Donald Trump’s rapid rise in the polls last year to become the leader of the race for the Republican nomination initially caused concern but not too much alarm within the party establishment. Then as his rise stalled and his poll numbers stagnated at around the 35% from January through March of this year, his plurality in the polls was shrugged off as his ceiling of support, his leadership position as an artifact of the field being crowded with 17 hopefuls that was splitting the anti-Trump vote and that as candidates dropped out, their supporters would slowly coalesce around one of the other candidates, preferably the party’s preferred candidates like Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio, and that Trump would slowly lose ground and then disappear.
Of course, that did not happen and yesterday’s sweep of five states by Trump with vote totals of 58% in Connecticut, 61% in Delaware, 54% in Maryland, 57% in Pennsylvania, and 64% in Rhode Island, far exceeding his current national poll average of around 40%, should finally put the nail in the coffin of that hope. He has now won in every part of the country, 25 out of the roughly 40 contests held so far, and there are only 10 left. There is no doubt that he has national appeal within the party. Republicans love him, they really love him, and he can (and will) gloat over last night’s victories and the failure of all the plotting and scheming of his adversaries to deny him the nomination.
He clearly feels that he has laid claim to the nomination and in his victory speech pretty much ignored Cruz and Kasich except o say that the race was over and they should quit. He instead blasted Hillary Clinton, testing out themes that we are going to hear over and over again in the coming months.
Ted Cruz’s third place showing in four out of yesterday’s five contests, winning just three of the 198 delegates at stake, really hurts him and puts him in Marco Rubio territory and may be the metaphorical ‘punch in the face’ that has long been coming. Cruz has said that will make a ‘major announcement’ at 4:00pm Eastern Time today but left unclear what it was. Speculation ranges from withdrawing to announcing his choice as vice-president. If it is the latter, only someone like Carly Fiorina who wants the limelight and has no future in politics would agree to it. [UPDATE: Yes, Fiorina it is, the ultimate nightmare ticket.]
John Kasich is still in fourth place in terms of delegates won and he got just nine delegates last night. Neither he nor Cruz cracked 30% in any of the states. Their supposed joint effort to derail Trump in Indiana (next Tuesday), Oregon (May 17), and New Mexico (June 7) now seems to be a purely symbolic one, trying to deny him a total sweep of all the remaining primaries.
On the Democratic side, I expected a sweep by Clinton of all five states and she won four, three of them (Maryland, Delaware, and Pennsylvania) by large margins. I was pleasantly surprised to find Sanders coming close in Connecticut and winning Rhode Island by a double-digit margin but last night pretty much tightened Clinton’s grip on the nomination and in her victory speech last night she, like Trump, spoke as if she were already the nominee.