THE WEEK THAT WILL DECIDE THE REPUBLICAN NOMINATION
Nevada is Trump Country. So are New Hampshire and South Carolina.
The question now is out of the 11 states that will make their Republican presidential picks next week – representing a quarter of all the delegates available for the nomination – how many of them will be Trump Country too.
A quick look at the map and at exit polls from the first four contests suggests that the dozen states on March 1 are shaping up as fertile territory for the GOP frontrunner. From Massachusetts to Texas and from Georgia to Alaska, opportunities abound for Trump.
And if he won the way that he has already shown he can in the North, South, East and West, he could easily be sitting on more than a third of the 1,237 delegates he would need to win outright. In Nevada, Trump demonstrated that he had addressed his lone deficiency exposed in his Iowa loss and can win the organizational and turnout battle in a low-turnout caucus.
So there’s no question anymore that Donald Trump can be the Republican nominee, after nearly a year in which the broad assumption in the Republican Party was that somehow he could not. After Nevada, the question is whether Trump can be stopped? And that depends on the answer to another query: Will anyone really try?
As it turns out, the Republican nominating process will depend almost entirely on what happens in the next seven days.
If the state of the race is the same as it is today, Trump would be nearly impossible to stop. And every sign so far is that the forecast is for more of the same. The candidates with no chance are hitting the candidate with some chance. The field is the same size. The donor class is still mostly refusing to fund attacks on Trump.
Sen. Ted Cruz has had a rough February since his Iowa victory and he’s now facing a potential defeat in his home state. Rather than March 1 being the beginning of Cruz’s stretch run, it looks like it could be the beginning of the end.
Gov. John Kasich is threatening to hang in until his home state of Ohio votes, which the most recent poll in the state shows would be a boon to Trump. He’s out of the running for the nomination and can at best claim the chance to win on a late ballot at the first contested convention in 40 years.
Meantime, party elders, including former presidents and nominees remain on the sidelines. With less than a week before D-Day, 2012 nominee Mitt Romney, former President George W. Bush and many others have at most offered modest reproofs of Trump even as Republicans have grown increasingly alarmed by Trump’s rhetoric.
And while endorsements have begun to flow in for second-place Sen. Marco Rubio, the kind of large-scale show of party unity in support that could signal to voters the urgency of the moment still seems beyond the horizon.
In a year in which we were told about the power of super PACs and outside money, tens of millions have been squandered to no great effect other than helping Trump. The relative pittance that has been spent against him is so small as to be meaningless. And there is no sign that the cash cavalry is coming in the week ahead.
What would have to be different for Trump to be denied? Focused attacks on Trump from candidates and outside groups as well as fewer candidates. Not all of those things would have to be accomplished in full before March 1, but the party would have to show significant movement in that direction for claims of Rubio’s viability and Trump’s vulnerability to be credible.
That’s a big to-do list for six days, especially for a party that has mostly stood mouth-agape and motionless for most of this cycle.
[GOP delegate count: Trump 79; Cruz 16; Rubio 15; Kasich 5; Carson 3 (1,237 needed to win)]
Up next, SEC states - Megyn Kelly travels to Houston, Texas today for a special forum with the GOP candidates including Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, John Kasich and Ben Carson, where they will take questions from voters in next Tuesday’s most important delegate state. Watch a special “The Kelly File” tonight at 9 p.m. ET.
POWER PLAY IN 60 SECONDS: WHAT’S UP NEXT FOR DEMS
All eyes may be on the Republicans today, but the Democratic race is just as contentious. Saturday’s South Carolina Primary will be a major test for Sen. Bernie Sanders’ campaign in whether they can challenge Hillary Clinton on the party’s most defining voter sect: black voters. Chris Stirewalt explains what’s ahead for the Democrats in 60 seconds. WATCH HERE.
Chris Stirewalt is digital politics editor for Fox News. Want FOX News First in your inbox every day? Sign up here.
Chris Stirewalt joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in July of 2010 and serves as digital politics editor based in Washington, D.C. Additionally, he authors the daily "Fox News First" political news note and hosts "Power Play," a feature video series, on FoxNews.com. Stirewalt makes frequent appearances on the network, including "The Kelly File," "Special Report with Bret Baier," and "Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace." He also provides expert political analysis for Fox News coverage of state, congressional and presidential elections.