Tuesday, December 15, 2015
I'm going to go out on a limb...
First, I'm going to not go out on a limb and say the Des Moines Register Tribune poll is right: Ted Cruz takes the first state on February 1. Everybody in the know seems to respect this poll, and besides, Cruz is lining up some key endorsements in Iowa, e. g., Bob Vander Plaats and Rep. Steve King.
Next is New Hampshire, where Trump currently leads the field with either 26.8 percent, according to the Huffington Post aggregate poll, or 28.7 percent, according to the Real Clear Politics average of polls. But if you add up the percentages of the establishment candidates -- Marco Rubio, Chris Christie, Jeb Bush and John Kasich -- you get a total of 36 percent on HuffPo and 36.6 on RCP. And I'm going to say that the establishment coalesces, more or less, around one of these four candidates in the next two months. (At this date it looks like it could be Christie.) So let's say Trump stays in the high twenties, Cruz gets a bounce out of Iowa and comes in third at around 15 percent, but the establishment candidate gets a little over thirty and wins.
Now the Donald is oh-for-two. And the guy who's made his campaign . . . about his campaign is suddenly not looking like a "winner."
Next comes South Carolina, and it looks like it could be Cruz against the establishment. Trump? By now he's yesterday's news. Conservatives will have to rally behind the freshman senator from Texas to stop the establishment candidate -- Christie, Rubio or Jeb. And the establishment will have to rally behind its guy to stop Cruz. Whoever wins that one will be well-positioned for the SEC primaries on March 1 and Super Tuesday on March 15.
If Trump loses both Iowa and New Hampshire, I'll say he finds a convenient excuse to drop out ("I never wanted to be president anyway"), but he'll certainly be gone if he loses all three.
I know the Donald has a commanding lead in the national polls (Monmouth had him at 41 percent yesterday, a new high!), but I'm skeptical that his numbers will translate into real votes when the time comes. So I'll say the nomination comes down to Cruz vs. the winner of New Hampshire (the establishment choice). After the Granite State, it could be a two-man race.