Last night’s GOP primary/caucuses results represent a split decision. Donald Trump won in Arizona; Ted Cruz won in neighboring Utah. And in far away American Samoa, the nine delegates apparently are not committed to any candidate.
Last night continued a familiar pattern. Trump won in a primary state; Cruz won in a caucus state.
However, Trump’s Arizona victory occurred in a closed primary — only Republicans voted. This was atypical of Trump’s primary victories.
One is tempted to write off Trump’s huge Arizona win. That state, after all, is ground zero for illegal immigration. And, atypically, Trump had the support of key figures — the state’s popular ex-Governor and the well-known sheriff of Maricopa County, a leader in the fight against illegal immigration.
But if we take a step back, we see that Trump has piled up impressive victories in big states throughout the land — states as varied as Massachusetts (Trump 49 percent; Kasich 18), Florida (Trump 46; Rubio 27); Alabama/Mississippi (Trump 45; Cruz 28); Michigan (Trump 36; Cruz 25); and now Arizona (Trump 47, Cruz 25).
Two regions have yet to be heard from: the West Coast and the mid/upper-mid Atlantic seaboard. Trump seems clearly to have the upper-hand in the latter region, which includes Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Maryland. He also did well in the most recent California poll I’ve seen (from March 9-10), in which his support stood at 38 percent and his lead was double-digit.
It’s true that by this stage of the primary season, the GOP frontrunner’s numbers usually will be even more impressive. However, the typical GOP frontrunner is backed by most leading figures in the party and is not despised by the remainder. Trump is running into unprecedented headwinds for a frontrunner. Yet he flourishes.
The number crunchers question whether Trump can win a majority of delegates via the primaries and caucuses. I have no reason to doubt the number crunchers.
But if Trump falls a few dozen delegates short, will the Party deny the nomination to a candidate who does so consistently well in races throughout this land? Here, there is room for doubt.