The scale of Donald Trump’s victory in New York turned him from frontrunner into presumptive Republican nominee.
The vehemently anti-Trump faction of the party will reject this conclusion.
The news media will dither and analysts will knit pick.
The pseudo-sophisticated will point to the cleverness of stealing delegates legally pledged to Trump.
It is all baloney.
Trump’s emphasis on the will of the voters will “trump” these arguments and analyses. When one candidate has won the lion’s share of the popular vote—and almost certainly Trump will have won more than his two rivals combined—the Republican base is not going to support overturning that outcome with insider cleverness at local, state or national conventions.
And even those efforts are likely to be moot since Trump seems poised to win the nomination outright.
Let’s start with New York.
As I write, the latest numbers are 89 delegates for Trump, 3 for John Kasich, and zero for Ted Cruz.
Let me repeat: The champion of the stop Trump movement just won ZERO delegates.
Ahh, the sophisticates say, but this is Trump’s home state. Of course he won all the delegates. If that is the standard, let’s look at the results in Cruz’s home state.
In the Texas primary on March 1, Cruz got 104 delegates, Trump got 48, Rubio got 3 and Kasich got none. In Cruz’s home state, Trump got nearly one third of the delegates in a four-person race.
One other really big state, Florida, has also had the chance to vote. And what happened there? On March 15, Trump won 99 delegates. Cruz, Rubio and Kasich combined won zero.
So in the three biggest states to have voted so far, the delegate count is Trump 236, Cruz 104, and Kasich 3. (California will vote on June 7 and the latest CBS poll shows Trump at 49 percent, Cruz 31 percent, Kasich 16 percent.)
Trump is far ahead in delegates in the three biggest states to have voted.
Of course, Trump’s core argument is not about delegates. It’s about the popular vote.
In Florida, New York, and Texas, Republicans have voted. Roughly 2.4 million voted for Trump, compared to 1.8 million for Cruz and 500,000 for Kasich. In these three biggest states, Trump has attracted more votes than Cruz and Kasich combined.
All evidence is that California will further widen that margin based on recent polling.
Trump is probably going to win all of New Jersey’s delegates (which is winner-take-all, with poll numbers resembling the results in New York). He’s probably going to win Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and Maryland as well (though by a narrower margin) and possibly Rhode Island.
It is likely that Kasich will come in second and Cruz will come in third in all of those states. That could strengthen Kasich enough for him to rival Cruz in California (further widening the “Never Trump” candidate’s gap behind Trump).
Cruz’s best shot to turn the race around may be Indiana. That state could be a legitimate battleground for all three candidates. (Kasich is the governor of Ohio right next door, so he also has a shot at Indiana.)
Cruz may win a few small western states. He may also cleverly keep poaching Trump’s delegates at state conventions in an effort to overturn the popular vote with insider maneuvering.
There are two problems with those strategies.
First, Trump is correct in asserting that a manipulated nomination defying the popular vote would be anathema to the Republican base. It would make Cleveland and the fall campaign chaotic and unmanageable.
Second, Trump is probably going to win the nomination on the first ballot.
Take a clear-eyed look at the numbers. After New York, Trump has 845 delegates. Cruz has 559, and Kasich has 147.
So Trump is 139 delegates ahead of the other two combined.
He is almost 300 delegates ahead of Cruz, his closest rival.
Every analysis of the next few weeks indicates Trump’s margin will widen and he will move steadily closer to 1237. Already, he is only 392 short before any undecided delegates, Rubio delegates, and the like are counted.
These are the numbers of a presumptive nominee, not a front runner. If this were any candidate but Donald Trump, the media would be saying his rivals’ efforts were hopeless and the establishment would be pressuring them to exit the race.
It is time for the GOP establishment to work with this new reality rather than wage war against it.