Sunday, March 20, 2016

Why Deep Benches Don't Work In Presidential Races


It's time to admit the obvious: the supposedly "deep" bench of presidential candidates the Republican Party put forth this year not only wasn't very effective, it was the primary reason why Donald Trump has been able to get off to such a good start and win the number of delegates he has. I mean, really, 17 candidates? Are you kidding me? And some of those candidates barely cracked 1 percent in the polling and hung on way too long.

Now, with almost half of the delegates awarded, the Republicans are desperately looking to prevent Trump from reaching the 1237 delegate mark before the convention. It's a little late in the game for them and even now, they still can't come up with a unified front. The fact is, while everyone agrees Trump would be a disaster, they can't coalesce around the one candidate that could take him out.

Last Tuesday's primary results underscore the quagmire the GOP has put itself in. Going in, there were four candidates "alive" and on the ballots in Florida, North Carolina, Ohio, Illinois and Missouri: Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and John Kasich. Trump ended up winning all but one. Ohio went to Kasich. However, had Kasich and Rubio dropped out before Tuesday, the results would've been vastly different. Trump would've still won Florida, and he would've picked up Ohio, but Cruz would've won North Carolina, Missouri and Illinois.

These were the delegate totals from last Tuesday: Trump: 272, Cruz: 41, Kasich: 80, and Rubio: 6. Here's what the results likely would've looked like had Kasich and Rubio dropped out: Trump: 219, Cruz: 180. Of course these are hypothetical results based on the logical distribution of Kasich and Rubio voters. Obviously, there's no way to predict with certainty where they would've gone, but the point is that while Trump still would've had a good night, his margin of victory would've been considerably smaller. More significantly, the candidate best situated to beat him - Cruz - would've remained within striking distance.

Far from defeating Trump, the GOP is diluting its own pool of anti-Trump supporters, thus allowing him a much clearer path to the nomination.  They remind me of that commercial where the guy is choking on a piece of food stuck in his throat. Everyone at the table debates over which method to use to dislodge the food as the man suffocates right in front of them. In this analogy, the man represents the GOP, Donald Trump the food and the morons at the table all the Republican candidates who thought they had a shot at the nomination past and present.

Now that Rubio has finally taken the hint and bowed out - after getting humiliated in his home state, mind you - thus narrowing the field to a still overcrowded three, the sixty-four thousand dollar question is whether Kasich will follow suit. The answer appears to be no. The Ohio governor is staying in no matter the cost. The man actually thinks he will emerge from a brokered convention with the nomination. Dream on, John. I got a better shot at winning it.

Here's how stupid - and delusional - Kasich is. Arizona's primary this Tuesday has 58 delegates up for grabs. It is a winner take all state and, as of now, Real Clear Politics shows Trump at 34 percent, Cruz at 21 percent, Kasich at 12.5 percent and the rest uncommitted. Again, I'm not suggesting all of Kasich's voters would go for Cruz; no doubt some would flock to Trump. But it's far more likely they'd prefer the former over the latter. And with that many undecideds to consider, the odds of a Cruz win would be very good.

The other state voting Tuesday is Utah, where Cruz is leading Trump by 24 points according to RCP. If Cruz were to reach 50.1 percent of the popular vote, he would receive all 40 of that state's delegates. Coupled with a win in Arizona, that would mean a 98 to nothing landslide for him. The race would change dramatically and Trump's path to 1237 delegates would be in severe jeopardy. But with Kasich playing the role of spoiler, Trump will likely win Arizona and pick up at least some some of the delegates from Utah, since Cruz would be denied a majority. More importantly, Trump will be on track to reach 1237. And that's called sticking it to your party.

Look, there's no doubt that Kasich would make a far better general election candidate than either Donald Trump or Ted Cruz, but the fact remains he has zero chance of becoming it. According to Rule 40, which was adopted at the last GOP convention, a candidate must win the majority of delegates in at least eight states to even be considered for the party nomination. As of right now, only Trump and Cruz qualify.

Funny isn't it. Ted Cruz is now the GOP establishment's best and only shot at stopping Donald Trump. I bet you didn't see that coming. The moral of the story for the GOP couldn't be simpler: Going forward, less is more, more or less.

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