The ABT factor

Not that the presidential candidates have noticed very much  , but Missouri’s presidential primary is Tuesday.  Missouri tried to move its primary to an earlier date four years ago so it would be more relevant but the Republican party threatened to take away half of our delegates to the nominating convention if we did so the legislature decided it is best to be irrelevant in the Spring instead of being less relevant in the summer. 

This observer is not the only observer to observe that Republicans are becoming increasingly concerned that Donald Trump will have the nomination locked up before the summer presidential nominating convention.  And Trump loyalists are saying that if he goes to the convention with 1100 or so delegates (he needs 1237) and the “Republican establishment” denies him the nomination, there will be hell to pay, or something like that. 

More sophisticated analysts than those living outside the political cauldron are pointing out who supports him and who doesn’t and what he wins within the voting bloc and what he loses.  But what we have noticed is something more basic. 

Voters seem to favor ANYBODY BUT Donald Trump even in primaries (through last Tuesday) that he has won.  Here’s the “Anybody But” results through Super Tuesday:

Iowa   76% Anybody But Trump

New Hampshire  65

South Carolina  67

Nevada  54

Alabama  57

Alaska  66

Arkansas  67

Georgia  61

Massachusetts  50 (although in the total vote, he lost by about 20,000 out of 631,413 cast)

Minnesota  79

Oklahoma  72

Tennessee  61

Texas  73

Vermont  67

Virginia  65

Kansas  77

Kentucky  64

Louisiana  59

Maine  67

Hawaii  58

Idaho  72

Michigan  64

Mississippi  53

At that point, Trump had 458 delegates.  But “Anybody But” had 564. 

But he hasn’t cracked 40% support in 17 of the 23 states even as the number of competitors has narrowed. The candidate who has yet to get half of the votes cast in any primary has to get about 54% of all of the remaining delegates to be chosen to have enough delegates for a first-ballot nomination. 

Despite what seems to many observers as a steep uphill climb, his supporters believe Trump could go to the convention with a delegate count that deserves nomination.  But if he’s short, merriment will ensue after the first ballot and the convention will have to decide if he can win the presidency with base support of only about one-third of the party faithful.  Some Trumpians, ignoring the two-thirds for “Anybody But,” already are talking tough about what will happen if the mainline party leaders “take away” the nomination from their guy.

Delegate selection for conventions differs from place to place.  Some primaries/caucuses are winner-take-all.  Most are proportional.  As long as there are three other people running, voters will be able to vote for “Anybody But.”  Trump would prefer voters not have three other people giving voters an ABT alternative, of course. But all three of the ABT contenders have given voters in different primaries different people to use to express their ABT sentiments. They’re useful to the process.

Unfortunately, “Anybody But” is unlikely to work on the November ballot.  Watching the rest of the primaries is going to be more fun than usual. Watching the Republican National Convention holds even greater promise for entertainment this year than in many years past.  It also will be interesting to see if disappointed Trumpians will stay at home and sulk on election day (assuming he doesn’t launch a third-party effort) or if the party will be able to convince them that “Anybody But” Hillary Clinton is enough to rally them from their funk .    

One thing we’ve never understood is how opponents in primary campaigns can say the vilest things about one another and then get real palsy-walsy afterwards.  We’ve never understood why the public should consider such behavior the least bit credible. We’ll be among the many who will be watching for the obligatory unity moment after somebody, Trump or ABT, gets the nomination and wondering why yesterday’s leper can become tomorrow’s savior.    

One of the most fun moments in our career as a political reporter was the day we went after some losers in a post-election unity news conference.   We might tell that story some other day.

Let me know what you think......