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A Pyrrhic Victory on the Ides of March

How knocking Rubio out of the race would cost Cruz the nomination

Right: Pyrrhus and his elephants

“The armies separated; and, it is said, Pyrrhus replied to one that gave him joy of his victory that one other such victory would utterly undo him. For he had lost a great part of the forces he brought with him, and almost all his particular friends and principal commanders; there were no others there to make recruits, and he found the confederates in Italy backward. On the other hand, as from a fountain continually flowing out of the city, the Roman camp was quickly and plentifully filled up with fresh men, not at all abating in courage for the loss they sustained, but even from their very anger gaining new force and resolution to go on with the war.” ~ Plutarch, Life of Pyrrhus

Today is the fabled “Ides of March.” It is the day when — according to Plutarch and Suetonius — Julius Caesar was assassinated. It’s been long contended that Americans are the “New Romans” and that the transformation of our Constitutional Republic into an Empire began in the mid-20th century. An endless series of foreign wars, deficit spending and a general moral free-fall likens us to the Romans.

Today, we have the triumvirate of Clinton, Sanders and Trump, any one of whom — although they differ greatly in policy — would transform America slowly but surely from a constitutional republic into a statist empire.

A lone Constitutionalist, Ted Cruz, although not the perfect presidential candidate, is the only viable alternative from a delegate math perspective. Unfortunately, Cruz will come in a distant third in Florida. Many Cruz supporters ironically believe that knocking out the candidate who is closest to him in political ideology, Marco Rubio, will somehow help Cruz to win the nomination. A vote for Cruz in Florida will not help him. In fact, by throwing the Florida primary election to Trump, it would immediately block any path for Cruz to win the nomination — even eliminating the possibility of a contested convention.

I wrote several updates to my Delegate Math article in the past few weeks, trying to convince my Florida Republican friends that if Marco Rubio lost Florida to Trump, this would essentially seal the nomination for Trump. Florida is winner-take-all and its 99 delegates awarded to Trump would put him over the 700 mark on the way to 1237 delegates needed for the nomination.

I also showed that since over 120 delegates will go to the convention as unbound, the Donald only has to get up to about 1100 delegates. Trump will be able to make the strong case that in order to avoid a contested and divisive GOP Convention in July, those 120 delegates ought to unite and give him the nomination on the first ballot.

The only hope is for Cruz is to surpass Trump in the delegate count. He may not get to 1237 delegates, but in a virtual tie, the delegate role call at the convention would probably go to Cruz on the second ballot. Keeping the 99 winner-take-all Florida delegates out of Trump’s column is vital to that strategy.

Therefore, Cruz has all but pulled out of Florida, preferring to campaign in Missouri, Illinois and North Carolina where he has a better chance of picking up delegates. However, Cruz is still polling at 15 to 20 percent in Florida. Kasich is campaigning solely in Ohio, but he has shown a little surge in the past few days up to about 9 percent in Florida. This is counterintuitive and may reflect a few days’ lag in data rather than a surge toward voting day.

Let’s say for the sake of argument that Trump has a ceiling of 40 percent in Florida. The average of all recent polls have him at 43 percent, but Trump has been overestimated in many polls. Some of the widest gaffes have been in the polls leading up to the recent March 8th primaries. If that trend holds true, Rubio would have to win about 40 percent of the vote to keep the Florida contest from Trump. The other 20 percent could be split between Kasich and Cruz.

The current RealClear Politics polling average has the following as of today.

Trump 43.0
Rubio 24.7
Cruz 18.4
Kasich 9.1
TOTAL: 95.2
Undecided: 4.8

If this is accurate, then Trump assuredly has Florida sewn up. To keep Florida’s delegates and the GOP nomination from Trump, Rubio would somehow have to find a way win and take those 99 delegates out of Trump’s column.

Is there any possibility that this could happen?

In several recent primaries, many polls were monstrously wrong, while just one or two were close to the mark. A poll that concluded five days ago, WTSP/Mason-Dixon, which had a margin of error of 3.8 points, had Trump up by just 6 points over Rubio.

Trump 36
Rubio 30
Cruz 17
Kasich 8
TOTAL: 91
Undecided: 9

According to this poll, a Rubio win is possible even though most other polls have Trump way out front. It also assumes that most of the undecideds would break for Rubio.

Here are two possible scenarios in which Rubio could eke out a victory.

Rubio 38
Trump 37.0
Cruz 17
Kasich 8
TOTAL: 100

Another scenario has Cruz will coming in under 15 percent and Kasich around 5 percent.

Rubio 40.1
Trump 40.0
Cruz 14.9
Kasich 5
TOTAL: 100

Since the margin of polling error for each candidate is about 4 points, it is conceivable that Trump could underperform. Cruz and Kasich supporters who are repulsed by Trump might decide to not “waste their vote” and go with their second choice in Rubio on election day. It’s not very probable, but anything is possible. Florida has had some insanely close elections in recent memory and some surprising results. It is a notoriously difficult to take accurate polls in Florida due to diverse nature of the demographics statewide.

If you are a Cruz supporter and you think that knocking Rubio out of the race will benefit Cruz in future primaries, please think again. It would be a Pyrrhic victory in the truest sense of the word. The delegate math makes the nomination almost a certain lock for Trump if he gets a Florida win and takes all 99 delegates.

So I urge my Florida friends who want to block the Trump nomination to vote for Marco Rubio today.

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