To paraphrase the old Chinese proverb, we are certainly living in some interesting times. The GOP primary is now pared down to four candidates and the dynamics of this race are getting more interesting. Without much further ado, here are my thoughts on where the race stands.
2+3 is greater than 1+4: The current delegate count stands as follows: Donald Trump: 384 delegates, Ted Cruz: 300 delegates, Marco Rubio: 151 delegates and John Kasich: 37 delegates. Both Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio are teaming up against the current GOP frontrunner, Donald Trump. That is expected when you are the leader in delegates and have more than two people in the race.
What nobody seems to notice is that if you combined Cruz’s and Rubio’s delegates, they would barely outnumber Trump. (Cruz/Rubio: 451 to Trump: 384) If Rubio were to drop out of the race and endorses Cruz, Cruz will be the GOP frontrunner. The impact of such an endorsement would weaken Trump’s perception of inevitability as the GOP nominee.
Cruz initially did not go after Trump because Trump and Cruz are going after the same voters-those who were tired of business as usual in Washington. Cruz anticipated that Trump would eventually drop out. Once Trump dropped out of the race, Cruz would have been the beneficiary of those voters. What no one anticipated was the depth of the voter’s anger. Like warm water strengthening a hurricane, Trump’s popularity rose because of that depth of anger. That anger propelled Trump to becoming the frontrunner in the GOP primary. Instead of working together, Trump goes after Cruz to pressure him to drop out. As the result of Trump’s actions, Cruz and Rubio are working together. With these two men working together, they have a created a combined formidable team that is leading the GOP race. Although Trump is the leader in delegates won, he does not have enough delegates to withstand the combined efforts of Cruz/Rubio.
What about Kasich? If Kasich were to endorse Trump, the delegate numbers would narrow the gap between Trump and Cruz/Rubio (i.e. Trump/Kasich: 421 to Cruz/Rubio: 451), but not enough to overtake Cruz/Rubio.
Kasich is working with Trump. Since Cruz and Rubio are working together, one can reasonably suspect Kasich is working with Trump. This collaboration can be seen in the debates. When Rubio and Cruz have teamed up against Trump, Kasich appears to be the voice of reason. Many people have commented how Kasich appears to be the adult in the room during the debates. Interestingly enough, Kasich has not gone directly against Trump in the debates and vice versa.
After Saturday’s primaries, Trump stated that he thought that Rubio should drop out. However, Trump made no mention of Kasich dropping out. Statistically speaking, Kasich’s delegate numbers are very low compared to the other three candidates. If Rubio were to drop out at this point in the race, then you would see Kasich take a more aggressive approach to Cruz. The table would then be turned because Cruz would then be attacked on both sides, the same way that Rubio and Cruz are attacking Trump. I suspect that both Trump and Kasich are working together is because of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, a mutual supporter of both men. Speaker Gingrich and Trump have mutual respect. Speaker Gingrich have spoken positively of Trump’s campaign. Additionally, both Speaker Gingrich and Gov. Kasich were colleagues in Congress when the GOP took over Congress in 1992 as part of the Contract With America.
There will not be a broker convention. If things continue in the projected path, I do not think that there will be a candidate who will reach the magic number of 1237 for the nomination. Whichever grouping-Cruz/Rubio vs. Trump/Kasich reaches the number of 1237 one individual will drop out and commit his delegates to the other. In other words, Rubio would drop out and endorse Cruz, or Kasich would endorse Trump. The reward that awaits that person will be the Vice-Presidency.
Where do we go from here? This past weekend Ted Cruz surprised many experts and picked up more delegates than Donald Trump. Part of Cruz’s success was last week’s debate performance. Rubio’s performance as the attack dog may have turned off a lot of voters. It may possible that some of those voters went to Kasich. In anticipation for the next debate, here are my keys:
- Will Trump change his tactics and begin to close the deal? Throughout the GOP primary, Trump has been winning primaries because of the plurality of candidates. Now, that this been narrowed down to four, it is easier for the candidates to focus more on policy.The attack on Trump is that he is not a serious candidate- his temper gets the best of him too easily, the insults, his thin skin, and etc… When he is attacked in the debates, those negatives come to the surface. At what point will Trump adjust his debate strategy? An adjustment will look like by showing more patience when he is attacked, not going for the quick insult, begin to focus more on policy. In other words, he needs to show the voters that he is a serious and viable candidate and not a loudmouth. If Trump does not adjust his approach, I think he has reached his ceiling. His current approach has worked because they were many candidates, but now as they dwindled to four, an adjustment is needed.
- Who will be the attack dog this time around? The last debate had Rubio serving as the attack dog. If he is going to continue to be the attack dog, he is going to need to change his presentation. At this point in the debate, everyone is familiar with Trump’s problems. If he continues with the attack dog mode as he was in the last debate, Rubio will turn more voters off because the prospective voter will view this as childish and immature get turned off. The focus on this debate needs to be more on policy, which is Trump’s weakness. Cruz focused on Trump’s statement and policy, which served him well this past weekend.
- Will Rubio go after Kasich? Even if Kasich is not working with Trump, Kasich is still trying to serve as a kingmaker in this race. It will be in Rubio’s best interest to weaken Kasich. Kasich had already cost Rubio at least one primary-Virginia. Numerically speaking, if Kasich’s numbers for delegates are close or even exceeds Rubio, then one can expect a Trump/Kasich ticket coming out of the GOP convention. Keep in mind that Trump only mentioned Rubio’s name to drop out and did not mention Kasich by name.
In closing, this current GOP primary is very fluid. No one has yet to take a commanding lead. If this current trajectory continues, then I would see no one dropping out, unless their funding had dried up. It will be interesting to see how this all plays out.