16899728125_e07ef6a12f_Ted-CruzIt’s a two-man race! Or a three-man race! Or a four-man race! It depends on how you count it. There are four credible candidates remaining, three with a chance at winning the nomination, and two with a credible chance of winning the nomination. Or so it appears at the moment.

The immediate response after South Carolina was: Good for Trump, Goodish for Rubio, Bad for Cruz. My own account, almost immediately, was that it was very good for Trump, kinda bad for Rubio, and really bad for Cruz. The second-place tussle between Rubio and Cruz ended up being a sidestory. They effectively tied. The big news were the gaps between the two of them and everybody else. To the north of them was Trump, whose ten point victory was extactly what the anti-Trump faction(s) did not need. Below them was a 10+ point gap with everyone else, which was exactly what those two needed. Which gap was the bigger deal? I’m rather strongly inclined to believe the first, and after a couple days of trying on narratives, it appears that the consensus is with me.

I’m not yet convinced that Trump cannot be beaten, but for the first time I am putting his odds at greater than fifty percent (roughly 55%-25%-10%-10% for Trump-Rubio-Cruz-??). It would be even better had Cruz managed to beat Rubio with just a bit of daylight, but it was more than enough. The good news for Rubio is that as not-great as his night was, Jeb is out and Cruz’s night was so bad that it ultimately redounds to his benefit as well as Trump’s as he starts getting the nationwide establishment support he has long needed. Cruz’s path to the nomination was already narrow, and he could run some rather bad publicity going into Super Tuesday.

Or maybe not, and that’s Rubio’s problem. Nevada is almost all downside and no upside for Rubio. It had been an afterthought, but I’m convinced that it is critically important for the two major candidates not named Trump. And it’s important for Trump, too. But it offers Cruz an opportunity to reverse his fortunes just when he needs to. And that would, of course, be terrible news for Rubio whose main path to the nomination involves Cruz abandonment on Super Tuesday. It’s Ground Game vs Fundamentals. The Fundamentals should favor Rubio between the two of them. He has ties to the state and ties to Mormonism. If not for the Trump Cloud, he would probably be winning that state. Cruz, on the other hand, has the legendary campaign apparatus and in a caucus that matters a great deal. Advantage: Cruz. And by extension, Trump. Trump can survive a loss, but he does need to win. The polling is so favorable to him right now it will open up questions if he doesn’t (despite the fact that polling in Nevada is notoriously unreliable). But Trump is Trump, and momentum has not proven to be worth anything this primary.

This is going to be the last week that placement matters. On Super Tuesday, it will be all about delegates and states. I’m not sure how I’m going to handle it for the post but I do have some ideas. Here we go for this week:

Donald Trump
1st Place: This doesn’t have to happen, but it’ll be a big hit if he doesn’t. And if it does, it’ll cause a week of party uncertainty that will serve him very, very well.
2nd Place: He’ll be okay. The good news about being the frontrunner is that you can afford stumbles. This would qualify as a stumble, though.
3rd Place: This would qualify as more than just a stumble, but nothing he can’t rebound from. If the news feedback is bad, it could make it truly a three-person race. The press may shrug, though.

Ted Cruz
1st Place: Worst-case scenario for Rubio. This doesn’t necessarily make him competitive, but it would help.
2nd Place: This would be a very good outcome, assuming that he beats Rubio. He can point to Rubio’s connections with the state and institutional advantage and say “And I beat him anyway!” It’d be the first time he beats the expectations game.
3rd Place: Not a good outcome. If he keeps it close he will be okay. If not, the press (which is already hostile to him) will be mercilous and he has to start really worrying about Super Tuesday. Best case for him here is that the press spends more time talking about Rubio.

Marco Rubio
1st Place: This could make it a competitive two-person race, but probably not. It could, at least, break the fever of Trump’s inevitability. It wouldn’t necessarily even do that.
2nd Place: This keeps him going.
3rd Place: This makes it really hard for him to do what he needs to do to win the nomination.

Category: Newsroom

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8 Responses to State of the Primary: Nevada

  1. Michael Drew says:

    I can’t comprehend how you can think it’s so dire for Cruz already. Unless you’ve found out how much money he has & it ain’t much. I get why it was a bad result, but he’s won a state and stands to take a huge prize if he can get to TX & win his home state. (OTOH, if he loses TX, that’s obviously curtains). I know Over There I was saying that the second/third distinction has to matter, but as you say it really was just a tie, and basically what happened is they both got crushed by Trump. The race to take on Trump alone is very much on; Rubio is obviously at an advantage due to party support, but Cruz is right there from what I can see.

    I do get why you say SC was so good for Trump and so not necessarily good for Rubio, though: Cruz not winning SC of all places, with Rubio not making a strong play for first there, could be an indication that Trump is way more in control of this than anyone thought. And if I were the GOP, I’d be afraid that evangelicals elsewhere will take a queue from SC that’s it’s okay to like Trump.

    • Michael Drew says:

      …I should be clear: I get why it was a really bad result for Cruz. I just don;t see how it puts him where you describe him to be in the race overall yet.

