While Iowa and New Hampshire are historic early voting States, neither State paints as accurate a picture of a primary season as does South Carolina. South Carolina’s open primaries and nationally representative ratio of demographics will tell us more about the current state of the race tonight than any data we currently have this morning.
Donald Trump has been leading by vast margins in South Carolina and looks to have another large victory tonight, similar to New Hampshire. However, Ted Cruz, Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, and John Kasich have each unleashed furious ground attacks across the Palmetto State, certain to chip away at Trump’s lead. Who picks up undecided voters and how many votes can be flipped remains to be seen.
While Donald Trump appears to have sown up 35% of the Republican electorate into a staunch and unshakable force, 65% of the electorate is adamantly opposed to Trump and is actively working out who the last anti-Trump candidate ought to be. The more candidates that remain in the field only serves to strengthen Trump’s hand, which isn’t a problem until the all or nothing primary states begin voting on March 15th. For now, all the candidates are racking up delegates and no one threatens to amass enough delegates to put the race away early.
However, if Trump wins South Carolina, then we can expect him to pick up several more states in the south as well, giving him momentum heading into Super Tuesday. The two big Super Tuesday states are Texas and Virginia. Trump appears poised to win Virginia, while Cruz retains a firm grip on Texas. The question is, after Super Tuesday, does Jeb Bush, Ben Carson, and John Kasich stay in for the first round of all or nothing votes, which will include Jeb Bush’s home state of Florida and John Kasich’s home state of Ohio. There is no indication that Bush or Kasich will drop out before March 15th, which will likely hand Trump victories in both Florida and Ohio, all but destroying an anti-Trump candidate from catching him in delegates.
Only Senator Cruz, who currently leads in California, has a chance of catching Trump at that point, but it will be extremely hard, even for Cruz. This is, however, is the likely scenario.
However, if Trump loses South Carolina to Cruz, Rubio, Kasich, or Bush, then all bets are off and no one has any idea what might happen next. All indications are that this evening we will witness the continued ascendancy of Donald Trump and the further unraveling of conservatism and the GOP establishment both.
Senator Ted Cruz, Senator Marco Rubio, Governor Jeb Bush, and Governor Kasich will all need to do some deep soul searching after tonight and decide if they are all willing to stay in the race, ensuring a Trump victory, or if a few of them would step aside, rallying behind one candidate to defeat Trump.
America holds its’ breath. I suspect Trump will win with 30%, Cruz 21%, Rubio 20%, Bush 13%, Kasich 12%, Carson 3%, others 1%. Trump’s brilliant attempt at appealing to Democrats in an open primary will simply be too effective for the other candidates to overcome.