What a circular, paradoxical, and maddening election cycle. Conservatives have been sandwiched in between a group of establishment candidates on one end and a French revolution on the other end without the ability to stand out or garner enough attention from the media. As such, so many conservative voters who are tired of the status quo have gravitated to the only revolution that is evident to them — the Trump French Revolution while the remaining 60% of the votes have been split between the other candidates.
Watching Rubio block Cruz’s path in Florida by refusing to exit the race even though it was crystal clear for weeks he was unable win is similar to watching a slow motion train wreck. We all saw it coming. What was the point? Florida is what happens when voters are presented with the false choice between the status quo and a revolution, albeit a French revolution in the form of Donald Trump. Rubio lost every county except for his home base of Miami-Dade. With that said, Rubio gave an extraordinary concession speech, which was probably his best message of the campaign.
Unfortunately, in the meantime, by staying in after he already had no path, Rubio has helped tip North Carolina and Missouri to Donald Trump. Cruz appears to have lost Missouri by just 0.3%. Rubio received 5.7% and Kasich got 9.1%, easily enough to deny Cruz the win, even as they netted no delegates from the state. The same story played out in Illinois where Kasich was strong due to his Midwestern appeal. But he still failed to crack 20% statewide. However, when coupled with Rubio’s 8.5%, it was easily enough to tip the balance to Trump who will likely win with just 38% of the vote. According to exit polls, Cruz would have won those states had this been a two man race.
Seeing a pattern here?
Last week, I laid out an optimistic scenario where Cruz could win more delegates than Trump if the other candidates drop out. But by staying in this long they have allowed Trump to net more delegates, not only by preventing the one man with a path from competing in Florida and Ohio, but by denying him wins in states all across the map.
Further, North Carolina, Missouri, and Illinois were all open primaries with Democrats crossing over to vote for non-conservative candidates. All of last night’s states also had early voting, which clearly worked against Cruz. Many votes were already banked in before Cruz surged and while Rubio was still relevant at a national level. The early voting is likely to dog Cruz in the next big state — Arizona.
On the one hand, the anti-Trump vote is now free of Marco Rubio. On the other hand, John Kasich has become the first candidate to stay in the race this long simply on account of winning his home state as a sitting governor, even though he lost every other state and came in last place in many states. He mathematically has no path and recognizes that himself. Kasich slipped out during his “victory speech” and said, “Tomorrow I’m going to Philadelphia… and then I’m going… I don’t know.” Yup, he is not going to Utah and Arizona — the next states on the calendar, he is going to a state where he couldn’t even make it on the ballot.
If Kasich gets out of the race there is still a path to Cruz winning more delegates and coming into the convention with a real mandate. There is a path to finally making this a race between a true outsider and a true conservative vs. a charlatan who is the epitome of an insider liberal. This is the race that has been denied to us all along and it will continue to be denied to us so long as Kasich is in the race. The choice is very clear.
Pending changes in numbers from last night in Illinois and Missouri, Cruz can surpass Trump in delegates if Kasich leaves the race by April when the critical state of Wisconsin becomes a battle ground. Cruz will likely emerge from Tuesday’s elections roughly 280 delegates down from Trump. It is very reasonable to assume, based on all the factors we laid out last week, that Cruz can win up to 672 of the remaining delegates while Trump wins 310. Pennsylvania will be tricky because most of the delegates go unpledged. I’m giving Cruz all the delegates that are unpledged in the states he wins. If we take those out, then Trump and Cruz would be roughly even. At least in this scenario Cruz could go into a convention and have the delegates, most of whom are party activists and not picked by a campaign, switch over to him on a second ballot. Cruz can even be within striking distance on a first ballot if Rubio’s delegates gravitate to him.
Daniel Horowitz is a senior editor of Conservative Review. Follow him on Twitter @RMConservative.