We’ve heard a lot of talk from the candidates about narrowing the race to a one-on-one contest where somebody can face off, and finally do away with, Donald Trump
At this point, denying Trump the nomination before the Republican convention in Cleveland will take some cooperation between the candidates. The best, and perhaps the only, scenario for the anti-Trump forces is to split their victories in the winner-take-all states (Rubio wins in Florida, Kasich wins in Ohio) to deny Trump the delegates. The best way to do that would be for Cruz and Kasich to stop campaigning in Florida, for example, boosting Rubio’s chances of defeating Trump there, and for Rubio and Cruz to do their best to help Kasich win in Ohio.
Essentially, all the candidates need to stay in to keep Trump out. This is especially true because the calendar is quickly becoming less favorable to Cruz, who has until now been the chief force starving Trump of victories and delegates. After the March 8, only a handful of states remain where the majority of Republican primary voters are comprised of Cruz’s core constituency, Evangelical Christians (North Carolina, Indiana, West Virginia, and maybe the Dakotas). So keeping the nomination out of Trump’s hands will require the presence of a candidate like Rubio or Kasich who plays better in regions where more moderate Republicans dominate.
Suffice it to say, the non-Trump candidates appear utterly unlikely to cooperate in this way. A senior Cruz aide told me earlier this week that Cruz was going to take a “real run” at Florida, aiming for an all-out victory, and, indeed, the campaign today opened ten field offices in the Sunshine State. The same aide also told me Cruz will play hard for Ohio. At the Conservative Political Action Conference on Friday, Cruz said he opposes a contested convention, telling the crowd, “If you want to beat Donald Trump, you beat Donald Trump with the voters.”
Rubio is also promising to run a 50-state campaign though, interestingly, he abruptly canceled events this week in Kentucky and Louisiana and focused its time instead on events in Florida and Puerto Rico. Nonetheless, he told Fox News on Thursday that “We are going to campaign in all 50 states and we are going to do whatever it takes to ensure that I am not only the nominee, but the Republican Party does not fall in the hands of someone like Donald Trump … Our plan is to get to the White House with 1237 delegates.”
If that’s the case — particularly given Cruz’s decision to campaign in Florida — it seems evermore likely that Trump becomes the Republican nominee.
Rich noted the delegate breakdown from NBC News’s First Reads, which laid out the scenarios below, assuming that the five contests held between tomorrow and next Friday shake out as the previous ten have:
On March 15, if Trump captures the winner-take-all races of both Florida (99 delegates) and Ohio (66 delegates) and wins 45 percent of the rest of the delegates on that day, the totals become:
In that case, Trump needs to win 50 percent of remaining delegates to get to the magic number of 1,237, which is more than doable with Rubio and Kasich likely dropping out after losing their home states.
But if, say, Trump wins Florida but loses Ohio to John Kasich, the numbers become:
In that case, Trump needs to win 57 percent of remaining delegates to get to 1,237 — still doable.
But if Rubio wins Florida and Kasich wins Ohio, the delegate totals are:
In that case, Trump still holds the delegate lead. But he needs to win 66 percent of remaining delegates to get to 1,237 — and that could be a hard climb.