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THREE SCENARIOS FOR SUPER TUESDAY II
Republicans have reached the breakpoint in the typhoon that is their nominating process.
The storm reached land this weekend as GOP frontrunner Donald Trump essentially dared protesters to continue to disrupt his rallies following a violent clash in Chicago, threatened to send his supporters to disrupt the events of another candidate and said he might pay the legal bills of a man charged with a brutal attack on a protester being led out of a rally.
The mewling of nervous Republicans who keep saying that Trump will start to act like a normal, temperate candidate has passed into the ridiculous.
After Thursday’s debate, when the frontrunner mostly got a pass from his rivals and in return mostly withheld his own attacks, another handful of Republicans started to rationalize a way to make the man mainstream and limit damage to down-ballot races.
Ben Carson signed on, saying that Trump “didn’t really believe” those “outlandish things” he said. Which things? Carson wouldn’t say. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy expressed unfounded optimism even before the debate about a Trump candidacy and voter intensity.
The events of Friday and Trump’s comments from the weekend made it clear: Trump is not going to be smoothed or soothed by party leaders or a team of former rivals. This is a hostile takeover of the GOP and the idea that Trumpism and traditional Republicanism can peacefully coexist is silly.
If the model laid out by Trump’s detractors and reflected in national polls is right, Trump as GOP nominee could face a popular-vote defeat of titanic proportions that would result in the loss of both the Senate and House.
If Trump’s forecast is correct the polls are wrong and “millions and millions” of voters he is bringing into the Republican primaries will help him form a coalition of economically struggling middle-class white Americans who are now Democrats and independents. But even in that case, existing Republicans would either have to adopt Trump’s message of socially moderate economic populism or face abandonment by the Trump coalition and the Trump-controlled GOP.
It’s becoming clear that the GOP faces three paths forward with Trump. Either the party will find a way to reject his bid at the ballot box, fight him to the end and rupture the party or accept his takeover and do its best to get on board.
The five states holding nominating contests on Tuesday will tell us a great deal about which path the GOP is on. With that in mind, here are the three most likely scenarios for Super Tuesday II:
SCENARIO I: BURN THE CUYAHOGA
Assume the polls are right, and Trump will get one of the two winner-take-all contests on the calendar Tuesday. He is shown to be winning Florida but trailing in Ohio.
Florida is a bigger prize, but most of the delegates are in states that divide their delegates proportionally: Illinois, Missouri and North Carolina. If we see similar splits as we have seen thus far in the other three states then Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Ohio Gov. John Kasich would walk away with significant delegate hauls.
Trump has won about 44 percent of the delegates awarded so far but has seen his pace cool a bit since winning three out of four contests in February. Trump has won 11 of 21 contests so far this month and struggled in some surprising spots.
If we see this kind of split decision on Tuesday, the race enters its next and probably ugliest phase in which Florida Sen. Marco Rubio is forced from the contest and has to decide whether to back his often-bitter rival Cruz in a bid to block Trump.
But in this same scenario, Kasich likely stays in the race going forward, soaking up some of Rubio’s votes and trying to force the party to a contested convention in Cleveland where he could make a play for the nomination.
[Power Play: Delegate math explained - Real Clear Politics’ delegate expert, David Byler, breaks down the candidates’ paths with Chris Stirewalt. WATCH HERE.]
WITH YOUR SECOND CUP OF COFFEE…
History: “Sylvia Beach, owner of the Paris-based bookstore Shakespeare and Co., is born [today in 1887] in Baltimore. Beach moved to Paris at the age of 14…In 1919, she opened her bookstore, Shakespeare and Co., which became a gathering place for American writers in Paris in the 1920s, including F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway. Beach was a strong supporter of writer James Joyce, who lived in Paris from 1920 to 1940. The Irish writer had achieved fame with his 1915 novel, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, and had started publishing his masterwork Ulysses in serial form in an American magazine called the Little Review. However, the serialization was halted in December 1920, after the U.S. Post Office brought a charge of obscenity against Joyce’s work. Beach published the book herself in July 1922. It wasn’t until 1933 that a U.S. judge permitted Ulysses to be distributed in the U.S.”
