The basic case for nominating Ted Cruz rather than Donald Trump is that, while Cruz would arguably be the most right-wing nominee in modern American history, and would probably lose to Hillary Clinton, he would not unleash the sort of blood-dimmed tide of down-ticket destruction that Trump would.

A new Washington Post/ABC News poll lends some support to this view: It finds that Trump’s numbers are unspeakably awful among all the voter groups that Republican strategists had hoped to improve the party’s performance among in 2016. On the other hand, Cruz’s numbers aren’t that great among these groups either — they are certainly worse than John Kasich’s are.

First, Trump. Marvel at these findings: Trump is viewed unfavorably by 67 percent of Americans overall; 75 percent of women; 74 percent of young voters; 91 percent of African Americans; 81 percent of Latinos; 73 percent of college-educated whites; 66 percent of white women; and 72 percent of moderates.

Republican front-runner Donald Trump says he can't wait to take on Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton in the fall, but here are three reasons why he could lose a general election. (Sarah Parnass/The Washington Post)

Could Trump win somehow by running up a huge margin among white voters — particularly blue collar whites and white men? Well, Trump is viewed unfavorably by 59 percent of whites overall, and he is even viewed unfavorably by majorities of non-college whites (52 percent) and white men (51 percent). And Trump’s awful numbers among college educated whites and white women (detailed above) make the run-up-the-white-vote strategy look still more far fetched.

Now, Cruz. The Texas Senator is viewed unfavorably by 53 percent of women; 50 percent of young voters; 51 percent of blacks; 46 percent of Latinos (versus 32 percent who view him favorably); 65 percent of college educated whites; 56 percent of white women; and 55 percent of moderates. All of that is significantly better than Trump. But he’s underwater with all these groups, and Cruz’s struggles among college educated whites and women (particularly white women) lend some credence to the Democratic assessment that Cruz’s conservatism on social issues could prove crippling among key swing voter groups.

Cruz, too, is running a campaign that seems shaped around the idea that he can win a general election by driving up margins and turnout among white voters (among “Reagan Democrats” — presuming there are many left — and evangelicals). But Cruz is also underwater among whites overall (38-54), non-college whites (41-49), and white men (39-53). And he, too, has pretty bad numbers (detailed above) among college educated whites and white women.

Still, Cruz’s negatives don’t really rival Trump’s hideously awful numbers, which do suggest Trump could prove to be the “zombie nominee” that Republicans fear — potentially unstoppable in the primaries, but damaged beyond hope of repair for the general election. So it seems reasonable for Republicans to conclude that, even if nominating Cruz might weaken their chances at the White House, at least he might not unleash spectacular Trumpian levels of destruction at the level of the battles for control of the Senate and House.

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* BUT ARE BIG GOP DONORS WARMING TO TRUMP? Politico reports on a fascinating conference call in which Karl Rove, the founder of the American Crossroads Super PAC, argued to big donors that Donald Trump can beat Hillary Clinton:

The phone call — which featured Rove, Crossroads officials and a pollster — laid out swing state polling and electoral map analysis done by the group showing circumstances in which Trump could beat Clinton, the Democratic presidential front-runner, in a general election, according to three sources briefed on the call. One source, a high-level operative with the Koch brothers’ conservative advocacy network, characterized the conversation as heralding “a softening of the anti-Trump position” within the big-money GOP establishment.

The big donors may get behind Trump simply by arguing that as awful as he is, Clinton would be a lot worse.

 * INSIDE TED CRUZ’S PLAN TO STOP TRUMP: The Post has a great look at the intricacies of Ted Cruz’s plan to deny Trump the nomination by painstakingly piling up delegates wherever he can find them:

Cruz is largely looking ahead to May and June contests in California, Indiana and Nebraska, states where his strategists believe the delegate rules and natural political tilts are favorable. His campaign has beefed up a team dedicated to bird-dogging the arcane state-by-state process of selecting delegates — which Trump is struggling to navigate — assigning each delegate to a dedicated campaign staffer for support….At the heart of his mission is one goal: keeping Trump from getting to 1,237 delegates.

And Donald Trump appears to have been caught napping by all of this, though it’s still possible he could win the nomination outright if he runs up big wins on coming favorable terrain.

* ONE CHALLENGE THAT HILLARY FACES TONIGHT: The news broke yesterday that regulators worry that five major banks don’t have plans to wind themselves down in a crisis,  and Bernie Sanders is likely to seize on this at tonight’s debate. Alexander Burns observes:

It is a story that plays directly into Mr. Sanders’s area of political confidence….Mrs. Clinton responded assertively to the news, urging regulators to take on the banks more aggressively. It will be essential for her to project that message with real force in the debate, especially in the almost-certain event that Mr. Sanders once again challenges her friendly relationship with the financial sector.

Clinton will reiterate that she is prepared to break up banks deemed too large and risky. Question: Will Sanders will reprise his innuendo that she is bought and paid for by Wall Street?

 * DEMS COULD REAP GAINS IN HOUSE: Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball updates its House race rankings and determines that 20 seats are now true toss-ups. Here’s the big X Factor:

As we ponder the situation in the House as Republicans appear likely to nominate a potentially polarizing person — Donald Trump or Ted Cruz — to lead their national ticket, we have to consider a world in which the Democrats not only win the White House again, but win it by a bigger margin than Obama did in 2012…..the coattail effect and the higher propensity for straight-ticket voting could prove to be very damaging to the GOP with Trump or Cruz leading the party in 2016.

Sabato and company see a gain of only five to 10 House seats as likely, but note that a big Dem win on the presidential level “could change that calculation, swelling Democratic gains.”

* DEMS KEEP UP PRESSURE OVER COURT BATTLE: Majority Forward, a group designed to push for Dem Senate control, is launching a series of digital ads on social media hitting vulnerable GOP Senators for refusing to consider Obama’s Supreme Court nominee. The ad Wisconsin’s Ron Johnson is here; the one hitting Ohio’s Rob Portman is here.

The ads repeat versions of the idea that Republicans should “do their jobs” rather than “play Washington politics,” the message Dems hope will ultimately get them to break — or, if not, extract a lot of political pain along the way.

* WHY A ‘MODERATE’ MAY NOT SAVE GOP: E.J. Dionne looks at a big economic speech delivered by John Kasich:

He proposed a balanced budget; a freeze on most federal regulations; tax cuts for individuals and businesses; sending “welfare, education, Medicaid, highway infrastructure and job training” programs back to the states; a guest worker program; and fixes to Social Security that would certainly involve some cuts….In other words, he reprises the same agenda conservatives were offering in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s….It also happens to be a variation on Ryanism.

Any non-Trump/Cruz GOP candidate would stand for tax cuts for the rich and slashing the safety net, whether it’s Kasich or Paul Ryan or some other imagined “savior” nominee.

* AND BERNIE CLAIMS DEM PRIMARY SCHEDULE ‘DISTORTS REALITY’: Bernie Sanders, late last night:

“I think that having so many Southern states go first kind of distorts reality,” Sanders said during his latest appearance on The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore….”Since we’ve been out of the South, we’ve been doing pretty well,” Sanders remarked. He insisted that despite Clinton’s big delegate lead, some of the superdelegates “are going to be coming over.”

Maybe, but some of these southern states that Clinton won — Florida, Virginia, and potentially North Carolina — are kind of important to the electoral map in the general, too.