The #NeverTrump movement is approaching its moment of reckoning. The star of their nightmares, their own personal Freddy Krueger, is up 20 comfortable points in Pennsylvania, 21 points in Maryland and 27 in Connecticut, according to the RealClearPolitics average. Voting patterns in the two smaller states voting today, Delaware and Rhode Island, suggest that they’ll probably fall into line with their larger neighbors.
And if Trump does pull off that sweep, his opponents will awaken tomorrow morning with just 10 states remaining on the primary/caucus calendar in which to turn things around.
For some, hope still abides, if only because the alternative is too harsh to swallow quite yet.
“When you have the kind of front-runner who two-thirds of Republican voters don’t agree with, you have to go to an open convention,” David Beightol, who worked in the George H.W. Bush administration, insisted to the Wall Street Journal at a John Kasich town hall in Maryland. “It’s the only option for us now.”
But Beightol and others are operating on an outdated premise. Trump’s support may once have been limited to a fifth, then a quarter, then a third of the party, but that last supposed ceiling is so two months and several primary victories ago. He’s wearing them down and winning them over. A new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll out this morning puts support for Trump at 50 percent of Republican and Republican-leaning voters. Fifty-eight percent told pollsters that if Trump has the most votes or delegates coming into the convention, he should get the nomination even if he falls short of the magic delegate majority of 1,237.
Just 29 percent think Trump should be denied the nomination under those circumstances.
Then there’s the reality that the only flesh-and-blood alternatives whom the #NeverTrump camp can offer to voters are Kasich and Ted Cruz. They’re the last two standing of what was supposed to have been the deepest GOP field in more than 30 years, yet neither of them seems the slightest bit capable of competing against Trump for public support. He campaigns in Technicolor, they operate in black and white.
True, Cruz has McGyvered himself a decent chance at the nomination should the convention deadlock, but that will do him no good unless he first stops Trump in a primary or two. I’m just not sure where that happens, and I’m not sure whether Cruz has the political skills needed to pull it off. We have seen many remarkable things in this political season, and will no doubt see more to come, but I never imagined Cruz trying to sell himself as the candidate of party and national unity, as the healer of Republican wounds.
Cruz is the one who inflicted many of those wounds, and people do remember.