Trump's Trump Card

Josh Kraushaar rethinks a presumption or two:

The win­ner-take all rules for many of the more mod­er­ate “blue” states on March 15 and bey­ond should fa­vor a more prag­mat­ic Re­pub­lic­an down the stretch — at least on pa­per.

But these cal­cu­la­tions are based on a premise that I’m hav­ing a bit more trouble ac­cept­ing these days — that blue-state Re­pub­lic­ans are more likely to sup­port the es­tab­lish­ment can­did­ate than their red-state coun­ter­parts. It’s an es­pe­cially shaky as­sump­tion to make with Trump, giv­en the polit­ic­al ped­i­gree of his strongest sup­port­ers. To put it an­oth­er way, many of Trump’s sup­port­ers are self-de­scribed mod­er­ates and view him as the more cent­rist can­did­ate. (Based on his his­tory of hold­ing lib­er­al po­s­i­tions and past dona­tions to prom­in­ent Demo­crats, they have a point.)

The or­din­ary rules of the polit­ic­al game haven’t ap­plied to Trump so far, and if he lives up to the hype early on, there’s little reas­on to be­lieve he’ll fade as the race moves in­to more mod­er­ate ter­rit­ory. If Trump wins Iowa—the one state where he hasn’t led in many pub­lic polls—it’s hard to see where his mo­mentum stops.

Ted Cruz currently leads in Iowa, and if he fails to win there it's difficult to see how he picks up momentum against Trump's media machine in the bigger, more moderate states. And if Cruz does win Iowa, keep in mind Iowa's long and storied history of picking losers. In seven contested caucuses since 1976, Iowa has correctly picked the eventual nominee three times (Ford '76, Dole '96, Bush 2k) and only one (Bush) went on to win the general election. Iowa has never been all that it's cracked up to be, and yet it's the basket where Cruz has put most of his eggs.

Harkening back to a report of mine from last week, Kraushaar adds:

As The New York Times’s Nate Cohn con­cluded, Trump’s strongest voters are “self-iden­ti­fied Re­pub­lic­ans who non­ethe­less are re­gistered as Demo­crats” and are well-rep­res­en­ted in the in­dus­tri­al North and Ap­palachia. There’s a reas­on why Trump spent time last week in Low­ell, Mas­sachu­setts and Bur­l­ing­ton, Ver­mont—in two New Eng­land states that hold primar­ies on Su­per Tues­day. And polls show Trump’s fa­vor­ab­il­ity stead­ily im­prov­ing among GOP voters, coun­ter­ing the wide­spread be­lief that he’ll flame out when the field nar­rows.

If Trump doesn't flame out -- and there's not much time left for that to happen -- then his victory is gonna be yuge.