Larry Sabato loves to quote T.S. Eliot. In writing about the demise of Florida Senator Marco Rubio’s campaign on Wednesday, Sabato wrote, “To borrow from T.S. Eliot: This is the way Marco Rubio’s campaign ends, not with a bang but a whimper.”
Cleaver. Accurate. Well done!
At this time four years ago, Sabato was also quoting T.S. Eliot. “Three of the four candidates for the Republican presidential nomination — Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul — might soon agree with T.S. Eliot: for them, April may indeed be ‘the cruelest month.’”
Before we get too carried away, lets look at where things stand today in the GOP delegate race. According to Real Clear Politics, Trump has accumulated 646 delegates, Cruz 397, Rubio 169, and Kasich 142. For comparison’s sake, in 2012, Mitt Romney had racked up 494 delegate to Santorum’s 251 right before St. Patrick’s Day.
One would think comparing the current nomination fight with the one just four years ago would be an apples-to-apples comparison, but it’s not that easy. The states that have gone are similar, but the most notable difference is Texas, which didn’t vote until May 29th in 2012. The delegate haul from the Lone Star state accounts for a fourth of Cruz’s delegates to date.
Sabato’s blog post on Wednesday morning was titled, “Titanic Tuesday: Trump Leads but Doesn’t Finish the Job.” It is notably different from his March 15, 2012 headline that read, “Romney Set to Dominate Race Through April.” What’s fascinating to me is how differently the media and prognosticators are treating the 2016 frontrunner in comparison to Romney four years ago.
Let’s be honest, not only could Sabato’s most recent headline legitimately read, “Trump Set to Dominate Race Through April,” but one could have borrowed the same opening sentence. “Two of the three candidates for the Republican presidential nomination — Ted Cruz and John Kasich — might soon agree with T.S. Eliot: for them, April may indeed be ‘the cruelest month.’”
Like Romney, Trump is set to pad his delegate lead in the month of April. This year’s slate of April primaries mirrors what was on the docket back in 2012. Wisconsin, New York, Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island are the states in play next month, and they comprise a total of 309 delegates.
Sabato’s 2012 guesstimate before the April contests awarded Romney 193 of the 282 delegates that were available. Sabato had Santorum winning his home state of Pennsylvania, which made up nearly half of the 89 delegates Sabato projected for him. As we know, Santorum ended his campaign before Pennsylvania voted.
In order to make this easy, let’s just assume that Trump wins Arizona and American Samoa to close out March with 713 delegates. Let’s give Cruz all the delegates from Utah. And even though North Dakota’s delegates are all unbound, lets just give those all to Cruz while we are at it. That brings Cruz up to 465 delegates.
If we stick with the same percentage allotment of delegates that Sabato used in 2012, it means after April’s 309 delegates are accounted for, Trump’s delegate count reaches 923. If we award Cruz the other 99 delegates available, which frankly isn’t going to happen, he only gets to 564 delegates. Why does this matter? Because after April, it will be mathematically impossible for Cruz to win the necessary delegates to capture the GOP nomination.
Meanwhile, Trump will only be 314 delegates away from claiming the nomination. As the only viable candidate in the race, Trump should be able to secure the necessary delegates he needs. Do you really think voters is states like California, Oregon, and Washington are going to turn out for Cruz who doesn’t have a path to the nomination? I don’t.
As the race draws to a close, Trump, like every frontrunner before him, will grow stronger as winning the nomination become inevitable. The same stories we see today about contested conventions were also written four years ago. The only difference is that Romney actually had a communications team that proactively drove the narrative that only he could win the nomination.
Donald Trump may be the master of dominating a news cycle, but not having a communications team that pushed back every day on what others are saying about the race is making life difficult for him. Don’t fool yourselves, Trump has clear path to 1237. Ted Cruz and John Kasich on the other hand, have a road to nowhere.