Just now I opened up the CNN.com front page and was treated to a giant splash headline: “The Trump Juggernaut.” It’s an embarrassing insult to the intelligence of us all that the media is trying to tell us that a guy who is still losing primaries two weeks after Super Tuesday, and who hasn’t come close to breaking 50% in a single state is a “Juggernaut” and “inevitable.” Given that 40% of our party supports Donald Trump, I guess the insult is pretty well deserved.
CNN and the other networks have a vested interest in a Trump nomination for reasons that are both ideological and ratings-driven. But their memory-holing of basic historical facts is really getting to the point of being embarrassing. John King in particular has spent the last three consecutive election nights waxing rhapsodic about the breathtaking breadth of Trump’s support, like it’s nothing that’s ever been seen before. This is absolute hogwash of the highest order.
We are now two weeks past Super Tuesday, and Donald Trump is still losing primaries, barely winning others, and still has not cracked 50% once. He’s cracked 45% exactly 3 times in 27 states. Let’s compare this to how other previous Republican front runners have done.
As I detailed at some length a couple weeks ago, prior to 2008, no Republican Presidential primary was even meaningfully contested as of Super Tuesday. In 2008, John McCain became the weakest Republican front runner in Republican primary history, and the first to actually lose Super Tuesday contests since 1976. What was groundbreaking about the 2008 campaign was that going into Super Tuesday, there was an actual credible threat (albeit relatively small) that someone not named John McCain would emerge as the victor.
All that having been said, McCain’s strength – on Super Tuesday and beyond – was much higher than Trump’s current position. On Super Tuesday itself, McCain won three primaries with over 50% of the vote (NJ, NY, CT) and three more with over 45% of the vote (DE, IL, AZ). By the time Super Tuesday 2 rolled around (one week after Super Tuesday), McCain won all three contests with over 50% of the vote (DC, MD, VA). The following week he won Wisconsin with 55% of the vote. The next meaningful contests were March 4th, and McCain won them all with more than 60% of the vote. In other words, by this exact same point of the 2008 cycle, John McCain had fully decimated his competition and was well on his way to a pro forma vote at the convention.
In 2012, Mitt Romney was an even weaker Republican front runner than McCain. Trump likes to excuse the fact that he hasn’t cracked 50% in a single state yet by pointing out that he’s still running a four man race, but at this point of the 2012 campaign, Romney was still running against Santorum, Gingrich, and Paul. Even still, Romney was massively stronger than Trump in spite of the surprising strength of the Santorum/Gingrich challenge (and the stubborn refusal of Ron Paul voters to assimilate). Romney cracked 50% in Nevada, before Super Tuesday, and came close again with a 47% showing in Arizona the week before Super Tuesday.
On Super Tuesday, Romney won 7 contests (same as Trump), but he cracked the 50% threshold three times on that day; in fact, he won Virginia with almost 60%, Idaho with 61%, and Massachusetts with 72%. Winning states by those margins as of Super Tuesday is the margin of a true front runner, even though Romney was still losing states. Romney suffered a minor setback the week after Super Tuesday when he lost Mississippi and Alabama to Santorum, but the next round of contests on April 3rd, he won convincingly, and after that, never finished under 60%.
There are two phenomena about the Trump campaign that have defied political history, and the media is emphasizing one every day while being blind to the other. The first is that Trump’s support is immune to attack for literally any reason. This is the one that the media obsesses over. But the second, which the media is ignoring for the express purpose of making Trump look inevitable, is that Trump’s opposition is likewise more stubborn and robust than the opposition to any Republican front runner in history, by a huge margin.
No other Republican front runner in history has been so weak and vulnerable this late into the election cycle as Trump is now.