If you want to stop Donald Trump from winning the Republican nomination, the most plausible way to do so may paradoxically be to first propel him to victory in Texas and Michigan.
With commanding victories in New Hampshire and South Carolina, the billionaire front-runner is on a roll. No candidate has ever lost the Republican nomination after winning those two states. But even Donald Trump would agree there has never been a candidate quite like him.
While Trump has a passionate base of support that is unlikely to abandon him under any circumstances — even if, as he has said, he committed mass murder on 5th Avenue — there appears to be enough Republican primary voters who are wary of him to make him beatable if the race winnows further, especially to a two-man contest. Just look at how Trump has been doing recently in polls when voters are asked who their second choice candidate is.
The only question is how to get to a two-man race?
As my colleague Matt Lewis has pointed out, while [crscore]Ted Cruz[/crscore], John Kasich and [crscore]Marco Rubio[/crscore] probably all agree that Trump is beatable one-on-one, they are all equally convinced that they are the best person to take him out. There may be, however, a way to convince Cruz and Kasich that their path to the Republican nomination no longer exists before March 15, a date the race probably needs to narrow to a one-on-one contest by if a non-Trump candidate is to have a significant chance at beating Trump outright for the nomination (that is, without forcing a contested convention).
For Cruz, the March 1 primary in Texas is a must win, as even Rick Tyler, who until Monday served as Cruz’s communications director, has stated.
“We have to win Texas, absolutely,” he told CNN Saturday.
The Daily Caller asked the Cruz campaign in an email whether Cruz would have any plausible path to the nomination if the Texas senator didn’t win his home state. By time of publication, no response was forthcoming.
But it is fair to presume that if Cruz cannot win in Texas, his campaign would effectively be over. So if you want to narrow the field quickly, the best way to do that would be for those parts of the Republican establishment and the conservative movement who see a Trump nomination as a dire threat to the party and conservatism more broadly to buttress Trump and weaken Cruz in The Lone Star State.
There has been little recent polling of the race in Texas, but it is not hard to imagine that despite Cruz’s home field advantage, Trump is at least within striking distance, if not in the lead. The last poll publicly released, way back in January before any of the caucuses or primary contests took place, showed Cruz with a narrow 5-percentage point lead over Trump.
So the first step to winnowing the field further would be for Republican mega-donors to fund an anti-Cruz campaign in Texas in order to weaken the Texas senator there. A Trump win in the state would actually be a win for anti-Trump forces within the Republican Party.
After Cruz, comes Kasich. The Ohio governor believes he will do best in the Rust Belt. His home state of Ohio holds its primary on March 15, but to beat Trump outright, it would help if the race was a two-man contest by then. Before Ohio, however, comes Michigan, a state Kasich is making a serious effort to win. After Super Tuesday on March 1, Kasich plans to spend nearly all his energy on Michigan, where he will launch a 7-day bus tour.
“We’re going to treat Michigan like we treated New Hampshire — no one is going to outwork us,” Kasich’s chief political strategist John Weaver recently said.
Right now, Trump actually holds a commanding advantage in Michigan, according to the RealClearPolitics polling average, with Rubio, Cruz and Kasich vying for second place. If Trump bests Kasich in Michigan, it would be hard for Ohio governor to make the case he is a viable contender. Republican super PACs itching to defeat Trump would be wise to work to ensure Kasich’s defeat in the state.
If all this happens, it is not hard to imagine that by March 9 the Republican race would effectively be a two-man contest between Trump and Rubio (Ben Carson would be a non-factor by this point if for some inexplicable reason he was still in the race.) Of course, Rubio would have to continue amassing delegates and slinging together a slew of second place finishes, if not outright victories, along the way to March 15 for this scenario to work.
But this is probably the most plausible pathway to defeat Trump. While it is no guarantee Rubio would win in a one-on-one contest with the billionaire businessman, there is polling to suggest that there is a very good chance he could — indeed, starting on March 15, the primary calendar gets much more favorable for the Florida senator.
So as strange as it sounds, if you are a Republican establishment mega-donor or a conservative grassroots activist who believes a Trump nomination — much less a Trump presidency — would be a total disaster, your best chance to prevent it would be to work to propel Trump to victory on March 1 in Texas and March 8 in Michigan.