Cruz’s Path to Victory After Wisconsin
The Wisconsin Republican presidential primary takes place today, and it is looking like Ted Cruz will come in first. He is leading in all the polls there, although the lead is narrow, averaging 6.5 points ahead of Trump. John Kasich, the only other Republican candidate left in the race, is far behind both. If Cruz wins the state, it will give him more momentum and increase the likelihood of him winning upcoming primaries — although it’s too late at this point for him to acquire the 1,237 delegates to ensure a primary win. Trump’s vast lead has greatly shrunk since the other candidates started dropping out of the race.
Trump claims that if Kasich were not in the race, he would win. However, the type of Republican who supports Kasich tends to be more moderate, not the vocal anti-establishment type that supports Trump. Also, polls between just Cruz and Trump have consistently shown Cruz ahead of Trump; the only reason Trump is still ahead is because Kasich is still in the race. Many conservatives who support Cruz are furious about that, and have called for Kasich to drop out. Rich Lowry, the editor of National Review, said he is “running a delusional vanity project masquerading as a presidential campaign.”
Trump’s lead nationally has shrunk to an average of 7.6 points in the polls. Last week was bad for him; his campaign manager was charged with allegedly assaulted a female reporter, he retweeted attacks on Cruz’s wife, and flip-flopped on abortion, saying he’s pro-choice while simultaneously saying women should be criminally punished for getting abortions. He is polling terribly with Republican women.
The politically astute site FiveThirtyEight has analyzed the polls and done the math in the remaining primary states. A block of Northeastern states have primaries at the end of April, and Republicans in those states tend to be more moderate, which doesn’t help Trump. At best, FiveThirtyEight predicts Trump will end up with 1,185 delegates after the final primary, short of the 1,237 necessary to win the nomination, which means it will be a contested convention. There are over 100 unbound or uncommitted delegates. He would need to convince 52 of them to vote for him in the first round of voting at the contested convention to win.
If he doesn’t win on the first round, he probably won’t win. At that point, if no one wins the first vote, it becomes a brokered convention and the delegates are free to vote for whoever they want on subsequent rounds of voting. The types of Republicans who serve as delegates are the party faithful types, not the disillusioned types who support Trump. The GOP establishment and conservative base are converging to stop Trump from getting the nomination, and they will do everything they can to persuade delegates to change their votes away from Trump. It is already starting, as some of the delegates Trump thought he had won are being lured over the Cruz ground operation.
Of course, there is still a chance the delegates could be persuaded to vote for another candidate, such as Kasich or even someone not in the race. Kasich has said he thinks the GOP establishment would support him at a contested convention, and fully admits even though he hasn’t won a single state except his home state of Ohio, that he’s staying in the race because he could still win at a contested convention. He did so poorly in Arizona’s primary that he came in fourth, behind Marco Rubio who had dropped out of the race a week earlier. However, he is beating Hillary Clinton in general election polls by a decent margin. Trump is losing to her in polls and Cruz comes in very close.
However, as Lowry observed in his article calling for Kasich to drop out, “The delegate game at a convention would be, in part, an organizational contest, and Kasich’s organization is all but nonexistent. He’d make an electability case based on his good head-to-head poll numbers against Hillary Clinton, although they are elevated because no one has bothered to attack him.”
The prediction market Betfair puts Trump’s chances of winning the nomination at 56 percent, down from 70 percent last week. Betfair also puts the chance of a contested convention at 63 percent. If one of Trump’s former close advisers is right, he only wanted to come in second and doesn’t really want to be president, so it may not be a big deal if he loses.