WASHINGTON – Donald Trump most likely will be the Republican nominee for president. This is not on account of his considerable national appeal. It is mostly because of the inability of the moderate Republican candidates to get out of the race and coalesce early on and convincingly around just one of them.
Fragmented front will not win
While everything is possible in politics, it is just not possible for a fragmented front to create a credible alternative to Trump. Look, we all know that Trump is not getting huge majorities. He is getting significant pluralities, (more than 30% on average , with a high above 40% in the most recent Nevada caucuses). However, these pluralities look a lot bigger because the non-Trump vote is scattered. None of the other candidates get even close to Trump’s numbers. And yes, you can get the GOP nomination with a consistent string of strong pluralities.
Kasich will not withdraw
What makes Trump’s victory almost inevitable is that this fragmentation of the moderates is not going away. Most recently Ohio Governor John Kasich with a straight face declared that he has a great plan that will lead him to the Republican nomination. Really? Kasich gets 5% or 6% in most polls. He may or may not win his own state of Ohio; but this is not enough.
In New Hampshire, a state where he spent an inordinate amount of time and resources, Kasich managed to be a distant second to Trump, with 16% of the votes. How on earth does Kasich think he will get the nomination?
Same thing for Doctor Ben Carson. He may have a core group of supporters. But they are at about 4% to 5%.
35% to 40% is enough
As I said, Donald Trump is not leading by enormous margins. But he is leading essentially everywhere. And in some primaries states the rule is “winner takes all”. Which is to say that with his 35 or 40% Trump will get all the delegates at stake. Who is going to stop him after that?
Rubio had a chance
I theorized that Marco Rubio could have a chance, if all the others withdrew early, and openly and enthusiastically decided to endorse him. But I also said that the window of time was disappearing soon.
Well, it may have disappeared. With Kasich and Carson still in the race, the best that Rubio can hope to achieve is to get to second place in many races, a little bit ahead of Texas Senator Ted Cruz.
Second place not good enough
I am sure that the Rubio people must know that finishing second, even assuming he does so everywhere, is just not good enough, especially in “winner takes all” states.
That said, if Trump gets the Republican nomination, can he be elected President? Hard to believe this, unless he cleverly reinvents himself just in time for the general election, becoming all of a sudden soft-spoken, inclusive and congenial.
Assuming he does that, and this is really a big assumption, will the average American believe him? Based on the level of applause that empty promises get in this campaign, I would not rule it out.
Running against Clinton
Most likely Trump would run against Hillary Clinton, a strong but hardly formidable Democratic candidate. In this strange environment in which a surprising number of voters are yearning for a “Mr. Tough Guy” in the White House this may even be possible.
Look, if most Americans were sane, the very idea of a President Trump would look preposterous. But until a few months ago the idea of Trump as the presumptive Republican nominee also looked preposterous.
In a sane world, Jeb Bush or John Kasich –both experienced policy-makers with a solid record– would be in the lead among Republicans, and not Donald Trump.
Well, Bush is out, and Kasich is in single digits.