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Democrats, be careful what you wish for: Trump could become president

REUTERS/Scott Morgan
If Trump wins the overwhelming majority of Super Tuesday states, the chances of anyone overtaking him will start to approach negligible.

As far as the Donald Trump situation, I doubt I can tell you much that you don’t already know. He is now the heavy favorite to become the Republican nominee. And since his support continues to grow, it is necessary to acknowledge the possibility that he could become president.

Nevada is not a particularly big or important state. And only four states this year have held primaries or caucuses, none of them particularly big. So, Trump leads in delegates by a huge margin. He has 81. Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz are tied with 17 each. But it takes 1,237 delegates to clinch the nomination. So, if the political momentum changes, there are plenty of contests and plenty of delegates out there for someone else to be nominated. 595 delegates are at stake Tuesday when 12 states hold Republican primaries. So, just to belabor the obvious, plenty of mathematical scenarios exist for someone to catch up with Trump.

But not all mathematical scenarios are politically realistic. Trump is ahead in the polls in most of those states. The big exception is Texas, which is the biggest Super Tuesday state and where Cruz leads in the latest poll of which I’m aware. But Cruz is a Texan, and he leads Trump in Texas by just 37-29 percent. While winning in your home state is important, and Cruz will be basically finished if he loses in Texas, you don’t gain much momentum or credibility by carrying your home state.

Even if Cruz wins Texas, if Trump wins the overwhelming majority of Super Tuesday states, the chances of anyone overtaking him will start to approach negligible, not as a matter of pure math but as a matter of political reality.

The old narrative — that once the field dwindles and Cruz or Rubio gets to compete with Trump one-on-one, one of the senators might start beating him — took a hit Tuesday night. While Trump won in New Hampshire with 35.3 percent and South Carolina by 32.5, he surged to 45.9 percent in Nevada, more than the support for Rubio and Cruz combined.

Phenomenal for Trump

The entrance polls were phenomenal for Trump. A couple of weeks ago, the big insight on Trump’s support was that it was based on young men without college degrees. In Nevada, he won among men and women, among those with and those without college degrees. He finished first among both genders, all age groups over 30 and all income classes. The entrance polls also showed that a huge portion of caucus attendees consider themselves “angry” or “dissatisfied,” which is almost all  a code for Trump red meat. A supermajority told the pollsters that they would prefer someone from outside the political establishment.

Keep repeating, this is one poll from one small state. But there’s little reason to surmise that Republicans in other states are not angry and fed up with what they consider the establishment. Trump beat Cruz (as he did in South Carolina) among those who consider themselves evangelical Christians, which is supposed to be Cruz’s base.

Unlike some who opine on the tube, I don’t claim to know the future. But it’s harder and harder to imagine how Rubio or Cruz overcomes the trends. Trump’s support is growing, and has grown fairly steadily from the beginning.

Cautionary note

That’s also a cautionary note to Democrats who may be secretly rooting for Trump as the nominee because they believe his support has a ceiling and he will be the least electable Republican nominee. Be careful what you wish for. Yes, it’s true that in theoretical matchup polls between Trump and either of the Democratic candidates, Trump loses. (In the most recent such poll of which I’m aware, by Fox News and curated by Real Clear Politics, Hillary Clinton beats Trump by just 47-42 percent, while Bernie Sanders beats him by 53-38.

But you should note that the number of those polled, in general, who say they would never vote for Trump under any circumstances keeps falling. Be careful what you wish for.

A few other notes from Tuesday night:

Trump was in what passes for “gracious” mode in his victory statement. But that’s grading on the curve. He suggested that the next two months of more primary wins for him would be “amazing,” but then added: “We might not even need the whole two months.”

He added a note of altruistic rapacity (yes, that’s an oxymoron) to his familiar statement that while he has been “greedy” all his life for himself, he now wants a chance to be “greedy for the United States.” In a new ending (at least new to me) explaining how that nationalistic greed would work, Trump said: “We’re just gonna grab and grab and grab.” Churchillian prose, that. (Trump’s victory remarks are here.)

Rubio fled Nevada without facing the cameras. Cruz did face the cameras but his main theme, to which he clung tenaciously, is that Tuesday night was a sort of a win for him because it wasn’t a win for Rubio. And even though Rubio has finished ahead of him in the last two races in South Carolina and Nevada, and even though Cruz has now finished in third place in the last three contests, the fact that Cruz narrowly beat Trump in Iowa (27-24 percent), under ethically questionable circumstances (with his staff falsely telling Iowans that Dr. Ben Carson had dropped out of the race), that Iowa win confirms that Cruz leads “the only campaign that can beat Donald Trump.”

