I’ve waited about as long as I could before making the final calls for the GOP primaries today. The events in Chicago on Friday night seem to have had some impact on the polls, most of it more positive for Trump than negative. Rubio, the home state man in Florida, has been crashing and burning all week, and all of the attention has been focused on Ohio and Florida, though they are not the only contests in play today.
So who’s going to win? Here’s my picks.
- Florida: Trump
- North Carolina: Trump
- Illinois: Trump
- Ohio: Kasich
- Missouri: Trump
- Northern Marianas: Trump
I think it could be very close in Ohio and Trump may end up coming over the top. Kasich has Mitt Romney stumping for him there and has made a couple of crazy promises in the last couple of days – at least crazy in the scheme of winning anything other than the Ohio primary. He’s said he’ll grant amnesty to all illegal immigrants in his first hundred days in office and he’s threatening to shoot down Russian jets if they violated a no-fly-zone he’d set up in Syria. Leave aside the news from last night that Russia is pulling out of Syria, and even then it is still a bad idea. Still, he’s a home state governor and has a real shot at stopping Trump’s momentum in Ohio. I think it’ll be close, but Kasich has the best chance of pulling off a win.
In Florida it will be all over for Rubio and lights out for that young man’s campaign. Polls have him slipping to third in the state behind Trump and Cruz but I think early voting by committed supporters will have stemmed a little of that blood flow. He’ll likely finish second, make a speech, and get out of the race. This will be followed by at least two weeks of trying to figure out what went wrong.
In North Carolina Trump should do well and the nine delegates from the Northern Marianas will go his way, too. I don’t know anything about the Northern Marianas Republican party, mind you, but FiveThirtyEight says the local party is full of ex-Carson and now pro-Trump people so what the hell, right?
In Missouri it could be close and the second place candidate – Cruz – could come over the top. I don’t think he will, but there’s as good a chance as any that, if he does, he’ll do it in Missouri. It’s not winner-take-all so at the very least Cruz will be able to limit his losses here but it’s hard to get out and talk about being the only alternative to Trump when you are mainly relying on caucuses and open primaries, and where Kasich is potentially winning a major state on the same night.
That leaves Illinois and I think Trump will take it. The events in Chicago won’t stop his supporters turning out and, indeed, they’ll be even more motivated to pull the lever for Trump. He shouldn’t have any problem holding the state and it will be great ‘red meat’ for the campaign trail in the weeks to come. If he wins, be prepared for some “they tried to shut us down but we showed them” rhetoric. A lot of it.
If my predictions are right then where does this leave us? Three points.
First, the field is cut down. Rubio gets out bringing it down to three. If Kasich doesn’t get over the line then it’ll be down to two. Cruz wants this to happen, Trump doesn’t necessarily, and Kasich dreads it happening. Ohio will be the one to watch to determine if this is a slight or a substantial narrowing of the pack.
Second, the establishment GOP is going to have to make up its mind who they’ll support. Kasich, even if he wins tonight in Ohio, is not going to get the delegates to win the nomination. That leaves the party with either Trump or Cruz. Both have a path to the nomination but Cruz has a more difficult one. The party needs to either come together to support Cruz (where the hate is mutual) or Trump (where the hate is also strong, though more recent).
Third, the primary campaign will change in tone and style from this point on. Don’t expect many (or any?) more debates. Trump doesn’t do well in them and the notion that there have been enough debates will ring true with most voters. When debates merely act as opportunities for journalists to serve up ‘gotchas’ to candidates there’s little value in them. After more than a dozen we know where the candidates stand on any important primary issues. You’ll also see the narrowing of the field start to impact the campaigning. It’s hard to take a shot at any one opponent when there are ten in the field but getting down to three makes it possible, and likely. Finally, with only one serious candidate left running against Trump it’ll be interesting to see how his belittling of his opponents (low energy Jeb, little Marco, lying Ted) progresses. So far the names have stuck and have been devastating for the individuals under attack. Look for Trump to go all in on ‘lying Ted’ – even a Cruz supporter like myself can admit he really is a master of branding.
So: six predictions of which three are solid (Florida, North Carolina, Illinois), two are less so (Ohio, Missouri) and one is a guess (Northern Marianas).
Wonder how I’ll fare?