At a dinner following the South Carolina primaries, a GOP insider close to Jeb Bush said party leaders were looking for ways to get Cruz and Rubio to better cooperate in order to stall Trump’s march to the nomination. The insider rolled off a number of options, including possibly stacking up a POTUS-VPOTUS ticket in exchange for a drop out. A plan B, they said, was to get sufficient cooperation to force a brokered convention, at which point they could move the delegates in the right direction.
With Bush and Graham saying the party is “batshit crazy,” you’d think the establishment would be looking to save the party. You’d be wrong. While Jeb will eventually endorse Rubio, GOP insiders say he still seethes at both Rubio’s decision to run and his personal attacks against Bush; Bush won’t offer that endorsement until the last minute.
The situation invites the question as to whether they consider Rubio a true “establishment” candidate. They shouldn’t, and it appears they don’t. Insiders are not actively pushing Kasich to drop out, reportedly in hopes that he can become the nominee in a brokered convention.
These insiders have better data than we do, but unless their data is wildly different than ours, they’re suffering from a bout of wishful thinking. No one will drop out before Super Tuesday, and Rubio and Kasich will probably stay in through March 15, when Florida and Ohio vote in winner-take-all primaries. The problem is, Trump is leading polls in those states, and will have a yuuuge delegate lead before March 15.
The chart above is based on state-level polls with state-level delegate allocation rules. After Super Tuesday, Trump should have around 440 delegates, Cruz 192, and Rubio 112. Those projections would have Trump on pace to wrap up the nomination before May 1, with Cruz and Rubio getting just over 300 delegates a piece.
We’ve run dozens of projections based on current polling dataOf course, none of them involve Cruz or Rubio dropping out. We’ll need to check the 2nd preference votes for both of those candidates. We haven’t seen good data since before Iowa. At that time, nearly 30% of Rubio’s supporters went to Cruz and 10% to Trump. Cruz dropping out meant 30% went to Trump and around 20% each to Rubio and Carson.. The only scenario that produces a brokered convention involves Kasich dropping out before Super Tuesday and 85% of his supporters breaking for Rubio. Even then, Trump falls only 21 delegates short.
So let’s assume no one drops out until after Ohio and Florida vote. What happens then? No surprise, Trump wins, needing only around 300 delegates more after March 15:
So where does this put us? Barring massive shifts in polling numbersOr, Ohio and Florida’s winner-take-alls bouncing to another candidate, GOP insiders will be out of time to affect the outcome if they wait until after Florida to shape the race. They’re probably too late already; their unwillingness (or inability) to do so before Super Tuesday probably cemented the deal.
Footnotes [ + ]
|1.||↑||Of course, none of them involve Cruz or Rubio dropping out. We’ll need to check the 2nd preference votes for both of those candidates. We haven’t seen good data since before Iowa. At that time, nearly 30% of Rubio’s supporters went to Cruz and 10% to Trump. Cruz dropping out meant 30% went to Trump and around 20% each to Rubio and Carson.|
|2.||↑||Or, Ohio and Florida’s winner-take-alls bouncing to another candidate|