The Cruzians were spinning this sad, lame argument so hard that CNN’s Cruz reporter, Sunlen Serfaty, actually found herself saying on air that the campaign actually believes that Tuesday night’s third-place result was great for them. She said: “The Cruz campaign really believes this is a win for them because it has left that argument intact. They’re able to argue that Marco Rubio has not scored a win yet.”

Congratulations to the Cruz campaign for convincing at least one person that they “really believe” that.

Comments (41)

  1. Submitted by Pat Berg since 2011 on 02/24/2016 - 02:41 pm.

    The only thing I might have wished for Trump . . . .

    The only thing I might have wished for Trump would be that he’d split off and run as an independent, thus fracturing the GOP vote.

    But in general, I consider this all a bad dream and I’m just waiting for someone to pinch me and wake me up.

    It makes a person wonder what this country’s coming to (or maybe where it’s been).

  2. Submitted by Constance Sullivan on 02/24/2016 - 03:07 pm.

    Former NYC mayor Bloomberg has just about promised to run as a third-party candidate, an independent, I believe, if Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders are both nominated for their party’s candidate. To Bloomberg both men are unacceptable extremes.

    One wonders what he’ll do if Hillary Clinton gets the Democratic party nod.

    At the very least, the former mayor won’t need campaign money from anyone else. he’s got more money than Trump, and can always follow Trump’s joke of getting his campaign followers to fund his campaign by buying T-shirts and caps with his logo on them (Trump only loaned his campaign some money; he didn’t actually give it, and expects to make a profit on the logo-bearing items he sells).

    • Submitted by Neal Rovick on 02/24/2016 - 04:17 pm.

      It’s a perfect year for Bloomberg.

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 02/25/2016 - 08:55 am.

      Feel the Bloom!

      A Bloomberg run would give a new depth to our understanding of futility. Who has heard of him outside the five boroughs? I can think of three groups:

      1. Those who know and despise him as the Big City gun control advocate;
      2. Those who regard him as a joke for his efforts to outlaw 20 oz. sodas; and
      3. Those who, if pressed, will remember that he founded Bloomberg News.

      No, I don’t see him making much of a splash this year.

      • Submitted by John Clouse on 02/27/2016 - 10:59 am.


        1. Bloomberg sponsors the Metropolitan Opera HD telecasts.
        2. (Bloomberg’s) Gun control is a great thing unless you revel in all the mass shootings the US is experiencing.

        • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 02/28/2016 - 04:51 pm.


          1. Sponsoring opera telecasts is, sad to say, not a great way to build name recognition (I’m an opera buff, and I didn’t know he was doing it).

          2. Personally, I like his control push. Most Americans do. Unfortunately, most Americans are not the ones determining our policies on firearms. The ones who are determining it are the ones who would be most vocal in their opposition to a Bloomberg candidacy.

  3. Submitted by Bill Lindeke on 02/24/2016 - 03:07 pm.

    Cruz or Rubio might become president too

    That’s something to keep in mind. Someone’s going to become the nominee.

  4. Submitted by Jon Kingstad on 02/24/2016 - 03:29 pm.

    What the country’s come to

    I can understand that people are going to see things differently than I do. Or that people are going to have different opinions than mine on political issues. But when I read the comments of people who are asked why they support Trump, Cruz, Rubio, or any of that lot, I wonder if I’m sharing the same time-space dimension with them. I fear for the country if any of these candidates gets nominated. But I’m not going to worry too much about any of them until after next Tuesday which will hopefully narrow the field.

    • Submitted by Jim Million on 02/24/2016 - 09:11 pm.

      Some might say…

      Coming to its senses. (Or Not)

      I can understand that many people have finally had enough of Blue, Inc. and Red, Inc.

      Will Independents grow in number and influence from this? Not sure, at all.

      The two final Party nominees, and the one who finally wins the election, certainly must look over both shoulders far more often after this year.

      Or Not….

  5. Submitted by Colin Brownlow on 02/24/2016 - 03:30 pm.

    Scary – Remember 1998

    This is beginning to feel a lot like Minnesota in 1998. This could come down to an act of mass insanity fueled by anger and the need to just to stick it to the establishment. I know a lot of folks who voted for the Honorable Jessie for just those reasons. No philosophical affinity, no overarching policy agreements, just generally ticked off.

