In a preview of what Republicans will face from Democrats if Trump does win the nomination, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee just released this new video, juxtaposing choice footage of Trump’s ugliest and craziest moments, with numerous vulnerable Republican Senators all pledging to support the eventual nominee, whoever it is:
This represents an elaborate trolling exercise — it is a Web video whose timing seems deliberately chosen to rub salt in the GOP’s festering Trump wound at exactly the moment when he’s poised to rack up big victories. But as Mike DeBonis reports, it signals a very real onslaught that is soon to come from Democrats, in an effort to “yoke vulnerable Republican senators to their party’s divisive presidential front-runner.”
As such, the video actually highlights a series of dilemmas Republicans may face soon enough. According to this analysis of the delegate math, if Trump wins in Florida but loses in Ohio, he will need to win approximately 59 percent of the remaining delegates to win the nomination outright. That means either Trump winning outright or a contested convention would both be very real possibilities.
The basic problem Republicans face in either scenario is this: Republicans have to choose between getting behind Trump as the nominee — which means a potential down-ticket bloodbath — or consciously trying to split the party, effectively ceding the White House in hopes of giving vulnerable GOP candidates a way to avoid being “yoked” to Trump.
If Trump wins the nomination outright, conservatives may get behind a third-party challenger. That would probably make a Trump loss even more likely (or perhaps inevitable), but it would give GOP incumbents the option of supporting someone else. Yet many of them are already on record pledging to support the eventual nominee, so it’s unclear how that would work (and so it’s perfectly plausible that the party could end up getting behind Trump while hoping the down-ticket damage isn’t too catastrophic). This dilemma alone could create all kinds of complications, and potentially further divisions.
Alternatively, if Trump falls short of the majority of the delegates, Republicans may opt for the contested convention scenario, in hopes of fielding a more electable general election candidate and giving down-ticket incumbents someone else to support. But in that scenario, Trump is likely to try to mount a third party challenge, or at least try to pocket all his supporters and walk, instructing them not to support the GOP nominee, splitting the party or otherwise wreaking all kinds of unknown havoc. So in opting for a contested convention, Republicans would probably be ceding the White House and embracing the potential for even worse divisions, all in order to minimize the damage Republicans suffer to their control of Congress, which has been their protected base of operations during an era in which changing demographics have made the White House harder to attain.
Oh, and there’s also this: If Trump begins to look more likely to win the nomination, the Senate GOP stance of refusing any consideration to President Obama’s nominee to the Supreme Court could grow more and more untenable.
* THE FINAL FORECASTS, GOP SIDE: FiveThirtyEight’s final forecasts give Donald Trump a 98 percent chance of beating Marco Rubio in his home state of Florida; an 89 percent chance of winning in North Carolina; and a 63 percent chance of winning in Illinois. John Kasich has an 87 percent chance of winning in Ohio.
If Trump were to sweep those three, his chances of winning the nomination outright would increase, but forcing a contested convention would still be possible. Rubio would drop out, leaving Kasich and Ted Cruz battling to emerge as the alternative to challenge him at the convention (though the party might try to nominate someone like Mitt Romney or Paul Ryan).
* THE FINAL FORECASTS, DEM SIDE: FiveThirtyEight’s final forecasts give Hillary Clinton a greater than 99 percent chance to beat Bernie Sanders in Florida and North Carolina, a 96 percent chance of winning in Ohio, and a 90 percent chance in Illinois. Most of the reporting we have suggests Sanders has a very real chance at winning in Ohio and Illinois.
If he does pull that off, the Hillary campaign will have to answer tough questions about why she fell short in Rust Belt states like Michigan and Ohio. But ultimately, what will matter most is how the delegate count shakes out.
A few more wins in the Midwest would strengthen the case for Mr. Sanders to stay in the race and compete in the delegate-rich blue states that dominate the final two months of the primary season. But the challenge for Mr. Sanders is not simply to win in the region, it is to win big. Hillary Clinton could win Florida and North Carolina by more than 20 percentage points, making her likely to add to her big pledged delegate lead. Narrow victories by Mr. Sanders will not do much to cut into Mrs. Clinton’s growing edge.
Again: watch the delegate totals, they are what matter the most, though it will be hard to remember that amid the roar of hype about how doomed Clinton is (again), should Sanders win a few tonight.
Trump is a heavy favorite in winner-take-all Florida, while nearly all insiders picked Kasich to pocket all of Ohio’s 66 delegates. In the other three states, Trump was favored by nine-in-10 insiders in North Carolina, eight-in-10 in Illinois and seven-in-10 in Missouri, where some insiders picked Texas Sen. Ted Cruz to upset Trump.
If there is anywhere that Cruz might have a chance at an upset, it’s in Missouri. But even so, the impact on Trump might be negligible, because delegates are not winner-take-all (as are Florida and Ohio, they are awarded by Congressional district.
* TRUMP’S NATIONAL LEAD EXPANDS: The latest NBC News/Survey Monkey Tracking poll finds that Donald Trump is supported by 44 percent of registered Republicans nationally, while Ted Cruz has 24 percent, John Kasich has 12 percent, and Marco Rubio is at 11 percent.
Trump is up five points from last week, while Rubio is down seven. Only two days of the polling took place after the Friday violence at Trump’s rally in Chicago. So who knows — maybe Trump’s numbers will continue rising.
* HILLARY’S LEAD OVER BERNIE HOLDS, MOSTLY: The latest NBC/Survey Monkey poll also finds that Hillary leads Bernie among registered Democrats nationally by 54-41, a slight slippage from last week. Note this:
Women favor Clinton by nearly 20 points — 57 percent to 37 percent….Clinton’s popularity among women does not hold true across all age groups, however. Among all registered women under age 30, 62 percent favor Sanders to Clinton. Women age 30 and older favor Clinton over Sanders by nearly 30 points.
Clinton’s struggles with young voters continue to dog her, which could matter for the general, should she win the nomination.
NEW: Donald Trump wins Northern Mariana Islands Republican caucuses, according to N. Mariana Islands GOP, snagging nine pledged delegates.
What a start to this day of enormously consequential voting.