Trump after Nevada

I enjoyed this piece from James Hohmann post-Nevada looking at how Trump may be defying the conventional wisdom that has developed on him.

As someone who long-believed in “Trump’s ceiling” (though I was converted by polling data a while back), I especially liked this part:

The first is that Trump has a relatively low ceiling of support. With 100 percent of precincts reporting, Trump won the Silver State with 46 percent. He beat Marco Rubio by 22 points. Ted Cruz finished a close third with 21.4 percent. As the Washington Examiner’s Byron York writes, “If he has a ceiling, at least in Nevada, it is higher than earlier thought.”

I kind of love what Seth Masket wrote on FB the other day:

Trump has a ceiling of 2̶5̶ 3̶0̶ 4̶5̶ okay 80. No way he gets above 80.

I’m also now far from convinced that whomever the top alternative may be (presumably Rubio) that this person beats Trump.  I think Trump may very well take out all comers, even if in a head-to-head matchup:

The third is that, as the field of candidates condenses, every voter who is not currently for Trump will fall in line behind whoever emerges as his alternative. Many of Cruz’s voters actually look a lot like Trump voters demographically and ideologically. It should not be treated as a given that Cruz supporters would automatically move to Rubio if it becomes a two-man race. It stands to reason that many backing the Texan might prefer Trump over the other Cuban American senator, who continues to be dogged by his role in the Gang of Eight immigration bill.

Predictwise has Trump at 72% right now.  That strikes me as not unreasonable.

Of course, one of the notable features of the race (and presumably a contributing factor to Trump’s success) is the failure of his Republican opponents to come after him hard.  The Post’s Jim Tankersley has an interesting theory on why neither Rubio or Cruz will be willing to drop out:

You can make a case that  Cruz should prefer the GOP nominate Trump instead of Rubio, or that Rubio should prefer Trump over Cruz. Cruz and Rubio are both young and both want to be president. Assuming they don’t run on the same ticket, the chances would appear low that both men will reach the White House someday. If Cruz wins the nomination and the general election, Rubio has to wait eight more years for another shot, and he probably starts that election an underdog to Cruz’s vice president. The same is true in reverse.

A Trump win very possibly shortens that wait. General election polls are notoriously unreliable at this stage in the election, but they suggest he is more likely to lose in November than Rubio or Cruz would be, creating another open primary in 2020. Even if Trump beats the Democratic nominee, he could prove ripe for a primary challenge in four years if he, say, pushed a single-payer health care plan through Congress.

In those scenarios, either Cruz or Rubio would prefer to be the second-place finisher in a three-man race that ends with Trump being nominated. It would position the runner-up well for the next contested primary, whenever that might be. It would blunt the incentives for either man to drop out.

There’s also a nice “shoot the moon” in Hearts analogy (something I never successfully pulled off).  I think there may be something to this, but I think more than anything each is convinced that somehow he is going to be the person the party unites behind to stop Trump.  Despite ever-increasing evidence to the contrary.





About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

4 Responses to Trump after Nevada

  1. Jon K. says:

    You have never shot the moon in hearts? Growing up (and to this day) hearts was a card game my whole family could always agree to play. My dad in particular loves that move, and it kept me perpetually on guard for it. When the cards are there it is so satisfying to pull it off and lower my score by 23 points. I remember being so frustrated when I knew one of my family members was running it and there was nothing I could play to stop them…. What a great game hearts is!

  2. itchy says:

    Sounds more like the Prisoner’s Dilemma to me.

  3. ohwilleke says:

    Trump polls better in Nevada (and Florida) than he does in most states. Cruz looks likely to win two states on Super Tuesday. Rubio (as you note in your next post), isn’t likely to win a single state in the next few weeks, even his home state of Florida. So, even if Rubio is more attractive as a general election candidate and in a brokered convention, it is hard to be credible without ever winning a single state, even your home state.

    If Rubio can’t make a credible play, as the more reasonable of the two Cuban Senators in the race, he might conceivably drop out to give Cruz a better shot, although it isn’t clear that Rubio supporters would overwhelmingly prefer Cruz to Trump, and the same can be said of the straggling Kaisch and Carson supporters.

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