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Cruz, Rubio, Trump

The 538 site has up some predictions for the Iowa caucus and the New Hampshire primary. As of right now, they project the Iowa results to be Cruz-Trump-Rubio; their prediction for New Hampshire currently has Trump-Rubio-Cruz. I don’t have much confidence in those predictions, but at the moment it seems clear that Donald Trump, Marco Rubio or Ted Cruz will win the nomination, with very long odds for the rest of the field. A candidate can win the nomination without winning Iowa, or without winning New Hampshire, or even without winning either, but finishing fourth or lower in both? I don’t see it.

Three obvious scenarios if Iowa and New Hampshire run the way that they are currently predicted by 538:

  • The race almost immediately narrows to the three candidates (Ben Carson and Rand Paul staying in with negligible support) and Beltway Republicans jump in to support Marco Rubio. Fox and radio outlets amplify the endorsements, and Rubio’s polls shoot up. Either Senator Cruz or Mr. Trump finishes a distant third in both SC and NV, and then the story is ’can he survive March 1’. He can’t, as Sen. Rubio comes in first or second everywhere. The one who drops out endorses Rubio, and Rubio’s advantage in organization and establishment money over the remaining competitor gives him the edge on March 15 in IL, OH and of course FL. Still, it’s a close race and he doesn’t clinch until April 26, when he wins the Northeast decisively.
  • Trump’s voters never turn up. Cruz beats him soundly in Iowa, is within five points in NH (Rubio sandwiched between) and then crushes him in SC. Trump’s campaign dries up and blows away like Howard Dean’s. Maybe Trump declares an independent run, maybe he doesn’t, maybe he declares one but doesn’t bother actually running, but he’s through. Most of his supporters (the ones that vote) wind up in the Cruz camp, and while Rubio maybe wins a couple of primaries on March 1, at the end of that day Cruz has something like two thirds of the awarded delegates, and it’s all over but the shouting.
  • Trump’s voters do show up, and he wins. Cruz throws everything he’s got at him in IA and just edges him, and then gets crushed in NH and then in SC. Rubio never catches fire. The Party has to put together a four-day celebration of The Donald. In Cleveland. Someday, historians date the end of the long American 20th Century to that weekend: the last time anyone took America seriously.

That’s assuming that the 538 scores the trifecta in both places. Marco Rubio could still finish behind John Kasich in Iowa and be done, or he could win and be the front-runner. Trump could win both IA and NH or neither. In particular, the NH primary voters will know what happened during the IA caucus, which will change things—and you should keep in mind that a swing of five percent in a tiny group of voters could escape the polls altogether and make a huge difference in the outcome there. Still and all, those three scenarios look the likeliest to me, and as a story I have to say the middle one smells the most persuasive.

Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,


But, but, but Graham just endorsed Bush!

Which told me two things: Graham had dropped out, and apparently Bush was running.

I'm still hoping for a brokered GOP convention. It's the natural extension of the GOP's disdain for voting. It seems like the most likely scenario where Trump would then run as an independent, maybe we could see Romney again for a day or two (never thought I'd miss him), and Paul Ryan could smirk his way to being the top draft pick again.

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