It’s not clear if historical precedent means much in this odd presidential campaign, but if it counts for anything, Donald Trump could be well on his way to the Republican nomination. It has been 40 years since a Republican has won New Hampshire and South Carolina without going on to win the nomination. With those two states in the bag for Trump, an outcome that once seemed unthinkable is now growing increasingly inevitable.
Of course, when it comes to Trump, anything can happen.
For the first six months of Trump’s candidacy, the focus was on the man himself. Which one of his outrageous comments would finally turn voters off? But again and again, Trump mystified the critics. He survived a feud with John McCain. He survived multiple feuds with Fox News and their star, Megyn Kelly. He survived (and, in fact, thrived) after promising to put a halt to Muslim immigration. And he appears to have even survived after launching some of the harshest criticism against George W. Bush to ever come out of a Republican’s mouth.
Assuming that Trump is more or less unsinkable, the question then becomes a matter of math. It’s one thing to dominate a crowded field with thirty-something percent of the vote. It’s quite another to win in a race that is down to two or three candidates. The Republican establishment is now pinning their hopes on Marco Rubio after Jeb Bush announced he was suspending his campaign. If Rubio gets the Bush voters and the Bush money, he could make a break for the top spot. And Ted Cruz is still a potent force himself; if strong conservatives come out in Texas and other states, he still has a shot on the nomination.
But these are all “ifs” in a world where Trump is the one putting numbers on the board. The pundits continue to insist that Trump’s support comes with a ceiling, noting that there is still roughly 70% of voters out there who are not yet in his corner. The polls bear this out. At the same time, though, the pundits have literally been wrong at every turn this year. If there’s one thing that Trump has proven, it’s that he should not be underestimated.
Just ask Jeb.