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Real Clear Politics Averages
National GOP nomination: Trump 36 percent; Cruz 21.8 percent; Rubio 18 percent; Kasich 12 percent
Florida GOP Primary: Trump 41.4 percent; Rubio 23.3 percent; Cruz 19.7 percent; Kasich 9.6 percent
Ohio GOP Primary: Kasich 35.3 percent; Trump 33.3 percent; Cruz 20 percent; Rubio 5.8 percent
National Dem nomination: Clinton 51 percent; Sanders 39.6 percent
Florida Dem Primary: Clinton 62 percent; Sanders 31.1 percent
Ohio Dem Primary: Clinton 56.2 percent; Sanders 38.4 percent
General Election: Clinton vs. Trump: Clinton +6.3 points
Generic Congressional Vote: Democrats +1
SCENARIO II: TRUMP PUTS A STAKE IN IT
Trump obviously believes that his already intense supporters will respond with even greater intensity given the new focus on violence at his rallies. And there’s reason to believe he’s right.
Members of movements like Trump’s often feed on the idea that they are under siege, and what could better encourage that notion than actual physical conflict at a candidate’s political events? As the story of Alvin Bamberger shows, conflict of this kind can cause a candidate’s supporters to respond viscerally.
If Trump wins not just Florida but also the Ohio Primary – not inconceivable given that it is open to Democrats and independents – plus goes above his usual 44 percent delegate haul in the other states, he would win all but about 100 of the 358 delegates available Tuesday.
With almost 60 percent of the delegates gone and Trump more than half of the way to the number to win outright, he would have an almost prohibitive lead. It would also increase the calls from those like McCarthy [McCarthyites? Never mind…] to accept and accommodate the party’s presumptive nominee.
With winner-take-all Arizona just a week away, it would be time for Republicans to concede their defeat and make plans to either join Trump or leave their party for at least the remainder of this cycle.
[Pittsburgh Tribune-Review’s Salena Zito talked with voters in Ohio on why they’re supporting Trump in this enlightening piece.]
SCENARIO III: TRUMP DERAILED
There’s only one chance for Republicans to avoid both Trump as their nominee and the nightmare of a contested convention in a political season that already includes violence: Rally behind Cruz.
While it’s far-fetched to think that Cruz could win in Florida, it’s not unreasonable to think that Cruz could prosper in Missouri and North Carolina and essentially fight Trump and Kasich to a draw in Illinois.
If Trump comes out with a pretty even delegate split with Cruz on Tuesday, especially if Trump loses more states than he wins, then the race could be considered pretty well reset into a two-man contest in which Cruz would enjoy a decent chance.
Remember, this scenario is predicated on the idea that the intensity of opposition to Trump is increasing both with the chaos that is engulfing his campaign but also as his nomination looks increasingly dire for the party in the fall.
It would take a lot to get the GOP establishment to back Cruz, but if anything would, it would be the past weekend…
[GOP delegate count: Trump 460; Cruz 370; Rubio 163; Kasich 63 (1,237 needed to win)]
DEMS ALL OVER BUT THE SHOUTING
Democrats will also be holding contests on Tuesday, but as WaPo’s Chris Cillizza explains, their process means that narrow comeback victories like the one Sen. Bernie Sanders notched last week in Michigan wouldn’t be enough to reverse the course of the race: “The problem for Sanders is that Democrats allocate their delegates proportionally in every state — meaning that between now and when the process ends June 7, there is no state where Clinton will be shut out. Winning, then, is not enough for Sanders. He has to win by a lot to make up any real ground.”
[Dem delegate count: Clinton 1,231; Sanders 576 (2,383 needed to win)]
DUDE, DON’T GIVE THEM ANY IDEAS
Aviation India: “It’s a curious case of an Air India flier which could have turned fatal. Early Friday morning, a man kept on moving for almost [164-219 yards] on the conveyor belt and cleared level-1, where he even passed through the X-ray machine, used for baggage scanning. Finally, an employee noticed him and stopped the conveyor belt…The trauma didn’t end here. When the matter was brought to the notice of the terminal manager, he asked the employee to bring back the passenger through the same belt by moving it in reverse direction for about [219 yards]. According to a senior airport official, the decision taken by terminal manager could have resulted in serious mishap.”
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.