March 10, 2016
We now have word Dr. Ben Carson will endorse Donald Trump tomorrow. This isn’t a political earthquake. Maybe it’s not even a mild rumble. Now if Jeb Bush endorsed The Donald….
Still, as always, Trump is proving himself a master of timing. He’s trying to knock Marco Rubio out in Florida. He’s trying to knock John Kasich out in Ohio. While you can argue Ted Cruz would have an easier time beating Trump head-to-head, it also eases Trump’s path to getting 1237 delegates before the nomination.
Speaking of Cruz, he needs victories in Missouri and North Carolina to keep from falling behind. While he’d like to have the playing field to himself, that would mean Trump won two big states, with at least a decent chance of taking Illinois too.
If Trump gets one or both of the remaining two, the math for Ted is bleak. Missouri and North Carolina, even with extra candidates in the race, are a better prospect than places like New York and New Jersey.
Enter the Doctor.
North Carolina was a very good Ben Carson state. Even when his support crumbled, he remained around 10% in polls there. In the fall, when his candidacy was at it’s peak, he was in first.
We only have one Missouri poll from early August, pre-Carson boom, and he was tied for second there. If you figure his residual support was in the 7 to 10 percent range in each state, and half of those voters are susceptible to being influenced by his endorsement, we’re talking about a 3 to 5 point swing at most.
But we know Trump is already starting from a high floor. The most recent North Carolina poll has him at 32%. Another newish survey has him at 41%.
He led the one ancient Missouri poll with twice the support of anyone else. We know 70 to 80 percent of his polling support at any given time is completely locked in.
Unless Rubio ditches out before Tuesday, Cruz will have two other non-Trump candidates to divide votes with. Even if you assume Rubio will do no better holding his supporters than he did in Michigan or Mississippi, he’ll pull at least a few votes away from Cruz.
Cruz gets his best results in caucuses. Missouri is one. It’s likely his best opportunity next Tuesday. One victory keeps him in the game, but isn’t enough for parity with Trump.
North Carolina is a primary open to Republicans and Independents. Democrats are not invited to vote on the GOP side the way they were in Michigan and will in Illinois. That cuts a bit of Trump’s opportunity to pick up cross over votes.
If you figure Rubio and Kasich can stagger to a minimum of a combined 15%, perhaps closer to 20, that would indicate the winner will have a share in the low 40% range. Cruz finished in the mid-upper 30s in Louisiana and Mississippi.
He’s in the high 20s now, but closed strong on March 1st, 5th, and 8th, and regularly beats his final polling average by a few points. The Tar Heel State is closer than polling may make it appear.
Even a shot of a couple extra points from the Doctor may make the difference.
Given Carson’s recent statements about the coarse nature of GOP dialogue and his embarrassment with how the candidates are sounding, his choice of The Donald is interesting.
While there is always a clip or ten of an ex-candidate endorser saying negative things about the endorsee at some point during the campaign, they aren’t as temperamentally in synch as Trump and Chris Christie.
It’s impossible to know if caucus day dirty tricks in Iowa prevented Carson from endorsing Cruz. Perhaps he would have preferred Trump anyway. Neither are officially elected politicians. Carly Fiorina wasn’t either though, and she picked Ted.
With Carson making his choice, Jeb Bush is a notable holdout among the departed candidates. I’m not sure who George Pataki or Jim Gilmore have endorsed (if anyone), but I’m thinking we can skip them anyway.
The others are as follows:
Rick Perry: Cruz
Bobby Jindal: Rubio
Lindsey Graham: Originally Jeb, now saying he may need to begrudgingly support Cruz.
Rick Santorum: Rubio
Mike Huckabee: None, his daughter (and campaign manager) now works for Trump.
Carly Fiorina: Cruz
Chris Christie: Trump
Rand Paul: None
Scott Walker (remember him?): None
I would imagine the Walker endorsement will have at least a little value in Wisconsin if Cruz and Kasich and/or Rubio are still contesting the anti-Trump area by the time the state votes April 5.
It’s hard to imagine the governor would endorse Trump. If he did, that would serve as a big surprise and give The Donald another boost.
If Jeb is going to endorse anyone, the time is before Florida votes. His nod loses value once we pass the 15th. At this point, we don’t know if he’d prefer to see Rubio or Kasich carry the torch forward, or only believes Cruz has a chance.
For now, Trump got a small, but potentially meaningful boost. It’s up to the others to play their next card.
CORRECTION: Missouri is a primary, not a caucus. It’s still the best Cruz opportunity due to location/voter composition.