March 2, 2016

Which Party Is Trump Winning?

Hint: Not the Republican Party.

First, the obvious notes from Super Tuesday. Donald Trump further cleared his path to the Republican nomination — but he also underperformed expectations, winning seven and not 10 or 11 states. Ted Cruz won three states, bolstering his claim to being the only viable Trump alternative, though he now heads for less friendly territory. Marco Rubio finally won a state, giving him hope going into Florida and other states that are closer to Minnesota, where he won, and Virginia, where he nearly did (but didn’t because of John Kasich). At this point, the (narrow) path for either Cruz or Rubio likely involves a brokered convention.

Second, the underlying stories. Yes, Trump has won 10 of the first 15 states, but he only pulled a grand total of 34% of the vote Tuesday and has yet to win a majority anywhere. Combined, Cruz and Rubio have about 50%. And Trump’s share of the delegates declined from 66% before Tuesday to 49%.

Bottom line: The reason Trump is the frontrunner is because there have always been too many alternatives. Two is still too many, not to mention four or the original 16. And no one really took him on until five days before Super Tuesday. We’ll see how he handles continued withering attacks on his record of hurting the very voters he appeals to.

Drilling down even deeper we find that Trump is winning because of voters who aren’t Republican. His surprise loss in Oklahoma may demonstrate this, because it was a closed primary (only Republicans could vote). Massachusetts illustrates it too — it was Trump’s highest performing state (49%) and 20,000 Democrats crossed the aisle to vote for him. Through March 15, another 10 states will vote and eight of them are Republican-only.

So as The Weekly Standard’s Jonathan Last put it, “Trump is not leading a revolt from within the party, but staging a hostile takeover of it.”

Or put another way, it’s great to “expand the party,” as Trump boasted Tuesday night, bringing Democrats into the fold, but only if they intend to stay there come November. There’s plenty of evidence Democrats are crossing over now, and little reason to think they’ll stay. We’ll be happy to be proven wrong, but don’t think for a minute Democrats are above voting for Trump now to choose a weak general election opponent for Hillary Clinton.

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