WASHINGTON, D.C. - In three states on Super Tuesday 3, Donald Trump got what he loves best -- wins.
What he didn’t win, however, was any real gain in political net worth.
The returns offered no evidence that he is expanding his GOP base. He still has never cracked 50 percent in any election. The exit polls show he has made no progress in lowering his “negatives,” which may indeed be growing. His biggest win was probably the fact that he still faces two opponents who will continue to split the anti-Trump vote.
And besides, Hillary Clinton’s wins were much better deals – better margins, more delegates and no losses.
The political portrait of Donald Trump after Super Tuesday 3 is not one The Donald is likely to hang on the walls of Mar-a-Lago.
He is a candidate with a decent but precarious chance of getting the bare minimum of delegates needed to get the Republican nomination without a brokered convention; a majority of GOP voters say he isn’t honest or trustworthy and a quarter of them say they won’t vote for him in the general election; he looks, by the numbers, like the ideal candidate to lose a general election to a Democrat – any Democrat.
That’s how it looks on paper. But Trump doesn’t live on paper; he lives on TV. Trumpism has so far mocked historical precedent, contemporary prognostication and everything your mother ever told you about being a good person.
Donald Trump will not be making the next crucial decisions in the GOP anarchy, the Republican Party (such as it is), Ted Cruz and John Kasich will.
Time and time again in this campaign, the party has punted and played possum, avoiding bold – and ethical – action against Trump. Now the party must decide if it thinks Trump’s coronation is inevitable. If they decide it is not, the party needs to decide if it is going to stay in the locker room crying in their towels, while a man they believe is dangerous, not conservative, vulgar and destructive to the party and the country runs freely into the end zone.
One problem is that while the GOP leadership is embarrassed by Trump, and scared, they hate Cruz’s guts. They think both will get clobbered in November. What a great choice – arsenic or strychnine.
Odds are high that GOP leaders in Congress, the governors’ mansions and their most distinguished “formers” will stay in the locker room as the bully Trump snaps his embroidered towels at them. No leader, no wise man or woman or group has yet been able to talk sense to voters under Trump’s spell. Lindsey Graham and Mitt Romney have at least tried.
Kasich and Cruz will go on stumping. But if they seriously want to stump to dump Trump, they must decide whether to cut a deal. Neither can come close to getting more delegates than Trump. The smart play is for them to divide the remaining states between them. (Rubio did this by bowing out of Ohio.) Kasich runs where he has the best shot, Cruz where he does. Each contest would become a de facto one-on-one. This deprives Trump of his most valuable political asset – a divided field. This is the best route to a brokered convention, where Cruz and Kasich have a prayer they don’t have now.
There is, however, nothing in Ted Cruz’s career to suggest he would consider this for any longer than one of his sound bites. Kasich? Who knows?
The exit polls contain numbers that will put the Fear of Trump in any Republican who isn’t already sedated:
In North Carolina, 23 percent of GOP voters said they would not vote for Trump in November: In Illinois, 33 percent; Ohio, 30 percent; Missouri, 26 percent.
In North Carolina and Missouri, 48 percent of GOP voters say Trump is not “honest and trustworthy”: In Illinois, the number is 52 percent; in Ohio, 53 percent.
In earlier battleground states, exit polls showed more than 40 percent of GOP voters would be dissatisfied if Trump is their nominee: In Virginia, 53 percent; Michigan, 48 percent; New Hampshire, 46 percent.
With friends like these, who needs Democrats?
In a memo written for Our Principles PAC, the first and most aggressive #NeverTrump Super PAC, pollster Ed Goeas noted that in a recent Fox News national poll, 40 percent of voters said Trump “is the candidate they would most dread watching on television for the next four years. No other Republican candidate is even in double digits on this measure.” Two-thirds of voters said Trump lacks the temperament to be president.
Contrary to what Trump says in every speech, in the 19 national polls since December 1, 2015, archived by RealClearPolitics.com that match Trump against Clinton, Trump has won only two, both within the margin of error.
After the polls closed on ST3, Trump, a man who says all the greatest businessmen declare bankruptcy, declared the night a great, beautiful victory. He did get some wins; he did get some delegates. What he did not get was any sign from GOP voters that his base is growing and his personal negatives are shrinking.
For the first time in this campaign, amazingly, Trump was attacked last week with a bombardment of negative ads, mostly in Florida. It’s too soon to tell if they were effective at all, though they obviously weren’t big factors. Normally it takes awhile for the marketing venom to take effect, though Trump shows signs of immunity. The money is reportedly available to keep the attacks coming.
Super Tuesday 3 will only be a big win for Trump if the party allows it to be in the coming days. Odds are always in favor of the house, the house of Trump in this case.
To listen to DecodeDC podcasts, watch edgy videos and read more blog posts about politics, politicians and policy, go to DecodeDC.com. And don't miss a new spin-off podcast titled TrailMix 2016.