- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 2, 2016

NEWS ANALYSIS:

The last best hope for Donald Trump’s three rivals to stop him may be for them to agree to a March 15 alliance in the hope of forcing a brokered convention, analysts say.

The idea being floated is for each rival to urge supporters in specific states to make a one-day strategic switch to the non-Trump candidate with the best chance to win, thus helping Marco Rubio win his home state of Florida (99 delegates), doing the same for John Kasich in his home state of Ohio (66 delegates) and giving Ted Cruz a leg up in North Carolina (72 delegates).

So far, the estimated delegate count reinforces that only a long multicandidate contest would make winning a delegate majority difficult. As of Tuesday, Mr. Trump has an estimated 320 delegates, while 225 are in Mr. Cruz’s pocket, 113 belong to Mr. Rubio, 23 are committed to Mr. Kasich and eight go to Ben Carson, who announced Wednesday that he saw no path to the nomination after a disappointing Super Tuesday performance.

Widely expected to sweep 10 out of 11 Super Tuesday contests, Mr. Trump won seven, Mr. Cruz won three and Mr. Rubio took one.

“The most realistic way of stopping Donald is keeping all the candidates in the fray going to the convention and working it through there,” said Arizona Republican Party Chairman Robert Graham.

Delegate allocation analyst Jim Ellis agrees.

“It appears the March 15 primary day will likely tell the tale,” Mr. Ellis said. “Should Trump win the key winner-takes-all states of Florida with its 99 delegates and Ohio with its 66 delegates, he will likely be unstoppable.”

“On the other hand,” said Mr. Ellis, “if his three major opponents strategically form an alliance, and allow Rubio to challenge Trump virtually one-on-one in Florida, and allow Kasich to have an unencumbered chance in Ohio, and give Cruz the same in North Carolina (also on March 15), and they successfully top the leader in all of those places, the brokered convention becomes a clear reality.”

Besides making it nearly impossible for Mr. Trump to accumulate a clear delegate majority before the party’s nominating convention in Cleveland, the temporary alliance has the further merit of giving each Trump rival something valuable he wouldn’t otherwise get. Mr. Trump is leading in polling for the Florida, Ohio and North Carolina primaries.

If Mr. Trump went to Cleveland in July assured of a plurality instead of at least a 1,237-delegate majority on the first ballot, the consensus is that the party regulars who control a fifth of the delegates would then be able to steer the nomination on the second ballot or later. The likeliest beneficiaries would be Mr. Rubio, Mr. Kasich or possibly even presumed Convention Chairman Paul D. Ryan. The party establishment doesn’t like Mr. Cruz any more than it does Mr. Trump.

But will the Trump rivals go for the idea?

Mr. Graham, the Arizona chairman, was skeptical on another front — the workability of such strategic campaigning.

“It’s doubtful,” he said. “How do you get your voters in Ohio or Florida or North Carolina to get behind another candidate? How do you make such a strategic shift in less than two weeks?”

And what if the plan makes an already angry grass roots even angrier?

“Sounds good but will probably backfire,” said Joseph Schmuckler, the chairman of Carly Fiorina’s suspended campaign. “It will be seen as a connivance, as the establishment and the party trying to meddle in the Jacksonian revolution that is under way, which is what the Trump phenomenon is.”

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