As the whole political commentariat focuses impatiently on next Tuesday’s Ohio and Florida primaries, in which home-state pols John Kasich and Marco Rubio try to knock Donald Trump off-stride, while Ted Cruz tries to position himself as the only candidate who can catch Trump before Cleveland, we have to deal tonight with three primaries and a caucus — the major contests being Mississippi and Michigan. Despite circumstances favoring his competitors — one of the two biggies is Kasich’s home-away-from-home and the other is the most heavily Evangelical state in the country — Trump was the winner again in both states. Marco Rubio, so recently the great Establishment hope, performed badly and didn’t win a single delegate in either.
Cruz may ultimately overtake Kasich for second place in Michigan, damaging the Ohioan’s slim momentum. But in the meantime, in Mississippi, Trump registered his seventh victory in the eight most Evangelical primary electorates in America, supposedly the heart of Cruz Country.
It’s becoming more obvious by the day that Trump is the only truly national candidate in the field, able to count on a sizable vote anywhere and everywhere, and possessing a strategic flexibility his rivals can only dream of. There’s been buzz that Kasich might pull off an upset in Illinois. But how many minutes can he possibly spare from Ohio, where he has to win or will be vaporized? And Cruz might have a chance on March 15 in Missouri or North Carolina. But can he, or anyone on any date, win more contests than Trump? Last time that happened was on February 1, when only one state (Iowa) voted.
The most fascinating story, given the general assumption that Trump will be unstoppable if he wins either Ohio or Florida, involves Rubio. He won less than 5 percent of the vote in Mississippi, far below the minimum threshold for winning a delegate, and at one point was running behind Ben Carson, who has already dropped out of the race. As I noted yesterday, he may finally snag a delegate or two in Hawaii, but only because that state has no threshold. Can Rubio win his home state despite collapsing everywhere else, in effect becoming a favorite-son candidate rather than a national contender? It seems unlikely.
So we can all keep up with the math and check out scenarios, but the odds of Trump being “stopped” on any one primary night continue to drop.