    I’m very much afraid that could happen nationally. If and when Trump is the republican nominee then just about anything could happen, particularly if the Democrats nominate an uninspiring candidate.

    • Submitted by Jackson Cage on 02/24/2016 - 04:03 pm.

      Jesse wasn’t scary

      Actually, Jesse did fairly well during the first half of his term. His positions were moderate and there were no major gaffes. Then he developed his thin skin with the media and the second half of the term went nowhere. Trump is far more dangerous than Jesse ever was.

  6. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 02/24/2016 - 03:44 pm.

    H. L. Mencken

    Words from the noted cynic:

    ” Nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public.”

    ” The men the American public admire most extravagantly are the most daring liars; the men they detest most violently are those who try to tell them the truth. ”

    Things don’t seemed to have improved in the last century.

    • Submitted by Doug Gray on 02/25/2016 - 08:26 am.

      where is our Mencken?

      More Mencken: “No educated man . . . could be elected to office in a democratic state, save perhaps by a miracle . . . he must not only consider the weaknesses of the mob, but also the prejudices of the minorities that prey upon it . . .They not only know how to arouse the fears of the mob; they also know how to awaken its envy, its dislike of privilege, its hatred of its betters.”

      • Submitted by Steve Titterud on 02/25/2016 - 09:46 am.

        Mencken on Hilary Clinton’s claim that…

        …all that corporate money and Wall Street money has been funneled to her with no expectation of a return on investment. Rather, it’s for some other unspecified cause – it’s certainly not about the money!!

        “When somebody says it’s not about the money, it’s about the money.”

        H.L. Mencken

        • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 02/25/2016 - 01:15 pm.

          But not only about the money

          Hillary Clinton is quite knowledgeable about the workings of government; it is quite reasonable that businesses (financial and otherwise) that deal directly or indirectly with the government or are directly or indirectly government regulated would value her advice enough to pay for it.
          The possible political benefits (she is not yet nominated, much less elected, and many of the corporations that pay her also donate to Republicans) are icing on the cake.

          • Submitted by Steve Titterud on 02/25/2016 - 03:57 pm.

            Good point about the dualistic corporate donatons

            …to BOTH SIDES in our elections. But why do they do this??

            It gives them access – to influence policy, therefore to influence their financial interests – no matter WHO is elected. It’s about the money.

            Can you think of any other reason to donate to both sides in an election?? Help me here, because I don’t see a reasonable alternative explanation.

  7. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 02/24/2016 - 03:50 pm.

    A generation ago

    …the economic views of Mr. Rubio would have been labeled – correctly – as lunatic fantasy, and he’s the more moderate of the current triumvirate of potential Republican nominees. Mr. Trump doesn’t have a plan, and Mr. Cruz is reliably wedded to the utterly failed framework of supply side thinking.

  8. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 02/24/2016 - 04:15 pm.

    I would think that there would be no better tonic for the ills of the Republic than having another negative example of a failed Republican presidency.

    At some point the irrelevancy of the GOP in the modern world will be obviousto all when the only moderately plausible counter -example of the tendency of Republican presidents to break the republic is the imperial presidency of Reagan (30 years ago !?!) and Eisenhower (60 years ago !?!)

    Republican presidents–bad for America. It’s a historical fact.

    In the pace of the world today and the breakdown of countries and environment a Republican president would have this country knee deep in sewage in a matter of month.

    Make America great again–give the Republican party enough rope.

    • Submitted by miki polumbaum on 03/22/2016 - 05:09 am.

      Unfortunately, however,

      the Democratic Presidents and/or Presidential Candidates here in the United States have turned out to be little or no better, even now. That’s the real reason that the Republicans have been winning so often here in the United States.

  9. Submitted by Steve Titterud on 02/24/2016 - 04:23 pm.

    If it ends up Trump vs. Clinton, I’m wondering how

    …the massive negatives of Trump and the likewise massive negatives of Clinton would interact.

    How much overlap of these negative views would there be – I.e., how much of the electorate would view BOTH of them negatively??

    They seem roughly equivalent in credibility and trustworthiness – which is to say, not very much so. I think it would make for a very sad election in terms of the interests of the country.

    • Submitted by Charles Holtman on 02/24/2016 - 05:14 pm.

      The two major factors in any head-to-head

      Will be (1) how the strengths and weaknesses of the candidates line up; and (2) whose side of the scale the establishment media choose to put their thumb on.

