The Beginning of the End

Happy Mini Tuesday! Or Titanic Tuesday, Terrible Tuesday, or Trump Tuesday depending on whom you ask. Five big primaries today: Illinois, Florida, Ohio, North Carolina and Missouri.

The RepublicansMini Tuesday

By now, everyone has finally stopped thinking this is funny. Besides the beating of protestors, the direct calls by Trump to do so, the endorsements from prominent white supremacists, the assault of journalists by his campaign staff, the pledge of allegiance to him, the loosely veiled locker room misogyny, the self-proclaimed superior intelligence only weak minds and insecure souls are capable of, Donald Trump has taught us all the true scope of ugliness that was boiling just below the surface in American politics. I knew it was there, though I thought it was lesser than.

I don’t know if he actually thinks he’ll be able to pivot away from these scenes and his current followers come time for the general election, but many life-long Republicans are deeply disturbed by what is happening and will be hard to bring back into a party they do not recognize. Trump is making them ask, “Am I a Republican, or is he?”

These are just a couple ads Republican groups are currently airing against Trump:

The Grand Old Party is falling apart at the seams.

For the Never Trump movement to successfully block his nomination, the team of anti-Trump candidates will need to slip through a series of rapidly closing doors. That starts tonight in Ohio and ends June 7th in California. Trump’s innate iconoclasm and sublime, even majestic, contrarianism has yet to fool a majority of GOP primary voters in any state, which until now have mostly yielded delegates pseudo-proportionally. However, starting today a series of winner-take-all (or winner-take-most) states come down the pike, and Trump will disproportionately haul in delegates in the states he wins. Meaning, he may never earn 50% (or even 40%) of primary votes, but still collect a majority of delegates.

It’s worth noting that every four years people start fantasizing about a contested, even brokered, convention on either side. Usually that’s nothing more than a few journalists praying for political theatre. Not this year. Cleveland is ordering riot gear to prepare for what people are beginning to predict to be a repeat of the 1968 Democratic Convention, when Humphrey was handed the nomination without winning a single primary, the city of Chicago was thrown into chaos, and America collectively decided to vote for Nixon.

If Rubio loses Florida tonight, which appears likely, his career is as dead as Nixon’s in 1962, except there are no longer any second acts in politics. If he does lose Florida, does he drop out? If Rubio drops out of the race, then his delegates are no longer bound to him at the convention, and some would surely be bought by Trump. Rubio will either limp on, “suspend” campaigning, or auction off his delegates to Cruz and Kasich.

The real battle tonight will be in Ohio, the other winner-take-all state, with 66 delegates up for grabs. Not as big a prize as Florida, but big enough to keep the Never Trump movement limping along if Kasich can win the state he governs. Rubio has gone as far as to suggest his supporters should vote for Kasich. This is both an attempt to stop Trump and justify what would have been a single digit performance anyway. Similar to Rubio in Florida, Kasich either wins Ohio or it’s over. If they both lose, Cruz will go it alone and try Arizona one-on-one next week.

The Democrats

All of the Democratic contests proportionally allocate delegates, so there’s no possibility that Sanders will squeak out a victory somewhere and get a large boost to his math. Hillary may lose her home state of Illinois, maybe even Missouri and Ohio, but she’ll still walk away tonight with more delegates than Sanders, because of large wins in Florida and North Carolina. The Sanders folks are learning what has been burned into the memories of the Clinton camp:  supper delegates might be meaningless, but pledged delegates matter more than victories or even votes.

Mini Tuesday

As everyone looks to the ides of March and Mini-Tuesday, when the big-ticket contests of Ohio, Florida, and Illinois will accelerate the nomination process, let us not forget that today will shape that event.

The Democratic Party goes to the polls in Michigan and Mississippi, where Hillary Clinton is expected to win and dominate, respectively. Clinton will win more delegates than Sanders by the end of the night, making Sanders supporters post even more irrelevant images of the remaining contests on my Facebook feed and causing them to further squint at the delegate math. Michigan is tailor-made for Bernie’s protectionist message and the first test of his Rust Belt appeal. If there does exist some pro-Sanders John Henry voting block, as his campaign has insisted, Sanders should win Michigan going away.

Speaking of desperate, Marco Rubio needs to win the Hawaii Caucuses today, not a strong second or a solid third, but a win. Little Marco might not survive another 3rd place victory speech. The Republicans are also voting in Michigan and Mississippi, where Trump is favored. Anyone who’s ever been to Mississippi, even if that means locking your doors and driving at high speed, knows Trump will dominate there. The state slogan is “High School or Less.” Cruz has been campaigning heavily throughout the state, not to try and win, but to prevent Trump from hitting 50% of the vote in any congressional district, which is the winner-take-all threshold for the three delegates in each. Michigan will be more interesting, as it is the first contest to really test the local strength of John Kasich. Trump’s performance in Michigan will determine the resolve of the Never Trump movement going forward into Mini-Tuesday. Republicans in Idaho also vote in a closed primary, which should be a tight race between Cruz and Trump.

For the anti-Trump forces to have any viability, Trump must not start winning states with a majority of the vote, as a typical front-runner would at this stage in the primaries. That would directly undercut the Never Trump argument for stealing the nomination.