Trump obviously is going to come away with the most state victories on Super Tuesday, as he was expected to do. But make no mistake, he is still going to underperform against his expectations. The Vegas odds on his performance on Super Tuesday were that he was going to win 9.5 out of 11 states. Vegas clearly expected him to lose Texas, and 50-50 odds of losing another state.
Not only did he lose Texas, but he also lost Oklahoma to a resurgent Ted Cruz. He also lost Minnesota handily to Marco Rubio, who finally picked up his first win - and he also lost Minnesota to Ted Cruz. In other words, the max he will end up winning tonight will be 8, and he might win as few as 7. Two of his wins, in Virginia and Arkansas, were razor thin. UPDATE: With Ted Cruz's surprise win in Alaska, Trump's win total for the night comes out to 7.
Ted Cruz has good news and bad coming out of tonight. The good news is that he won not only Texas but also picked up a surprise win in Oklahoma. Relative to what he was expected to do coming into tonight, he clearly overperformed and he has a strong case (from a political standpoint) to be the anti-Trump candidate right now.
The bad news is that the expectations for his performance tonight were not nearly high enough for him to have a very good path forward. We've gone over this at length here before, but Tennessee, Alabama, and Georgia are tailor-made states for Ted Cruz, and he lost them handily to Donald Trump. It looks like he will get almost doubled up in all three states. Probably, at the end of the day, he loses Arkansas. Additionally, he looks likely to finish almost completely tied with Rubio in all of these states.
So here's the problem: Cruz is going to come out of today with a delegate lead over Marco Rubio. But Rubio demonstrated in Virginia, Minnesota, Massachusetts, Vermont that he performs substantially better than Cruz outside the deep south and roughly equivalent to Cruz within the deep south. And the problem is that by this weekend, the deep south will be completely done voting.
Here are facts, and Cruz people can mock Rubio for having only one won state all they want, but if this race were likened to a football season, Cruz would be 4-2 and Rubio would be 3-3, except Cruz has played the Browns, Titans, Lions, Chargers, Jaguars and Ravens. Meanwhile, Rubio has played the Patriots, Broncos, Packers, Seahawks, Steelers and Bengals. It's tempting to say that Cruz is the better team and is going to finish with a better record, but the upcoming schedule for both teams flip-flops, so a smart analyst would actually predict the opposite.
But look, I don't know where we're at as an electorate right now. I am not sure if anyone is even remotely interested in sitting down and looking at this objectively instead of from a purely tribalistic standpoint anymore. If Carson and Kasich don't drop out pretty much immediately, which they show no indication of doing, it might be a moot point anyway. Maybe the best chance would be for Kasich to hope to win Ohio and Rubio to win Florida to deny Trump enough delegates to reach the 1237 threshold; I don't know.
I do know that after March 15th, at least, Rubio and Cruz need to sit down and have a personal, heart to heart conversation about which direction this thing is going to go and which one of them is going to get out of this race for the good of the country. If Rubio cannot win Florida, it probably needs to be Rubio. If he can, it probably needs to be Cruz. I hope both men love the country more than they love their own political careers so that we can move forward.
Because Trump showed tonight that he is not invincible. He can be beaten. But the need to push back is more urgent than ever.