      If Trump is the candidate, Sanders is a much stronger opponent. First, his strengths (non-establishment, honesty, righteousness, ability to ridicule Trump’s lack of seriousness) neuter Trump whereas Trump is custom-made to destroy Clinton at her points of weakness. Second, the media are ambivalent enough about Trump that they may not work as hard to undermine Sanders.

      If Rubio is the candidate, Clinton is a stronger opponent. First, her experience and gravitas against Rubio’s callowness. Second, the establishment media will love themselves some Rubio and do anything in their power to undermine Sanders. They don’t particularly like Clinton but they will be comforted enough by the stability she will bring to establishment interests that their treatment of the two candidates will be more even-handed.

      If Cruz is the candidate, probably Sanders is better positioned. The media probably will dislike them equally. Against Sanders, Cruz’s strength as a debater and rhetorician will largely be neutralized by the paucity of material to work with (though Sanders really needs to move away from the superficial “socialist” labeling) and Sanders’ roots in the interest of ordinary folks will contrast well with Cruz’s sadistic edge. Since Sanders is the only candidate whose platform threatens the vested interests, it might come down to whether the establishment media swallow hard and stick with Cruz.

  10. Submitted by Edward Blaise on 02/24/2016 - 04:44 pm.


    Compare Ventura to his predecessor or successor and, in all honesty, you can’t find any horror stories of significance. And that is interesting in light of the guys before and after him were seasoned, career politicians. At least in terms of running a state, the advantages of being free of political obligations more than out weighs the lack of experience. Jesse’s commissioners were first rate and his judicial picks superior. Being the chief executive of the country is a far bigger job than this state; but, Trump has certainly made bigger and more critical decisions in his life to date than Jesse had (has). And while I am a Hilary or Bernie voter, I would much rather see Trump than Rubio or Cruz. The Donald makes deals and given the GOPs inherent inability to make a deal on anything, I think Pelosi and Trump would make a very interesting pair…

  11. Submitted by Bill Willy on 02/24/2016 - 05:16 pm.

    Broader numbers

    For a slightly different perspective on the scale of Trump’s landslide, here are the number of “Active Voters” as of December, 2015, according to the “Office of Nevada Secretary of State Barbara K. Cegavske – Voter Registration Statistics”:

    Active Republicans: 416,588

    Active Democrats: 464,200

    Total active voters: 880,788

    Tuesday’s votes

    Trump: 34,531
    % of active Republican voters: 8.3%
    % of all Nevada active voters: 3.9%

    Rubio: 17,940
    % of active Republican voters: 4.3%
    % of all Nevada active voters: 2.0%

    Cruz: 16,079
    % of active Republican voters: 3.9%
    % of all Nevada active voters: 1.8%

    Vote totals courtesy of FOX News

    Percentages courtesy of Microsoft Excel (feel free to double-check the arithmetic and correct if in the “Duh” zone: “We are not proud or easily embarrassed”)

  12. Submitted by Cameron Parkhurst on 02/24/2016 - 08:01 pm.

    If Trump is the nominee, what will MN Repubs do?

    Will Paulsen, Kline, and Emmer get behind Trump if he is the nominee? I have to imagine that it will be hard for them to overtly support Trump? The convention might be interesting this time around with Trump involved.

    • Submitted by Jim Million on 02/24/2016 - 09:56 pm.

      Very Interesting, Indeed

      If Trump gets to and through the convention, I think the RNC mortuary team will be busy for a very long time.

  13. Submitted by colin kline on 02/24/2016 - 08:55 pm.


    I would take my chances with Bernie over one OR two billionaires!

  14. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 02/24/2016 - 10:39 pm.

    So here’s your choice

    An avowed socialist, a probable felon, or a successful businessman.

    Seems like a no-brainer.

    • Submitted by Neal Rovick on 02/25/2016 - 07:40 am.

      Do you mean Sanders, Trump or Bloomberg?

      • Submitted by Neal Rovick on 02/25/2016 - 10:06 am.

        (After all, it’s not often that you have a candidate like Trump who promises to commit crimes during their campaign)

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 02/25/2016 - 09:01 am.

      No Brainer

      The Republican nomination is not set in stone yet. You still have the choice of a widely despised theocrat, an inept Senator who is bored with his job, and a bombastic egomaniac who has filed bankruptcy four times, but who has grown rich through licensing his name (kind of like the Kardashians).

