Rubio and Cruz Both Beat Trump Head-to-Head, But Is It Too Late?

Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz both defeat Donald Trump in head-to-head matchups, but will they ever get there?

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In early February, we at The Read Zone set out some reasons “Why Trump Won’t Win the Republican Nomination.” The thesis behind that concept was simple, and remains true today: everyone who was willing to support Donald Trump already did. Trump wasn’t going to gain support as others dropped out of the race.

This was based on exit polls and common sense. Trump shot up to 30.5% by August, shortly after he entered the race, before anyone truly knew what his policy positions were (and we still don’t). Trump trounced his opponents in Iowa and News Hampshire among those who made up their minds over a month ago, who were looking for a straight-talker, and who were less conservative. He wasn’t winning over new hearts and minds, and his base of support was strong and deep, but narrow.

Check out this graphic released just today (3/9/2016) by the Wall Street Journal:

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That Trump would not be able to expand his base of support has turned out to be an accurate prediction – however the idea that this would prevent Trump from winning the Republican Nomination is looking more tenuous by the day. As of this writing, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, and John Kasich all remain in the race, and have divided the non-Trump vote into pieces:

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This supports the conclusion drawn from Iowa and New Hampshire exit polling as well as the “ranked choice voting” results over at FairVote. As an example, Donald Trump was simulated to win in New Hampshire with a full field:

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However, in a three man field, Rubio was only 2% behind Trump (40% to 38%). And if Ted Cruz were to drop out as well, Rubio would be the clear winner:

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Although the “Establishment Lane” may have a little less pop in it than it did in years past (as we were ahead of the curve in discussing over a month ago), both Rubio and Cruz would still defeat Donald Trump in a head-to-head matchup. The Washington Post published a fantastic article on just this topic this morning:

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The facts haven’t changed — Trump is not drawing many new supporters from anyone who has dropped out. In fact, his poll numbers have fallen despite the fact that Chris Christie, Carly Fiorino, Ben Carson and others have dropped out of the race.

This is bad news for the Republicans, which is why you can see the Establishment (personified by Mitt Romney) losing its collective mind over what is transpiring. Donald Trump is not as bad of a candidate as Democrats think (he’d be much less disastrous for the country than Ted Cruz) but his narrow support means he is doomed to lose the General Election in November.

This is borne out in the head-to-head polls at Real Clear Politics, where Trump loses badly to Clinton and Sanders in the General. Cruz, Rubio and even Kasich are all ahead of Clinton, while they all lose to Sanders.

At this point, it’s hard to see any of Rubio, Cruz or Kasich dropping out of the race, which may hand the nomination to Trump thanks to the delegate math. And all that will do will hand the General Election to his good friend Hillary in the General.