So, just some brief observations going into Super Tuesday:
1. Donald Trump will win most, if not all, states.
I think this is a forgone conclusion. I believe Cruz will win Texas, his home state. The question there is his margin of victory, and whether Rubio clears 20% (more on this later). But other than that, where is a possible upset possible?
Cruz really has no other possibilities. Rubio has the outside chance of competing in Minnesota and Virginia, and less likely in Alaska and Georgia. Victories in any of those states would bolster Rubio, but seem unlikely at this point. I personally do not believe he wins any of the above.
Nate Silver has an excellent state-by-state breakdown that can be read here.
2. Ted Cruz must win Texas by a large margin.
This is essential. If Cruz somehow manages to lose Texas, his campaign is over; I don’t expect this to happen. But I am unsure if a close victory is a good thing for anyone.
A close victory with Trump would give Trump a fair amount of delegates, but still give Cruz a reason to stay in the race (he would have, after all, won two more states than Rubio, and the second largest in the nation). Ironically, this would actually be the best case scenario for Trump. In this scenario, Cruz stays in the race, divides the non-Trump vote, and Trump dominates a divided primary all the way to Cleveland.
Cruz does have a path to the nomination, but it requires him winning states like Arkansas, Tennessee and Oklahoma…all of which are states where he is currently trailing. Furthermore, the battlefield gets worse for Cruz as the primary carries on. Let us recall, Cruz’s plan was to get an early delegate lead by March 1st, and sail through; that is no longer an option.
3. Marco Rubio has to thread the needle.
As I referred to above, Rubio has a chance to pick off a state or two (MN and VA being most likely) but even those I would bet against at this juncture.
The alternate path Rubio has is the ‘No Win’ Scenario (or loving called Rubio’s Kobayashi Maru).
The scenario goes like this: Trump wins all the states on Super Tuesday, but Rubio and Cruz amass a large amount of delegates by polling above 20% in states. This will give them proportional number of delegates, thus undercutting Trump’s potential lead.
What then happens? From Nate Cohn:
Imagine, for a moment, that the candidates fare about as well on Super Tuesday as they have through the first four contests. Given the types of states in play on Super Tuesday, perhaps that yields something like a 34-25-25 percent split between Mr. Trump, Mr. Rubio and Mr. Cruz.
In this scenario, Mr. Trump claims a clear edge in delegate accumulation but not a majority. He gets 279 delegates, or just 44 percent of the delegates at stake, while Mr. Rubio receives 164 delegates.
In short, Trump does build a lead…but is slowed by Rubio and Cruz stealing delegates on both sides of him.
The problem? Then March 15th is for all the marbles. If Trump is able to win the winner-take-all states of Florida and Ohio, it is game over. As long as Cruz and Kasich are in the race, there is no chance of Rubio winning Ohio, and even winning his home state of Florida will be a stretch.
Rubio’s only hope is Cruz does badly on Super Tuesday, pulls out, Kasich beats Trump in Ohio and Rubio is able to take Florida.
Again..this is why it is called the ‘No Win Scenario/Kobayashi Maru’. It is virtually impossible.
4. What I expect:
I expect Trump to win all states tomorrow other than Texas; I expect Cruz to win Texas fairly comfortably. I think Rubio comes close and fails in Virginia and Minnesota.
In short, I pretty much see Trump’s ideal scenario.
As of right now, unless something crazy happens (like Cruz dropping out) I see no reason to believe Trump will not be the GOP nominee. I do believe Rubio has a slim window, and there is reason to continue fighting, but if you were a betting man you would bet on Trump.