    • Submitted by Dan Hintz on 02/25/2016 - 09:23 am.


      If Trump had simply invested the hundreds of millions he inherited from his father in mutual funds, he would be worth $10 billion more than he is now. He also would not have shafted his creditors in his four separate corporate bankruptcies.

      There can be considerations other than the bottom line in determining whether someone is successful in business. Elon Musk (who is self-made, not a born millionaire like Trump) has had financial setbacks, but his primary goal has been developing new technologies (Tesla, SpaceX). He’s not in it for the money. Trump is in the real estate and casino business. He’s only in it to make money, and in that regard he has been a spectacular failure.

      So it really is a no-brainer, just probably not the way you intended.

    • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 02/25/2016 - 09:51 am.

      I don’t see any successful businesspeople

      on your list, although Sanders did fairly well in his youth.
      Trump is a good example of someone who was born on third base and thinks that he hit a triple.

    • Submitted by Curt Carlson on 02/26/2016 - 04:14 pm.

      Succesful businessman?

      Donald’s success as a businessman is mostly attested to by…himself. Those who would choose to believe his inflated statements of self-worth deserve him – but the rest of us don’t.

  15. Submitted by Bill Spankerton on 02/24/2016 - 10:51 pm.

    Agreed, They’re Hardly Comparable.

    Jesse won by demonizing the two-party system. Trump is succeeding by demonizing entire classes of people, much to the delight of a previously unknown segment of the electorate (as evidenced by the now-obliterated “common wisdom” that he had no realistic chance of winning the Republican nomination) as the rest of America (myself included) looks on in horror.

    I voted for Jesse in 1998. His victory remains the most politically inspirational moment of my life – admittedly, one of deeply-held cynicism with regard to politics. The following four years, of course, were an absolute mess.

    So while I regret the consequences of my vote in 1998, I still prefer the fantasy of a government run by individuals with diverse views, collaborating where beliefs overlap and tabling issues where no consensus can be built, instead of cookie-cutter candidates required to fully embrace one of two polarized platforms, engaged in an eternal game of tug-of-war.

  16. Submitted by Bill Schletzer on 02/25/2016 - 07:23 am.

    Given my choice…

    of any Republican I guess I’d take Trump. Of course I will probably never again vote Republican but if I did I think he is the lesser of the evils. Sounds HUGELY stupid but here’s why:

    If Cruz or Rubio wins and the Republicans retain control of congress, there goes social security, universal healthcare, the supreme court. They’d slash the budget of red meat in the social programs, beef up the already huge military budget, give more tax breaks to the rich. The deficit would become more ridiculous. They’d probably start another middle east war. Who knows, maybe invade North Korea?

    I’d guess that a pretty sizeable percentage of Trump’s support is racist and/or xenophobic and Islamophobic. But he is the only Republican that is unequivocal that Iraq was a bad idea. Since his history is pretty progressive I wonder how he’d be when he wasn’t playing to the Republican base. Cruz has said he’d have goons knocking on doors looking for illegals. That seems worse than building a stupid wall that will accomplish nothing. I’d guess Trump is no more racist than the other two, he just has a bigger mouth.

    What’s funny to me is that all these Republicans are angry about the federal government but their elected leaders are the ones that created so many of the problems in the last eight years. They have no idea how to govern in a democracy. Of the three big Republican Candidates I think Trump is probably the only one who’d even consider reaching across the aisle.

  17. Submitted by Roy Everson on 02/25/2016 - 08:19 am.

    The stain that will grow the party’s pain

    Nomination of Trump will make it harder for Republicans to combat their image as the White Man’s Party. For months GOP elitists have pushed back at Trump for being vulgar, too moderate, too boorish, not conservative enough, Now it’s Romney complaining about Trump’s failure to reveal his tax returns. Desperate commenters salivate at all the white working class Dems who might vote for Donald.

    Ignoring the bigotry merely delays the pain: the next months will see them forced to defend the ugly stain that no amount of white-out will cover up.

  18. Submitted by David Markle on 02/25/2016 - 05:16 pm.

    Bad choices on the right

    Considering the nasty radicalism of Cruz and alarming shallowness of Rubio, Trump might be the lesser of three evils. But in a general election he won’t get many votes from minorities.

    • Submitted by miki polumbaum on 03/23/2016 - 09:50 am.

      The lesser of 3 evils…You’ll just get the evil, as always.

      The Republicans are extremely dangerous…all of them!

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