Nevada went mildly worse than I had feared, though my predictions for who wins remains unblemished. That likely ends today with so many states up.

Everything is increasingly coming up Trump. The main sources of uncertainty with me had been (a) What about caucuses, (b) he wasn’t picking up momentum, and (c) the other campaigns hadn’t targeted him. With Nevada and in the week or so since, he’s won a caucus handily and seems to have started picking up momentum despire a barrage of attacks ranging from the substantive to playground taunts. So far, it appears he is unfazed. If there is momentum against him that has not been picked up by the polls (which is possible) then we will find that out today.

I can’t do the historical placement marking today because first place, second place, and third place don’t matter nearly as much. We’re going to be getting a large number of results at once. Ostensibly, the thing that matters the most will be the delegate count. However, Rubio and Cruz have other metrics by which their viability will be judged. So here is what each candidate needs to accomplish:

Donald Trump needs only to establish the status quo. He can actually afford to slide a little and still be in the catbird seat as he will still win most of the states and has a good chance of picking up over 50% in one of them. But even failing that, he is in the position that a nominee is usually in. He has special liabilities, but it is what it is. If he can win Texas and sweep the map, or if he can win every state but Texas, it becomes very difficult to see how he loses the nomination even if Trump fatigue starts to set in and even if it becomes a 1-on-1 race with Cruz or Rubio.

Ted Cruz needs to have a good day. He’s had a bad week of being eclipsed by Rubio in the press. On the other hand, the press has always been unusually hard on him and his numbers have held up better than Rubio and others would have hoped. So he has a good chance of accomplishing his goal of both (a) winning Texas and (b) winning more delegates than Rubio. This primary is in his home turf. He could do better than that by winning some other states. If he can win more than just Texas, and Rubio doesn’t win anything substantive (or only wins Minnesota), he could be the go-to-guy if Trump ever does implode. Given that this is his turf, though, he has limited margin of error. The map only gets tougher from here.

Marco Rubio needs to win a state. Winning a state is really a symbolic gesture, but attempts by the campaign to define expectations down so that he doesn’t need to win a state are – at least for me – unsuccessful. If he doesn’t win a state, and Cruz wins Texas, the rationale of his candidacy starts getting much more difficult. If he doesn’t win any states or only wins Minnesota, but Cruz wins multiple states, the same applies. He might be able to continue a zombie candidacy as the candidate to whom people with nobody else to go to go to, but it will probably lock him out of Florida and, by extension, any reasonable chance at the nomination either with delegates or a convention. Further, even if a poor showing does not lead to consolidation around Cruz, the party may more openly start exploring other options which will again undermine his candidacy (and, in effect, be ceding the nomination to Trump.)

Category: Newsroom

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3 Responses to States of the Primary: Super Tuesday

  1. Michael Drew says:

    It’s weird, obviously nothing has actually changed since Nevada, but it’s sort of like it’s steadily settled in over the week how fully real his advantage really is.

    I suppose there have been polls to advance that. People were thinking Super Tuesday might slide the other direction, and now it appears it isn’t.

  2. Abel Keogh says:

    Rubio will win Minnesota. Cruz Texas. Trump will win the most delegates but not the majority of them.

    As long as Rubio can pull above 20% in the the other states and get a share of delegates from most of them, there’s no reason for him to drop out. He benefits the most from a contested convention.

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