Cruz on Top

Zach D Roberts/NurPhoto/Sipa USA

We’re still early. But the main outstanding question seems to be whether Ted Cruz has a solid night or an amazing night. Cruz has already won the Kansas Caucus. He’s ahead by around 7 points in Maine, both with only just over 9% of the precincts reporting. In Kentucky, the only remotely recent poll showed Trump with 35%, Rubio 22% and Cruz at 15%. That was a little over a week ago. But almost 20% in, it’s Trump 42%, Cruz 31%. Rubio and Kasich far behind in the low teens. Polls close in Louisiana at 9 PM eastern.

The overall picture is pretty clear. It looks like Cruz will likely win at least half the contests today, perhaps more. Rubio looks unlikely to do better than 3rd anywhere. He might even come in 4th, behind John Kasich, in one or more states.

One thing to note is that Kansas, Kentucky and Maine are caucuses, which likely gives Cruz a big advantage with a leg up in ground game but also conservative movement infrastructure and organization. So we’ll want to wait to see what happens in Louisiana to get a sense of whether this is a real trend in Cruz’s direction or an artifact of his organizational advantages in caucuses.

Whichever it turns out to be, Rubio’s rationale for remaining in the race seems all but gone. And the prospect of a protracted primary battle between Trump and Cruz is a nightmare scenario for the GOP: a bitter, divisive battle between two toxic general election candidates.