voters will consolidate behind an alternative and soundly defeat the blustery billionaire for the nomination….

…[A] close examination of Republican voter data shows that the "winnowing" theory has four serious flaws.

  1. It’s unclear Trump loses a three-person race

An Economist/YouGov national survey released last week tested the theory that Trump would suffer in a three-person race with his two chief rivals. It found Trump winning with 46 percent of the vote, ahead of Marco Rubio with 28 percent and Ted Cruz with 26 percent….

  1. Trump’s support is broad-based in the party

While Rubio pitches himself as best-positioned to unite the party, Trump has a case of his own to make. Exit polls in the first three states show strong support for the New York billionaire across age groups, sexes, ideologies, income level, religious inclinations, issue preferences and candidate qualities….

The article paints a picture of a frontrunner who is likely to remain the frontrunner even if and when there is a single opponent.

CNN takes a look at the question of whether Trump can be beat and looks at his rivals’ paths from this point forward:

Headed into Super Tuesday, the remaining campaigns are both buoyed and afraid of the reality when it comes to the delegate count: A Republican could win the nomination simply through hanging into late March. The math and upcoming calendar also could end someone's chances quickly, even if they've performed well up to now. That's why Rubio and John Kasich, vying for the establishment and more moderate vote, are likely to try and stick around. And why Cruz needs to do well in the Southern states coming up soon….

Cruz has stumped heavily in the South and has staked his campaign on doing well on Super Tuesday, with his home state of Texas and other Southern states voting. A failure to do so could seriously imperil his chances going forward….

Kasich's campaign, for example, has said it is looking ahead to Michigan, which votes March 8 and has 59 delegates up for grabs proportionally unless someone reaches the 50% winner-take-all threshold. But experts caution against such a strategy — drawing comparisons to Rudy Giuliani in 2008 who banked on starting his campaign in Florida, only to have the race largely out of reach by the time voting got there….

While Cruz and Rubio have fairly obvious (but not easy) paths forward, and Kasich retains an outside chance, many in the GOP are apparently coming to terms with the idea of a Trump nomination, according to Politico this morning:

With the controversial businessman the clear front-runner heading into Nevada and next week’s Super Tuesday contests, there’s an emerging consensus that the odds of dislodging him are growing longer by the day. Whispered fears that Trump could become the Republican nominee have given way to a din of resigned conventional wisdom – with top party officials and strategists openly wondering what the path to defeating him will be….

The biggest hurdle confronting the mogul’s four rivals is that they continue to divide support among themselves. In each of the three contests that have been held so for, the anti-Trump field has fractured, making it impossible for any single contender to surpass him. A similar dynamic could play out again in Nevada, with Trump failing to win a majority of support but still earning more than his opponents.

There is some hope among anti-Trump forces however, largely resting on Rubio:

Another, perhaps far greater danger is that Rubio, who is emerging as the clear favorite of party leaders, coalesces the support of the Republican establishment and takes the baton as the anti-Trump alternative. Following Jeb Bush’s withdrawal from the race, Rubio has quickly moved to win over the former Florida governor’s backers, including top lawmakers and donors. One, Dirk Van Dongen, the president of the National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors and a longtime Bush family contributor, said in an email late Monday that he was joining the Rubio campaign.

Rubio is pushing to lock down others. According to three sources familiar with Rubio’s schedule, the Florida senator is preparing to embark on a March fundraising tour of Florida that will take him throughout the state. On March 11, Rubio plans to meet with some of the state’s biggest Republican bundlers in a bid to vacuum up fundraising dollars that helped to powered Bush’s bid.

The biggest obstacle to a Rubio v. Trump contest could be Cruz, the article suggests:

To dislodge Trump, though, Rubio must first defeat another rival: Cruz. People briefed on Rubio’s game plan say he’s planning to launch an all-out assault on the Texas senator, labeling him as a dishonest figure while appealing to evangelicals, a group that Cruz had been counting on – a strategy Rubio used with success in South Carolina. “Watch Rubio go nuclear on Cruz,” one source briefed on the plans said.

If Rubio is able to go after Cruz effectively, many in the party hierarchy envision the makings of a one-on-one race. They are hopeful that Cruz will find himself stretched by fighting a two-front war against Trump and Rubio, both of whom have targeted the Texas senator in recent days and who are likely to do so in Thursday’s GOP debate.

After the Nevada caucuses this evening, there will still be 46 contests in the remaining states as well as those in D.C. and several U.S. territories to go, so by no means will the nomination fight be wrapped up tonight or even within the next month. But given how many theories of how and why Trump gets knocked out of the race have proven incorrect, those opposing his nomination now probably shouldn’t find too much comfort in any current theories.