The votes are still being tabulated, but the networks have declared Donald Trump the victor in South Carolina. Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz are competing for second and third; at this moment, Rubio is ahead by a few hundred votes.
At this hour, about a quarter of the vote is split among Jeb Bush, John Kasich, and Ben Carson. They’ve been afterthoughts in the discussion of the South Carolina primary, and they’re going to seem even less relevant after tonight’s results. Tomorrow morning and beyond, you’ll hear a lot of cries for them to depart the race. Fans of these men may object, and contend that only three states have voted so far. But what upcoming states look better for them? Where do they suddenly jump to the top tier and reverse their current bad position?
This week Kasich spent two days campaigning in Michigan. This week, our Alexis Levinson wrote about the Kasich campaign’s perspective of the road ahead.
The problem for Kasich is that after being a non-entity in Iowa – eighth place, 2 percent – he’ll be a non-entity in South Carolina, and his prospects before Michigan’s primary don’t look so hot, either.
One week before Michigan, on March 1, is the group of contests nicknamed the “SEC primary” – Alabama, the Alaska caucus, Arkansas, the Colorado caucus, Georgia, Massachusetts, Minnesota caucus, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, and Wyoming. Then, on March 5, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, and Maine hold their caucuses and primaries.
Polling is sparse in those states, but no polls in any of them look good for Kasich. In the one poll of Arkansas Republicans conducted so far this year, Kasich hit 4 percent. In the three polls conducted in Georgia in 2016, Kasich reached 4 percent, 2 percent, and 4 percent. In the most recent poll conducted in Oklahoma, Kasich is at 3 percent. In the two polls in Texas conducted in 2016, he’s been at 1 percent and 3 percent. In the one poll conducted in Virginia this year, he was at 7 percent.
So Kasich is going to have a bad South Carolina, and then, in all likelihood, a bad SEC-primary day. There isn’t any recent polling in the four March 5 states. Between now and March 8, 20 states and Puerto Rico will hold caucuses and primaries, controlling 947 delegates, and it’s quite possible Kasich gets only a handful of those delegates.
Jeb Bush and Right to Rise have spent about $150 million so far. He’s turned that into a sixth-place finish in Iowa, a fourth-place finish in New Hampshire, and a distant fourth place in South Carolina.
And Ben Carson has finished fourth in Iowa, eighth place in New Hampshire, and sixth out of six major candidates in South Carolina.
Where do these guys catch fire? And if there’s no sign of that happening . . . why should they stay in the race?