RUSH: Now we’ve got this debate tonight. It’s in Houston, and here’s more conventional wisdom. On March 1st we have Super Tuesday, and part of Super Tuesday’s Texas. And if Cruz doesn’t win that, it’s over. If he can’t win his home state. And then on March 15th is Florida and the SEC Primary, and that’s Rubio, and Rubio’s gotta win that or he’s out. Except, you know what? Rubio is setting up that he doesn’t have to win that.
He’s trying to foil that conventional wisdom. But Lou Cannon… Remember Lou Cannon, the biographer of Ronald Reagan? I’ll get to this in a minute. Lou Cannon has a piece today essentially saying, “Hey, wait a minute. It’s way, way, way too soon for everybody on the Republican side to think this is over.” And he reminds that Ronald Reagan lost the first six primaries in 1976.
He said (summarized), “If you look at the delegate count right now,” and I’ll get into detail as we looked at the piece. “If you look at the delegate count and the delegates that are at stake coming up, and if you look at some of the states beyond where the conventional wisdom is likely wrong,” he says, “there are two caveats. Both Cruz and Rubio have to win their home states.” But Lou Cannon’s point is if they do, this is by no means over, not even close to being over, and people who think that it is are making grave mistakes.
RUSH: Now, there’s one really important difference between today and 1976 when Lou Cannon’s writing about Reagan’s first attempt to win the nomination: He lost to Gerald Ford. But other than that, Lou Cannon (who is a Washington Post writer) then became a Reagan biographer and is generally accepted as a good guy. But the difference here is, do you know when Super Tuesday was in 1976? Take a guess.
It was in June.
I mean, everything’s front-loaded today. It was not as front-loaded back then. And back then, you know, ’76, they still decided things at the convention. Nelson Rockefeller was in town. He was going to museums all day long, getting drunk, and then showing up at the floor of the convention and doing whatever, trying to get out in time to hit Plaza III for dinner. Nelson Rockefeller. Rocky. But they had convention things happen there. I was in Kansas City at the time, and it was in Kemper Arena where they held the thing.
Anyway, it was a little different. But here’s what Lou Cannon writes today at Real Clear Politics, “Why Trump Isn’t the Inevitable — After months of dismissing Donald Trump, many pundits are now anointing him with the Republican presidential nomination. I find this premature. With Tuesday night’s win in the Nevada caucuses, Trump has only 79 of the 1,237 delegates needed. He is ‘stuck’ in the mid-30s of support, sufficient to win primaries with a platoon of candidates but not in a head-to-head race.” In the mid-30s is nothing.
“Dan Balz of The Washington Post points to vulnerabilities: Trump had the lowest percentage of any South Carolina primary winner in the last 10 contests. Late-deciding voters broke against [Trump], giving him a victory margin less than his lead in pre-primary polls,” and that’s true. And, by the way, another thing to add here: Trump’s victories from one state to the next have not provided the usual bounce. His numbers are staying steady.
“Jeb Bush’s withdrawal helps Trump’s opponents. Although Trump claims that some of Bush’s support will go to him, it’s hard to see that happening. Bush … was the most outspoken Trump critic of any Republican candidate. A vote for him, not that there were many of them, was a vote against Trump.” They’re not going to join Trump. “Trump has a solid and seemingly unshakable populist base among working-class voters without a college education. But he also has sky-high unfavorable ratings, with 28% of Republicans saying they’d never vote for him.
“Indeed, Gallup’s surveys show Trump has the highest unfavorables of any presidential candidate in modern history, a net minus 70 among Democrats and a net minus 27 among independents. He is now seen in some quarters as a lock for the nomination because his surviving opponents are more intent on advancing their own candidacies than stopping him and will likely split the anti-Trump vote.
“But GOP nominating rules, which (with tiny exceptions) require proportional representation in the primaries before March 15 and winner-take-all from then on give Trump’s rivals times to maneuver. The Republican candidates will split 595 delegates in a dozen Super Tuesday primaries on March 1. If Trump were to continue at his present pace, he’d win a little more than 200 of [those 595]. But on March 15 the Florida and Ohio primaries alone will yield 165 delegates.
