Last night, Donald Trump crushed rivals Ted Cruz and John Kasich in five northeastern primaries – taking anywhere from 56 to 64 percent of the vote.
Trump took 105 of the delegates that could be definitively nailed down in Tuesday’s primaries. John Kasich took five.
Ted Cruz picked up just one.
Cruz and Kasich are mathematically eliminated from attaining the 1,237 delegates needed to clinch the Republican nomination on the first ballot. Their only remaining play is to keep Donald Trump from reaching that magic number.
Toward that end, Cruz and Kasich announced that they have struck a bargain under which Kasich will not campaign in Indiana ahead of next week’s primary and Cruz will stay out of Oregon and New Mexico.
The play is aimed at giving Cruz a clear path in Indiana – which, with its 57 winner-take-all delegates — represents about the only Hail Mary chance to deny Donald Trump a first ballot victory in Cleveland this July.
In polls taken before Trump’s crushing victories last night in Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Maryland, Delaware and Connecticut, the Real Clear Politics average showed Trump with a six point lead in Indiana. The idea behind the Cruz-Kasich non-aggression treaty is for a sufficient number of nominal Kasich supporters to switch their votes to Cruz, giving Cruz a win.
It’s a theoretical play made complicated by a real-world phenomenon known as the bandwagon effect. It’s simple human nature to want to back a winner and Ted Cruz no longer looks like one. His victory over Trump in Wisconsin on April 5 now seems like it happened a lifetime ago. Trump has run the table since and is not too far out of line in characterizing himself as the “presumptive nominee,” as he did last night. As Trump looks more and more like the winner, voters on the fence will break in his favor.
It is very likely that if a poll were taken in Indiana this morning, Trump’s margin over Cruz would be in double digits.
If Trump wins next week in Indiana, the game is effectively over. No, he can’t get to 1,237 delegates next week. That can’t happen until the very last day of primary season on June 7. That’s when South Dakota, New Mexico, New Jersey, Montana and – most important – California vote. The polls are particularly ugly for Cruz in California. Prior to last night’s victories by Trump, the latest Fox News poll had Trump leading by 27. The Real Clear Politics average shows Trump by 17.
Several weeks ago in this space I opined that the unlikely candidacy of Donald Trump is a monster for the GOP – a monster largely of their own making. I went on to say that as Trump continues to roll up primary victories, the Republican National Committee needed to come to terms with the fact that he will be the nominee.
That is even more clearly the case this morning. The Never Trump movement must end if Republicans want to defeat Hillary Clinton.
Because Donald Trump is going to be the Republican nominee for president.