Donald J. Trump lost Super Tuesday. More Republicans voted against Trump than voted for him, a clear sign from the people that the GOP Convention must nominate a compromise candidate. That is the argument the Republican bosses are going to use to deny Trump the nomination if he continues to fail to win a majority of delegates. Trump either wins a clear majority of delegates or the GOP will rob him of the nomination, it’s that simple.
Normally, a candidate in Trump’s position would experience a groundswell of endorsements from elected officials and newspapers, and then start winning states with a vast majority of votes. But Donald Trump is not a normal candidate, the normal rules have yet to apply to him and there’s no reason to believe they will now. For the first time last night, Chris Christie spoke at a victory celebration, but he looked like he had just taken money for sex when he introduced Trump. Some Republicans that are up for reelection in 2016 will tepidly endorse the idea of Trump, others like Christie will see the Dark Mark appear on their forearms and weakly join his campaign, but most will remain in opposition until the convention.
He is unquestionably over-performing everyone’s expectations, even the good people of Iowa. Our Iowa Model did pretty well, predicting 10 of the 14 GOP state contests since the first in the nation caucuses. Colorado caucused yesterday for the GOP, but only for uncommitted delegates, which we’ve assumed will mostly support Rubio if he’s still in the race come the convention. But Trump has expanded his demographics across ideology and region to win states like Massachusetts and Vermont as well as Alabama and Nevada. That’s not an insurgent candidacy, it’s broad support across the Republican base, which is what really strikes fear into the hearts of the leadership.
Below is how the Iowa Model performed and the degree to which Trump has expanded his support across ideology in contests since the Iowa caucuses.
When Jake Tapper asked Donald Trump if he accepted the support of David Duke and the KKK this week, Trump responded, “I don’t know anything about what you’re even talking about with white supremacy or white supremacists. So I don’t know. I don’t know—did he endorse me, or what’s going on? Because I know nothing about David Duke; I know nothing about white supremacists.”
This struck me because of how the Republican Party first came into being in the 1850’s. When the Whig Party dissolved, north and south, over the issue of slavery, northern Whigs struggled with how to reorganize themselves into a party that could compete in national elections. One group they eventually absorbed to form the Republican Party was a non-trival third party, that included former President Fillmore, called the Know Nothings. This was a racist, anti-immigrant, and anti-Catholic party, those were seriously their major platform issues, who got their name from the way they would dodge questions about their bigoted views. “I know nothing about that.” The GOP never completely shed itself from anti-immigrant views (e.g. The Tea Party), but I don’t think anyone would have predicted so many conservatives would be drawn to such tactics today. The Grand Old Party is in a troubled place at the moment, and unfortunately there doesn’t appear to be a Lincoln figure capable of unifying it.
What happens next? Cruz and Rubio are both staying in the race. With a win in Texas, Ted Cruz has the ability to go all the way to the convention if he wants. Rubio has to win Florida on the 15th or he’s finished (as in, you don’t have Rubio to kick around anymore, finished). However, the best-case scenario to defeat Trump is not for one of the anti-Trump candidates to drop out. Rather, Trump’s broad support coupled with Cruz’s and Rubio’s asymmetric performance across ideology suggests many of their supporters would migrate to Trump rather than the remaining “establishment” candidate. They need to both stay in, allowing Trump to win only proportional states, while preventing him from consuming winner-take-all states, like Florida and Ohio with their 99 and 66 delegates, respectively. This is why Rubio will stay in, it’s why Kasich will stay in through Ohio, and it’s why Carson will try and stay in through Michigan. All of this is an attempt to keep a majority of delegates out of Donald Trump’s tiny hands.
It’s probably not going to work, but they really have no other option. That is, unless the RNC and Paul Ryan refuse to seat some of Trump’s delegates at the convention on a host of made up technical reasons. Someone should dust off Mitt Romney. I’m serious.