When the calls were first made for Louisiana, virtually every network saw Donald Trump as the clear winner based on the early vote results: Somewhere in the neighborhood of 45-23 Trump to Cruz. However, as the night went on, that changed. Ted Cruz came back within about four points of Trump (at times during the night, he was within three points). So… what happened?
What we know is that early voter turnout was high – higher than 2012, at least. However, during the day of the primary, there were reports of low turnout. My own polling station, in a city and parish with a high population, told me it was a pretty slow day, and I’ve heard similar stories throughout the state.
Also, some doom was pronounced after the Hayride-Magellan poll came out earlier this week. That poll was almost identical to the early voter turnout. That seemed to be another gut punch to the Cruz campaign, which was assumed early in this cycle to be a favorite in the south.
Then, Thursday night happened.
The Fox News Debate in Detroit, Michigan, was embarrassing for Donald Trump in ways that I don’t think anyone fully realized until this primary day. What was going to be another good day for Trump turned into a split with Cruz, with the latter taking Kansas and Maine while the former took Louisiana and Kentucky (albeit barely). Ted Cruz hit Donald Trump high and Marco Rubio hit Trump low. And it worked.
You can’t say Romney made it happen. You can’t say a bunch of voters just up and decided to go with Cruz instead of the others.
Rubio made Trump bleed. He got under Trump’s skin and made him irritable and frustrated all night. However, this seems to have come at great personal expense, as Rubio’s image has tarnished a bit with what many see as childish antics. This has allowed for Ted Cruz to come in and siphon off votes from him, Ben Carson (who dropped out), and John Kasich (who came off as a complete and total coward).
Donald Trump’s “victory” speech tonight can be described as very subdued. He perhaps gets how serious a problem Thursday night was. The emperor really has no clothes, and more people are seeing it.