Cruz surges; Trump may be stalling

Ted Cruz and Donald Trump split the four states that voted today, with Trump winning the only primary. Trump was victorious in Louisiana (primary) and Kentucky (caucus). Cruz won caucuses in Maine and Kentucky.

Cruz’s victories were resounding. He defeated Trump 48-23 in Kansas, picking up 24 delegates compared to 9 for Trump, 6 for Marco Rubio, and 1 for John Kasich. In Maine, where apparently fewer than 20,000 people participated, he outpaced Trump 48-33 and won 12 of the 23 available delegates (Trump got 9).

Trump’s victory in the Louisiana primary was a close call: 41.6 for the tycoon and 37.9 for the Texas Senator. In Kentucky too it was close: Trump 35.6, Cruz 31.4.

Marco Rubio didn’t get a sniff tonight. His best showings were in Kentucky and Kansas, where he’s just under 17 percent.

John Kasich did even worse, though he edged out Rubio for third place in Maine.

Rubio and Kasich are pinning their hopes on winning in their home state — Florida and Ohio, respectively. Maybe they will. But it would be nice if they carried some momentum into those races. Neither gained any tonight. Rubio, in particular, seems to be fading.

The good news for me and others of the anti-Trump persuasion is that (1) Trump was defeated handily in two of the four contests and, probably more significantly, (2) he is having trouble increasing his “floor.” Henry Enten of FiveThirtyState points out:

[Trump] averaged 35 percent in the Super Tuesday contests. Today, it’s the same story. His average vote percentage in the four states that voted today is 33 percent. The big difference from other days is that Cruz was able to coalesce a lot of the anti-Trump bloc, which led to. . .two victories.

Since the Iowa caucuses, Rand Paul, Chris Christie, Jeb Bush, and Ben Carson have all dropped out of the race. Together these candidates won roughly 20 percent of the vote in Iowa and New Hampshire.

Trump should be picking up some of this support, especially that of Christie, who endorsed him. Maybe he is. But if so, he must be losing some of his initial support, since his vote share is growing very little.

The bad news is that Ted Cruz, the only candidate who has shown he can beat Trump, does not appear to be popular in the North. So he will likely have a hard time coalescing much of the anti-Trump bloc in many of the big states that have yet to be heard from.

Will Rubio or Kasich be able to? Possibly. But no evidence suggests that, outside of their home states, they are likely to.

Still, Trump may be stalling as a result, presumably, of the attacks launched against him from multiple sides. (Polling suggests that Trump lost in Louisiana among those who voted today, winning only because of the early vote.) So there is some hope, I think, of stopping him.