Thus far to the dismay of the GOP establishment front runner Donald Trump’s march to the Republican nomination has consistently shown his ablilty to bounce back from a bad, day or a bad week. Well this week has been the worst of his 2016 campaign.
Let’s be very clear Trump needs 1,237 delegates to win the GOP nomination at the convention in Cleveland. If he doesn’t have that number, it is highly likely that the Republicans will make sure someone other than Trump will be the party’s nominee.
This week Trump’s campaign manager was charged with misdemeanor battery on suspicion of grabbing a female reporter’s arm, a series of interviews with conservative talk radio hosts who pummeled him, a highly regarded poll showing him trailing badly in advance of Wisconsin’s primary next week, and finally Wednesday’s fracas over his stand on abortion.
This was mana from heaven for the GOP establishment who would love to see anyone but Trump than the party’s nominee. Wisconsin is the big stop Trump state with Gov. Scott Walker, supporting Texas Sen. Ted Cruz who is expected to win and Ohio Gov. John Kasich remains to the mix, to peel off more delegates.
“You’re seeing a campaign that’s making it up as they go along every day. That’s deadly,” said John Brabender, who was chief strategist for former Sen. Rick Santorum’s campaign and is now neutral on the race.
The problems come at a contradictory point in the campaign for Trump. He has defeated one rival after another. But he continues to draw support from only a minority of Republican voters. That contrasts with front-runners in previous presidential contests who had begun pulling away from rivals by this point in their campaigns.
Of course, Trump has proved skeptics wrong time and again, demonstrating a hold on his supporters that has defied conventional political judgment.
Part of what may make this rough patch different is the Wisconsin polling, which has added something beyond anecdote to the forecasting.
Trump needs to keep the Wisconsin numbers close to Cruz because it’s all about the delegate race and if he can come away Tuesday with some headed into the Eastern swing where Trump hopes to win by big margins.
In a nationwide poll released Thursday by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center, 41% of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents surveyed said they wanted to see Trump get the party’s nomination; 52% supported someone else.
The share of voters overall who said Trump would be a terrible president hit 44%, Pew found, up from 38% in January. Among Republicans, at least half of those backing Cruz or Kasich said Trump would be either terrible or poor as president.
Only 38% of Republican voters in the poll predicted the party would unite solidly behind Trump if he were the nominee. That’s a sharp contrast to the Democratic race, in which 64% of the party’s voters polled said they expected Democrats would unite behind Clinton if she wins, a number on par with previous nominees in both parties.
Trump isn’t totally safe even if he locks up 1,237 delegates by the time the final Republicans vote. The delegates have a lot of power, both on the convention floor and in the various rules and credentials committees that will begin meeting before the convention officially begins. If they wanted to, the delegates could deploy a “nuclear option” on Trump and vote to unbind themselves on the first ballot, a strategy Ted Kennedy unsuccessfully pursued against Jimmy Carter in 1980.
So, we have a long way to go before the Republican convention and buckle your seatbelts this is going to be a bumpy ride.