Trump leads GOP Primary as field winnows down to three

Since the last issue of The Tartan, the 2016 primary season has seen 25 states cast their votes. For the Republican Party, it has been a tumultuous three weeks with several contentious debates in between the different primary dates. Starting on March 1, Super Tuesday saw Donald Trump win seven states and Ted Cruz win Texas, Oklahoma, and Alaska.

Marco Rubio had a rough night and only won the Minnesota primary. Cruz’s win in Texas gave him over 100 delegates, and a distinct place as the Republican alternative to Trump. Ben Carson dropped out after Super Tuesday with only eight delegates. He endorsed Trump last week, being the second former candidate to back Trump after Chris Christie endorsed him before Super Tuesday.

After Super Tuesday, there were the so-called “Super Saturday” primaries (alliteration is the news cycle’s best friend) where Trump and Cruz split the four contests, with Kentucky and Louisiana going Trump and Maine and Kansas favoring Cruz. On March 8, four more contests ended with Trump the big winner in the Michigan, Hawaii, and Mississippi primaries. Still, Cruz kept close in the delegate count, gaining 125 delegates to Trump’s 124 in the days after Super Tuesday. Cruz and Rubio were the winners in other small contests in Wyoming and Puerto Rico, respectively.

March 15 saw the allocation of five states’ delegates: Florida, North Carolina, Ohio, Missouri, and Illinois. The big prizes were Florida and Ohio. Not only were they the first winner-take-all primaries, where even if a candidate wins a plurality they win all the delegates, but they also served as a litmus test for the Rubio and John Kasich campaigns.

In Florida, Rubio pushed huge ad campaigns to stop Trump — to no avail. Trump won a landslide victory with over 45 percent of the vote and won all 99 delegates. Rubio, betrayed by his home state, dropped out after the race was called. Kasich, the governor of Ohio, had a much more favorable night, beating Trump by over 10 percent and winning all 66 delegates from his home state. With Rubio now out of the race, Kasich is the only remaining candidate that the majority of the Republican establishment supports.

With Kasich’s victory in Ohio, Trump needs to win 54 percent of the remaining vote to win the nomination. Still, Trump went on to dominate the night, soundly winning North Carolina and Illinois and tightly edging Cruz out in Missouri. The increase in delegates puts Trump over the halfway mark to the 1,237 delegates needed to achieve the nomination. He now has a more than a 250-delegate lead over Cruz. In a distant third, Kasich’s only hope to a nomination is through a contested convention. It should be mentioned that the last candidate to emerge from a contested convention and win a general election was Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1932.

Since March 1, the GOP has experienced a rocky three weeks. In the debates between the remaining candidates, Rubio and Cruz took an extremely aggressive strategy against Trump. Rubio, in particular, released a slew of attacks on Trump’s business and personal record, some more indecent than expected. This tactic was executed at the exact wrong time, causing Rubio’s final slide. Kasich tried to stay above the fray, remaining the only good-mannered candidate. Still, Trump remained immune, no matter how unconvincing his defenses were. With only three candidates remaining, the next GOP debate was cancelled after Trump refused to participate.

Trump remained in hot water from his delayed denouncement of former Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan David Duke’s endorsement. In addition, many of his rallies have seen constant interruption by protestors. Trump himself has on several occasions encouraged violent responses to these protests. A Chicago rally was cancelled due to fights that broke out between protesters and supporters. At another rally that week, Secret Service agents tackled a man who tried to climb the stage to attack Trump.

With only three candidates remaining, the Republican establishment has done everything it can to put a damper on the Trump campaign. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan has frequently denounced Trump’s actions through thinly veiled statements jabbing at his rhetoric and suggesting that his demeanor is unfit for a President. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has also called Trump out on the violence that often occurs at his rallies.

Still, they stand by their statements to support the nominee of the GOP, even if it is Trump.

However, Mitt Romney, the GOP nominee from 2012, laid out the case against Trump and tried to rally the establishment to fight him. Former Speaker John Boehner even endorsed Paul Ryan, who isn’t running for president, if the convention is contested. Many have levied the possibility of running an independent candidate or writing in a name on the ballot rather than voting for Trump. Still, with his lead widening, it is looking harder and harder to prevent Trump from attaining the number of delegates needed to secure the nomination.

Kasich has insisted that, thanks to his primary victory in Ohio, he is justified in staying in until the convention so he can win after the first ballot, when delegates are released to vote for whomever they want. However, trends suggest that Kasich remaining in the race will likely result in Trump obtaining 1,237 delegates by June 7. Kasich’s voters are more likely to support Cruz over Trump, and if he left the race now, a head-to-head showdown with Cruz is more likely to prevent Trump from attaining an outright majority before the convention. Still, if the GOP somehow managed to prevent Trump from winning the nomination after winning a clear plurality of delegates, it seems very likely that Trump would go on to run as a third party candidate.

After March 15, voting goes on a bit of a lull. Arizona and Utah vote this week on March 22, with a combined 98 delegates. North Dakota and Wisconsin kick off voting in the first week of April, but the contests won’t heat up again until mid-April. On April 19, New York will award its 95 delegates proportionally, and April 26 will see another slew of contests where the big prize is Pennsylvania’s own 71 delegates, awarded winner-take-all and through congressional districts.

The race may very well come down to the final day of primaries on June 7, when California awards its 172 delegates.

Whichever party you support, the primary in Pennsylvania is closed, meaning you must be registered before March 26 to be eligible to vote on April 26. Be sure to register if you haven’t!