A few readers have told me that I was too generous to Donald Trump in my assessment of Super Tuesday (a few others have told me I got it right). In the interest of balance, I thought it would be a good idea to share the observations of one critic:
[Trump] was expected to win all the states except Texas, he did not. He did well in the deep south and crazy Massachusetts but everywhere else his numbers look meh. And even in AR, VA, MN, he either barely won or lost badly. The southern states end this weekend and the ground shifts to states not as friendly.
One tweet last night said of all the votes cast last night, Trump took 34% and that is skewed by MA, GA, TN and AL. If you take out those southern states which will soon be finished completely, his numbers are even weaker.
Unlike normal years, Trump isn’t growing his numbers. The ads and attacks just started less than 6 days ago too. There was a meeting in DC with major donors Paul Singer, Meg Whitman, etc. who have set up a major ad buy for upcoming states to pound Trump on the cons and his business record.
The key [is] Kasich winning OH and Rubio winning FL. If those two things happen, the field will successfully starve Trump of the needed 1200 + delegates and there will be a contested convention. We all know if it goes to the convention Trump will never be the selected candidate.
Also even in the states where Trump did well last night (AR, AL, TN, GA) the percentage of R’s who would “be satisfied” with him as the nominee was very low; it was only around 50%. So there is not an acceptance or a satisfaction of him as there was with Romney, McCain, Bush, etc. . . .
One other tweet by a reporter or election guru last night said, “at this point in the primary season in ’12 Romney had twice the number of delegates trump has right now”. This is an odd year where the vote keeps getting divided and very closely divided in some states. If not for Kasich, Rubio wins VA by several points. His 2nd place finish was still basically a delegate tie which is all that matters any way.
Maybe John or Scott can speak to what the MN and IA results might mean for WI, MI, IL, OH, IN, etc. In the two midwest states, IA and MN trump was in the lower 20’s.
These are fair points. However, I look at what has happened so far and see that Trump has won all but one primary (as opposed to caucus) in which he wasn’t facing a home state candidate. I see that he won, usually very comfortably, in New England and the deep South. I see that he won in Virginia, arguably a bellwether state, to which Rubio dedicated lots of time and resources.
But let’s assume that Rubio and Kasich win their home states. In that event, we probably continue with a four-way race heading into a goodly number of winner-take-all contests. That would favor Trump.
So I believe that after last night, the dynamic of the race needs to change. The dynamic might change if we get to a two-way race soon, but we’re probably not so close to that happening.
The dynamic might change even in a more crowded field if the new, hard-hitting attacks on Trump damage him in a big way. It could happen. As the reader quoted above says, these attacks only began in earnest about a week ago, and fresh money may help propagate them. Moreover, Trump didn’t quite meet his expectations last night, which suggests that the attacks have stalled him.
But stalling probably isn’t good enough unless the field shrinks soon. If it doesn’t, Trump will have to go into reverse. I’m not confident that he will.
Before the returns started coming in last night, I wrote that Trump may become the prohibitive favorite as a result of Super Tuesday. I don’t believe he achieved that.
However, with his wins in the majority of contests and his collection of more delegates than anyone else, and with three of his opponents each getting enough of a sniff to stay in the race as we head towards winner-take-all, Trump, unfortunately, is the heavy favorite, as I see it.
UPDATE: On an optimistic note, and one that supports my critic’s view, Todd Zywicki points out that Trump has lost 3 of 4 Republican-only contests. A lot more closed contests are coming up.
Four will take place this weekend. They are: Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, and Maine.