Actually, Trump Underperformed on Super Tuesday and the GOP Race is Far From in the Bag

By Anika Smith Published on March 2, 2016

The headlines today feature proclamations of Trump “cementing” his status as the presumptive nominee for the GOP. Which is surprising, because Trump’s main rivals — Marco Rubio, but particularly Ted Cruz —  did better than predicted. And even some of the states Trump won he won by slimmer margins than polling averages had predicted.

In some states, like Ted-Cruz-supporting Oklahoma, the polls were off by double digits. Trump lost it by six points to Cruz, when he was projected to win it by 11. Oklahoma is the only state last night that had a closed primary, where the vote was restricted to actual Republicans.

Mollie Hemingway at The Federalist has some great takeaways on the night. She notes:

Virginia was supposed to be a blowout for Trump. Rubio picked up 12 points there. Trump was touting polls showing Cruz with only a 1-point lead over Trump [in Texas] (though the RCP average was 9). Cruz ended up crushing Trump by nearly 18 points. And then Alaska went for Cruz.

Jonathan Last at The Weekly Standard sees last night’s results as a sign that Trump really has hit his ceiling.

“Remember back when everyone said Trump had a ceiling of support around 35 percent? That was before he won three contests and got his first mainstream endorsements, from Gov. Chris Christie and Sen. Jeff Sessions,” Last writes. “There was that garbage poll from CNN on Monday claiming Trump was at 49 percent nationally. His total take of the popular vote on Super Tuesday was about . . 36 percent.”

But the best part for those who don’t want to see Trump cinch the nomination: While a lawsuit over Trump University advanced yesterday, throwing the scandal onto the headlines, precious few Super Tuesday voters knew anything about it or other Trump scandals. Voters will hear about these scandals eventually. The question is, when? Last comments:

The single most shocking number from Super Tuesday might have been this poll showing voter awareness about various aspects of Trump: Only 27 percent had heard about his reluctance to denounce David Duke and the KKK; 20 percent about Trump University and the fraud lawsuit; 13 percent about the failure of Trump Mortgage.

At some point, those numbers will all be at 90 percent because someone will spend a lot of money putting ads about them all over television in battleground states. The only question is whether it will be conservatives or Hillary Clinton who expose voters to this information. Either way, it suggests that Trump still has the potential for downward mobility if conservative donors are serious about stopping him.

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