While I appreciate Donald Trump's current rhetorical fire against the establishment and his success in forcing illegal immigration into our Presidential conversation as an important priority, on those rare occasions when he advances policy proposals they are too frequently big government solutions (e.g., healthcare). And in a year that should be good for Republicans competing for the White House, Donald Trump gives up an important list of contrasts that we currently have with Hillary Clinton.
So, what's the solution?
Well, that's where mathematics comes in.
Trump has not won half the delegates so far, but he's close (46%). Trump needs to win 52% of the remaining delegates to become the nominee. It is entirely possible that Trump could achieve this. Not certain, but it's far more likely that one candidate will get over 50% than it is that the nomination will go to the convention and require a second ballot.
Cruz would need to win almost 57%, which is doable in a one-on-one with Trump, but would require a collapse by Trump if the entire field stays in. Fortunately, Dr. Carson effectively got out today. Dr. Carson was the other main conservative (okay, non-establishment conservative if you want to argue the term re Rubio), and Dr. Carson's departure will help Cruz more than anyone else. Exactly how much remains to be seen.
Rubio would need over 63% of the remaining delegates which is clearly impossible in a multi-candidate field but, more problematically, it is a level of support so far above 50% that it would appear impossible for Rubio to achieve in a one-on-one with Trump.
Further complicating Rubio's chances to become the nominee is the fact that he is losing to Trump by the astonishing amount of 20 points in his home state of Florida among the voters that know him best! Recall that Cruz beat Trump by almost that amount (17 points) in his home state of Texas Tuesday night. This is a winner-take-all state (99 delegates), so Rubio's failure at home is a big boon to Donald Trump.
Just as those of us on the Cruz Crew said before Tuesday that if Ted lost Texas, his race was over, so too for Marco. If he loses Florida on March 15th ("beware the ides of March"), his race is over. The problem for those that want to beat Donald Trump is that March 15th is too late to overtake Trump. Rubio needs to step out now if he's actually serious when he says that he "will do anything to keep Donald Trump from being the GOP nominee."
So now let's play the "what if" game. What if Ted gets out? What if Marco gets out?
This is an important analysis because many people just assume that all of a particular candidate's supporters will switch to one other candidate if the first candidate gets out. But it never works out that way. Some support goes one way, other support another way, etc.
So what happens if either Rubio or Cruz gets out of the race?
First, the support of both Cruz and Rubio does not simply go to the other candidate if they get out. And I will note that obviously different polls show different things on different days. With all of that said…
One of Cruz's strengths is that he actually competes with Trump for those voters who are fed up with the establishment in Washington. Not surprisingly, it would appear that more of Cruz's voters would go to Trump than any other candidate. In other words, Cruz getting out does not allow Rubio to gain on Cruz, in fact, in many states, if Cruz got out Trump would break the 50% threshold.
On the other hand, considerably more of Rubio's supporters go to Cruz than to any other candidate if Rubio gets out, which would allow Cruz to compete more effectively with Trump one-on-one. And for this analysis, we will ignore the possibility of a Cruz-Rubio unity ticket and just look at Rubio dropping out.
If you look at what that would have done on Super Tuesday, Cruz would have won Arkansas and Minnesota easily, and Cruz may have won Tennessee and, yes, even my own Virginia. That means Ted would have certainly won at least 5, and as many as 7, states out of 11 (and Kasich would have won Vermont easily, meaning Trump would have won less than half the states in all scenarios). Additionally, Ted would have gone from seeing Trump ahead of him in the delegate haul to behind him for the night. In fact, if Rubio were not in on Super Tuesday, Cruz would probably be in first place right now in the delegate count.
So the rationale for Cruz to stay in and Marco to get out includes the fact that Marco has several problems that Cruz does not have: 1) Rubio is on track to lose his home state, while Cruz won his home state; 2) Marco needs to get twice as far over 50% in the remaining contests than Cruz to win the nomination; and 3) Cruz actually gains on Trump if Rubio gets out while Rubio falls farther behind Trump if Cruz gets out.
There are lots of human dynamics to this, but that's the math folks. My conclusions were all based on the most up-to-date polling I could find on each of these many questions. Rubio keeps talking as if his sudden priority is to keep Trump from the nomination, but if that IS Rubio's priority, we should be seeing him exit the race now. As in TODAY.
Marco, I call on you to act consistent with what you are saying and suspend your campaign today.