    • Michael Drew says:

      …Came out of the gate a little strong on the language there. Curious about your thinking; not quite as incredulous as CAN’T COMPREHEND. That just felt fun to type.

      • trumwill says:

        No problem.

        I don’t update my spitballs in between primaries, but I was already souring on Cruz’s prospects. Even prior to the results of South Carolina, the campaign he ran down there was just a wreck and not indicative of a strategy team that knows what it’s doing (aside from ground game). It got so bad that Rubio’s campaign could (I am speculating) completely make up an accusation against him and it stuck. Since then, he’s had to fire his communications guy who fell into a ridiculous trap. They lack agility and can’t change gears. They’re General Custer marching “Forward and consequences be damned!” and it seems to be wearing thin. This makes his math problem all the more significant.

        If Cruz collapses tomorrow, I give Rubio a good chance of capturing the nomination. I no longer feel that way about Cruz if Rubio does. I just don’t know how he gets from Point A to Point B.

        And, of course, Rubio isn’t collapsing. The Party is finally getting off the sidelines. Jeb left the race and didn’t fling poo on him the way out (which I thought was a distinct possibility) and Rubio is capturing a lot of his apparatus and institutional support (which seemed probable, but probable has been a risky bet this whole season). I’m not at all confident that it will be enough for Rubio, but all of that movement spells doom for Cruz’s nomination prospects (which in turn may hurt his percentages… or may not, which is why Nevada is so important).

        Money is the one thing Cruz does really have going for him, which is why I expect him to stick around. He’s not going to go the way of Jeb. That’s good for Trump and bad for Rubio (though not as good for Trump as if Cruz had eeked out about four points of daylight in SC).

  2. mike shupp says:

    It’s more than money. Cruz does have lots of those Evangelical Christians behind him — admittedly not ALL of them as he was evidentally counting on, since bunches of them are reletively content with Donald the AntiChrist. But still, lots. 20% of the Republican electorate isn’t nothing.

    Now Trump reasonably reliably gets 35%, maybe now 40%, of the Republican vote. And Criz gets 20% and together they total … more than Marco Rubio and all his party official backers can put together.

    So how’s a Trump-Cruz ticket strike you? Especially considering Trump is already pushing 70 and may figure that one term in office is enough to make his mark in the history books. Cruz’d still be a young guy in 2020, or even 2024 if Trump goes for two terms. He’d be really well placed for a Presidential run after 4-8 years as Veep. Especially if Rubio and a couple of other possible contenders got shunted off to the Supreme Court. Wound’t it warm the cockles of your heart to see Marco in Justice Scalia’s old seat come this point in 2017? Or maybe in Chief Justice Roberts’ seat in a few years?

    • trumwill says:

      Evangelical votes are good, but not so good without money. Ask Huck! But yeah, money alone won’t do it. Ask Jeb!

      I think Trump really doesn’t like Cruz and isn’t strategic enough in this to care that it might help him. Could go for it if he doesn’t get a majority though.

    • Michael Drew says:

      Looking at it taking their identities out of it and considering only their constituencies it looks like the obvious result. I also think their personal, intellectual-emotional, and rhetorical qualities could be very complementary, such that they could form a kind of Dynamic Duo of their brand of politics (and I think they semi-sort-of share a brand of politics, and certainly a constituency). I also don’t really buy that Trump particularly doesn’t like Cruz: I think a lot of the contempt for his competitors we see is really all part of the act, with the certain exception of his genuine, real, searing contempt for Jeb. Si up until recently I definitely thought that Art of The Deal Trump would prevail of Ego Trump to align with Cruz to secure the nomination if necessary – I was predicting it in my mind.

      After Nevada I am starting to doubt that, for one reason: if there’s one part of Trump I don’t think is just an act, it’s the genuine contempt for losers (again, see the Jeb treatment). After Nevada, and going into Super Tuesday & Texas (which I now suspect Cruz may lose), I think the stink of loserdom may be settling on Cruz’s suits and in his greasy hair. He’s been brutally disqualified (I’m not sure exactly how) since Iowa by Rubio, the establishment, and Trump – and the rats are scurrying to the deck and jumping ship now. He’s hemorrhaging support and is going to limp off sooner than later, though perhaps not before tipping the race to Trump by not ceding to Rubio & the estab. And Trump is clearly emboldened in a way people didn’t anticipate Nevada doing for him. So now I don’t see Trump of all people (but lots of politicians would not be different in the case of a badly beaten, disagreeable rival) bringing a loser like Cruz on as the #2 (even though I actually think it’d still be a substantively savvy play).

      But things could still change again: Cruz could still win TX, get a boost, be buttressed to e in for the duration, and Rubio could start making gains and consolidating mainline conservatives, upending where things seem to stand for Trump right now. Then, I think Trump-Cruz could certainly be back in play. Take the losing-fouled suit back off of Cruz and make Trump more vulnerable again, and I think you’re back to Dealmaking Trump who forgets who he thinks is a loser and who he thinks is a great guy just like that.

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