Donald Trump (for the hundredth time) defied the prognosticators on Tuesday, winning three out of four states despite predictions that a bad debate performance and a KKK controversy would lead to his demise. Trump won Michigan, Mississippi, and Hawaii while losing Idaho to Senator Ted Cruz. Cruz came in second in Michigan and Mississippi, giving his campaign continued steam and purpose. But there was very little reason to celebrate for Marco Rubio, who again had a devastating night of voter rejection.
“I don’t think anyone has a clear path to 1237 delegates,” Rubio said in Florida on Tuesday. “So buckle up your seat belts — this ride has got a few more tricks and turns.”
Rubio is still counting on a win in his home state next Tuesday, but contest results thus far show that he has almost nothing in the way of national support. He finished behind even John Kasich in Michigan and Mississippi, and exit polls have shown that he has no definable base. While Cruz is doing well with “very conservative” Republicans, Kasich is winning “liberal” Republicans, and Trump is eating up the middle, Rubio is attracting virtually no one. And while he has managed to close the polling gap to some degree in Florida, many behind the scenes are urging him to suspend his campaign.
If Trump takes Florida and Ohio next week, the race is all but over. But even if Kasich and Rubio can win in their respective home states, the best any candidate can hope for is a contested Republican convention in July. There is a lot of excitement among party leaders for just such a situation, but they may be underestimating just how much anger there will be if they choose someone other than frontrunner Trump. Even many of the voters who dislike Trump could be turned off by delegate shenanigans. And his core supporters will likely abandon the party altogether in November.
Ted Cruz and his supporters believe they can overcome Trump if the other two candidates drop out, but it’s not clear if that’s the case. He’s plainly Trump’s strongest foe in the race, but he has been losing in some surprising demographics, including white evangelicals. Recent polls have shown that Trump performs poorly against any other single challenger, however, so Cruz still has cause for optimism.
Cruz won an endorsement from one-time presidential candidate Carly Fiorina on Wednesday. Fiorina, joining Cruz in Miami, said, “Some people are now saying: ‘Well, Donald Trump wouldn’t be so bad. Okay, maybe he’s a liberal, maybe he’s a fraud but at least he’s a deal-maker.’ The truth is that Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are two sides of the same coin. They aren’t going to reform the system. They are the system.”
We’ll see if that attack resonates with Trump’s base. Somehow, it seems doubtful.