Thinks look bleak right now for Ted Cruz. And for Donald Trump. Both will have to pass through a narrow needle to thread their way to the nomination. But one of them will do it.
There will be no white knight, and John Kasich’s fantasies of a third or fourth ballot nomination are just that, fantasies.
Here’s how Trump’s world looks.
He’s got to win in Indiana, where 57 delegates are at stake. And Indiana is likely as hard for him as Wisconsin. Actually, harder. Hoosier Republicans dumped Senator Richard Lugar in 2012 and nominated Richard Mourdock, a staunch conservative in the Cruz model who got tripped up by the rape abortion question. Trump needs to win the 30 at-large delegates — based on a statewide plurality — and at least four or five of the eight congressional districts. A very tall order.
And he has to sweep California, do well in Washington, hold his own in Oregon and win his share of proportionate delegates in New Mexico and West Virginia.
The likelihood is that he falls short — probably about one hundred votes short — of his cherished first ballot majority.
But Cruz’ window is as narrow. He must start winning primaries — something that has eluded him for the past three weeks. After getting crushed in New York and losing all six states yesterday, it is very hard to get off the mat and start piling victories. But his margin for error is so narrow that unless he performs, he goes home.
Most likely, the process resolves itself into hand-to-hand fighting over the moving pieces: North Dakota’s 28 delegates, unbound but initially for Cruz; Colorado’s 37, ditto; Pennsylvania’s 54 district delegates; and the approximately 100 superdelegates who are not bound by state rules to vote for the winner of their state’s primary.
And long-dead Marco Rubio will play his hand. If he were to release his delegates (181), most would likely go for Cruz and some for Kasich. But a few might find their way to Trump.
The wheeling and dealing for these 200 or so loose delegates will play itself out for six weeks between the June 6 final primaries and the July 20 first ballot.
If Trump fails to get a majority, it will merely ratchet up the stakes as 80 percent of the delegates become unbound on the second ballot — and will likely be determined to end the process by choosing a nominee.
Covering this convention will be a journalist’s dream. The political correspondent’s equivalent of covering a major hurricane.
The deal-making won’t go easily. Just as political machines are a thing of the past, so dealing for large blocks of obedient delegates is anachronistic. It won’t be like 1932 when FDR could cut a deal with John Garner and William Randolph Hearst and the Texas and California delegations fell in line behind him.
Now, delegates must be courted retail — one by one. But the horse-trading will be just as venal as 100 years ago. A brisk trade in ambassadorships, cabinet seats, fundraising commitments, and everything short of outright bribery will be on display for all to see.
Trump has the advantage in resources — his ability to raise money and to treat delegates to vacations at Mar-a-Lago will come into play. Cruz’ organization will be tested. His team has the advantage in knowing most of the delegates personally — and of helping to select them.
If you think watching sausage being made or a law being passed is revolting, wait till you see this spectacle!
COPYRIGHT 2016 DICK MORRIS AND EILEEN MCGANN
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