Charlie Cook | It will be Trump or Cruz, unless the GOP establishment sorts itself out

Charlie Cook, National Journal:

Na­tion­ally, the RCP av­er­ages put Trump ahead with 29 per­cent, with Cruz and Ru­bio neck-and-neck with 21 and 20.3 per­cent, Car­son with 7 per­cent, and Bush at 4 per­cent. Ob­vi­ously there is no na­tion­al primary, which is what a na­tion­al poll would test, but the fig­ures serve as a point of ref­er­ence, giv­ing a rough idea of how things stand in oth­er places be­fore the cir­cus comes to town.

The reas­on I re­main very con­fid­ent in say­ing that Trump will not be the nom­in­ee is that while he is get­ting 29 per­cent or so of the sup­port of Re­pub­lic­ans na­tion­ally, 100 per­cent know who he is and are fairly fa­mil­i­ar with him. If they aren’t, the odds of them be­ing a primary or caucus voter some­place is al­most nonex­ist­ent. The 71 per­cent of Re­pub­lic­ans who are not for Don­ald Trump may well agree with him on im­mig­ra­tion or some oth­er is­sue, and they like his blunt man­ner, his de­fi­ance of polit­ic­al cor­rect­ness, or his anti­es­tab­lish­ment, anti-politi­cian, anti-Wash­ing­ton mes­sage. But they are not for him, nor are they likely to move to his column.

Each of the oth­er can­did­ates is less known and defined, and thus has more room for growth. It does not mean that someone for Cruz today is likely to jump sides and move to Bush, Kasich, or Ru­bio, or that a sup­port­er of one of these three is likely to jump to Cruz. While the poll num­bers are a little soft, and while voters don’t ne­ces­sar­ily stay in the lanes that ana­lysts put them in, they usu­ally do.

One use­ful ex­er­cise is to total up the shares of sup­port in each of the three ideo­lo­gic­al lanes. If Cruz is pulling 21 per­cent and Car­son 7.3 per­cent, as the RCP av­er­ages sug­gest, that means that 28.3 per­cent of GOP voters are in the con­ser­vat­ive lane and 29 per­cent in Trump’s lane. The sum of Ru­bio’s 20.3 per­cent, Kasich’s 4.7 per­cent, and Bush’s 4 per­cent is 31 per­cent. That means the three lanes are sep­ar­ated by few­er than 3 points, an amaz­ingly even bal­ance. Even if you move Car­son’s 7 per­cent in­to the Trump column—al­though it’s hard to ima­gine Car­son’s deeply re­li­gious, evan­gel­ic­al sup­port­ers grav­it­at­ing to the of­ten-pro­fane and more-sec­u­lar Trump—that would only get him up to 36.3 per­cent, still a long way from the nom­in­a­tion.

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