“If Trump or anyone else wins both these primaries, he would likely jump to the top of the delegate count no matter what happens on Super Tuesday and become a prohibitive favorite for the nomination. How likely is that? Trump will face his three principal opponents in their home-state primaries in the next three weeks. In Texas … Trump trails Texas Sen. Ted Cruz by 9.3 points in the RealClearPolitics average of polls. In Ohio … Trump [is] ahead of Ohio Gov. John Kasich by five points. Kasich has a high approval rating in his home state…”
It goes on.
RUSH: I misspoke in my hurried status, trying to get as much of this in before the break. I mistakenly said that Kasich leads Trump by five in Ohio. It’s the other way around. Trump is ahead of Kasich by five in Ohio in the Real Clear Politics rolling averages. Just to review, ’cause this is the meat of it. Republican candidates have 595 delegates at stake on Super Tuesday. It’s 12 primaries, 595 delegates. If Trump were to continue at his present pace, he would win a little more than 200 of them, and the others would be split among the other candidates.
But on March 15th when you get to the SEC primary, you got Florida and Ohio, and you got 165 delegates there in those two, and if Trump or anybody else wins both of those primaries, he would likely jump to the top of the delegate count no matter what happens on Super Tuesday. In other words, what Lou Cannon is saying here is: No matter what happens next Tuesday, if somebody wins both Florida and Ohio…
Say if Trump could win Florida and, or if Rubio could win Florida and Ohio. Or Trump, obviously. But whoever.
If somebody could win both, they would end up at the top of the delegate count, given where everybody is. Now, I don’t know what the likelihood of that is. It’s probably pretty slim. The conventional wisdom… which, I actually think, what conventional wisdom is holding true in this campaign? I think conventional wisdom’s a bunch of… It’s a crock anyway. You know me; I always run the other way from it. But there are people that swear by it, like David “Rodham” Gergen. And we have some on our side who buy it hook, line, and sinker.
But the conventional wisdom is Cruz has to win Texas or it’s over. If he can’t win his home state with a lot of delegates, he’s finished. Same thing, Rubio in Florida. Lou Cannon says all these things don’t add up. He can’t say that they’re true right now. There’s too much to happen between now and then. Like Florida is not until March 15th. Texas is next Tuesday. It’s part of Super Tuesday. So the question is: How likely is it that one candidate is gonna win both Florida and Ohio on March 15th?
“Trump will face his three principal opponents in their home-state primaries in the next three weeks. In Texas,” part of Super Tuesday on Tuesday, “Trump trails Texas Sen. Ted Cruz by 9.3 points in the RealClearPolitics average of polls. In Ohio … Trump [is] ahead of Ohio Gov. John Kasich by five points. Kasich has a high approval rating in his home state and could win the primary if he’s still part of the conversation by March 15,” and he will be, because he wants to be somebody’s veep.
“Only in Florida among these three states does Trump have a solid lead in the RCP averages, by more than 20 points against Cruz and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio,” and that’s why Rubio is out saying (summarized), “That’s a crock! I don’t have to win Florida to stay viable.” It’s all about setting expectations and narratives. Now, admittedly — and Lou Cannon admits this: “It’s hard to see how Cruz, Kasich or Rubio could continue if they can’t even win their home states. If Trump wins only two of the three, the Republican race could become a two-man affair with more than a third of the delegates remaining to be chosen.
“It will be interesting to see if Trump can win” a two-man race.
That’s what everybody seems to want.
Whittling this down to a two man race, that’s what the establishment thinks is their saving grace. And then Cannon writes, “I covered Ronald Reagan for The Washington Post in 1976 when, challenging President Gerald Ford, he lost the first six primaries. The situation was so bleak in the Reagan camp that some aides were privately exploring jobs in Ford’s fall campaign. But Reagan did not quit on Reagan. He won a North Carolina primary he’d been expected to lose and battled Ford all the way to the Republican National Convention in Kansas City, giving himself a flying head start for 1980.”
He says, “There’s no Reagan in this campaign, although Kasich is similarly level-headed…”
That’s the one thing in this column that blows it all up for me, is Lou Cannon basically equating Kasich with Reagan. That’s the one thing here that blows this thing sky-high. But at least it’s an interesting treatment of the numbers, and the premise is that it’s not over yet. It’s way too soon for it to be over, and the conventional wisdom it is over. I mean, you go to Trump, “nominee.” The word “nominee” under a picture of Trump. Here’s a headline: “Political Science Professor: 97% Chance Trump Is General Election Winner.” Not nominee, 97% chance he’s the winner. It’s some political scientist, probably using global warming models. Who knows? (sigh)