By RED JAHNCKE, Special to the Sun | March 6, 2016
Super Saturday, when Senator Cruz won 15 more delegates than Donald Trump, marks the beginning of the end of Trumpmania. Mr. Cruz won Kansas and Maine by big double-digit margins, while Mr. Trump nosed out Cruz in Louisiana and Kentucky only by margins of but 3% and 4%.
During the day, a new ARG poll in Michigan showed Governor Kasich rocketing past Mr. Trump into first place, boding well for the Mr. Kasich in Tuesday’s contest in the Wolverine state and at week later at Ohio. Mr. Cruz’s performance on Saturday will enhance his prospects in the two states.
Most ominous for Mr. Trump was Louisiana. The first results announced were absentee ballots cast days and weeks before primary day, which showed Mr. Trump in a commanding double-digit lead. As the day’s live voting results began coming in, the spread narrowed. The dichotomy suggested that Mr. Trump’s popularity declined into primary day itself.
At the end of the night, the delegate count showed Mr. Trump’s lead over Mr. Cruz had collapsed to roughly 80 delegates, or about 380 to 300. That means that the GOP race is open and that Mr. Trump can be stopped. Plus, with no wins yesterday and only about 13 new delegates, it is clear that Senator Rubio will not be the one who stops Donald Trump.
Not even a win today at Puerto Rico will salvage the Floridian’s prospects. There is no evidence to buoy his hopes in his home state. The most recent Florida polls are two weeks old and they show Mt. Rubio 20 points behind Mr. Trump. With only about 125 delegates, Mr. Rubio is too far behind, even with a win in winner-takes-all Florida.
Without winning Florida’s 99 delegates, he is done. And that leads to the fourth candidate in the race, whose predicament is worse. With only about 35 delegates at this point, Mr. Kasich simply cannot catch up – even with a win in winner-takes-all Ohio (66 delegates). His only hope is that a brokered convention turns to him.
So, the GOP nomination race now is down to three possible outcomes: Mr. Trump wins, Sen. Cruz wins or, neither wins and the convention decides.
Going forward, the first and most important factor is that Mr. Trump is neither invincible nor inevitable anymore. He has been beaten and beaten convincingly. He is in the lead, but not by far.
Stripped of this aura of dominance, the billionaire will have to make the case for his candidacy in terms of qualifications and policy proposals – something he has simply not had to do so far. This is true even though much has been made of the “presidential tenor” of his “press conferences” on SuperTuesday and Super Saturday.
Looking presidential and announcing a new-found “flexibility” will not do it. His attempted flexibility on H1B visas backfired, coming off as dramatic flip-flop, and revealing an ignorance of the actual workings and impact of that visa program. Quite simply he looked incompetent.
Other winner-takes-all contests loom on March 15th, apart from Ohio and Florida. In Missouri, 52 delegates are at stake, for which Messrs. Kasich and Rubio will not be able to compete, tied down as they will be campaigning in their home states, desperately attempting to pull off must-win victories. Neither Messrs. Trump nor Cruz will be tied down at all. They will be free to move about the country.
With Mr. Trump’s big lead in the Florida polls, it is safe to expect that he will compete in Florida. Not to do so, would be to squander a lead and to allow a virtually-dead competitor to come back to life. So, Florida is actually a must-win for Trump. Mr. Cruz is likely to choose to compete in Missouri.
The Show Me state is nestled among those Mr. Cruz has already won (Iowa, Kansas, and Oklahoma) and states where he has done well (Kentucky and Arkansas). If Missouri, why not Illinois? Together, their 121 delegates would more than keep him in the hunt, even were Mr. Trump to take both Florida and Ohio. If Mr. Kasich held Ohio, Mr. Cruz’s wins in Missouri and Illinois would pull him even with Mr. Trump in a virtual tie
Contests in Michigan and Mississippi take place this Tuesday, but they are almost inconsequential compared to those onMarch 15. Already, though, the GOP race has undergone a radical change with the seeming end of Trumpmania and the aura of invincibility and inevitability which has clothed Mr. Trump. Stripped of it, he may be less competitive, or almost completely uncompetitive. The next ten days will tell.