Earlier this week, numerous pundits were suggesting that Donald Trump’s presidential campaign was all but finished. A number claimed that unless Trump came into the convention with 1237+ delegates and secured the nomination on the first ballot, he was toast.
I don’t deny this could still happen. It’s quite possible. But it is worth noting that in the nationwide GOP primary polls, after a brief Cruz Boomlet (Dead Ted Bounce) Trump’s numbers have rebounded and actually appear to be rising again. Yes, rising. (The rise could just be wobbliness in the polls; but he’s at least stabilized his support nationwide.) Conventional wisdom was – perhaps still is – that Trump had hit his ceiling and the sheer weight of bad news was pulling him down. That probably wouldn’t stop Trump from winning more primaries. But it would likely make it impossible for him to secure 1237 delegates. Meanwhile, Ted Cruz would accrue enough to make him a plausible alternative nominee.
Again, that’s not what’s happening. Cruz’s numbers nationwide are going down, seemingly shedding at least a margin of support to both Trump and Kasich. There’s also little doubt that a big win in New York, which seems highly likely, will give him a wave of good press and allow him to reclaim the look of a winner.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that Trump will get 1237 delegates or that he’ll be the nominee. I find it hard to figure out or at least game out the chances of any of this – mainly because all the possibilities seem deeply implausible and yet one must happen. What does seem clear to me is this: Conventional wisdom seems to be or has been that Trump had peaked and started to fall with mix of the Lewandowski ‘assault’, the terrible week with four different positions on abortion, various protester beatings and unified elite GOP denunciation. He likely couldn’t be caught by any other candidate. But he might be a ‘zombie’ plurality winner – still in the lead but so clearly damaged and losing steam that he could with some ease be denied the nomination. But the polls show Cruz is falling and Trump has not just stabilized but actually seems to be gaining steam.
What’s not totally clear to me is how much this is being driven by Trump and how much people seeing Ted Cruz is turning people against him. Remember, always start from the axiom of EHTD (Everybody Hates Ted Cruz). And you can’t go far wrong. Clearly the anti-Cruz wall Cruz built in the Senate is holding strong. But whether it’s more strength from Trump or the failure of the anti-Trump stalking horse doesn’t really matter. The upshot is the same. Trump is getting stronger, not weaker. And that portends bad things for any effort to deny him in Cleveland.