Super Tuesday marks the beginning of the end. Donald Trump has leads in almost every state going to the polls today. With these victories under his belt, Trump will have enough momentum to deliver further victories in this month’s most important contests. By end of March the Republican party will have its nominee and it will almost certainly be Trump.
This has been partly due to the failure of anti-Trump Republicans to unite behind a candidate. Rubio and Kasich will continue in the hope of winning their home states of Florida and Ohio. The odds are not in their favor. Trump leads in both states with a thumping lead of 40.3% in Florida, and with 31% to Kasich’s 26% in Ohio. If Trump wins both states, then Rubio and Kasich will have to drop out. Cruz will gain traction if all goes well in Texas tonight but it seems unlikely he will be able to catch up with Trump at this point. It is also worth noting that no Republican candidate has ever won New Hampshire and South Carolina and not gone on to win the nomination.
There have been concerted efforts by the conservative movement to rally opinion around Rubio or Cruz, and take Trump down. Attacks have included highlighting the Trump University scam, Trump’s tax returns, and other controversies. As true and justified as these criticisms of Trump are, they have not allowed any other candidate to capture the imagination of the GOP base in quite the same way. If there was ever any real hope for an anti-Trump candidate to emerge then it is already too late. The question Republicans must take seriously now is what will happen if Trump wins the nomination.
If we consider the results of a recent YouGov poll it seems evident that Republican voters will unite behind Trump if he becomes the nominee. Republican voters actually prefer Trump to Rubio by 57% to 43%, and prefer Trump to Cruz by 58% to 42%. There is a greater zeal for Trump with 43% of Republicans “enthusiastic” for Trump, which is more impressive than Rubio’s 27% and Cruz’s 29%. Not only that but Republican voters have more faith in Trump as a nominee with 84% saying he can win, with 64% and 71% having the same faith in Cruz and Rubio.
There is also a clear coalition of voters which would support Trump’s candidacy. In a race against Hillary Clinton, who will most probably be the Democratic candidate, Trump scores majorities among men, whites, people aged 45 and above, and people earning $50 to 100K per annum; namely traditional Middle Americans. The margin between the two candidates is also very slim as Clinton leads with 42% to Trump’s 38%. Clinton actually performs better against Rubio and Cruz who would respectively lose by 33% to 45%, and 34% to 44%. It is possible that Trump could win the White House by using his popularity among the GOP base to mobilize activists and project himself as the savior of Middle America.
With a united base behind Trump, the party leadership will have to decide how to react. If they make the mistake of not supporting the nominee, then the party will fracture and Trump may attempt a third party run, resulting in heavy congressional losses. The Republican’s best chance of holding onto Congress and winning the White House in November is to embrace Trump if he becomes the nominee. Christie’s endorsement is already a foreshadowing of moderates coalescing behind Trump, though this outcome is by no means certain. In such an unpredictable election cycle it is time to stop making the mistake of underestimating Donald J. Trump.