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Presidential Horse Race 2016: Donald Trump can’t talk his way to inevitability

Today marks the fourth consecutive Tuesday of consequence in the 2016 Republican presidential race and the first since Marco Rubio called it quits a week ago.

With Utah holding caucuses and Arizona conducting a closed Republican primary, today will be an important test to determine whether Ted Cruz can match-up with Donald Trump (virtually) one-on-one. It will also perhaps reveal whether John Kasich’s continued presence in the race will have any effect on the individual state Donald Trumpoutcomes.

To cut to the chase, Cruz is predicted to win big in Utah and commentators seem to agree Trump will probably edge out the Texas Senator in Arizona.

If that happens, it would pretty much be a wash on the day.

First off, we’ll look at Utah.  With its closed caucus system, the conditions appear ripe for a good Ted Cruz showing today. But there are some who think Cruz will not only win there, he’ll put some emphasis on the victory.

Mike Flynn of Breitbart writes that Cruz is set up for a sweep in the Beehive State. “A new poll shows Sen. Ted Cruz with a sizable lead in Utah’s upcoming caucus vote.

“Cruz has 53 percent support, followed distantly by Ohio Gov. John Kasich with 29 percent. GOP frontrunner Donald Trump has just 11 percent support.”

Reaching the magic 50% number is important in Utah, otherwise its delegates are handed out proportionally to candidates who receive over 15% of the votes. John Kasich looks to be Cruz’s main competition in the state and has been endorsed by former Governor Mike Leavitt (among others).

Meanwhile, it’s hard not to notice Trump’s paltry 11% in the poll (conducted byY2 Analytics). That’s not the only bad news for him there, either -- “Only 29 percent of Utah Republicans say they will support Trump in November if he is the nominee,” Flynn added.

Cruz has been buoyed in the state by an endorsement from popular conservative senator Mike Lee and an “I’m voting for Ted” shout-out from Mitt Romney last week, though it wasn’t an official endorsement (Cruz also won the support of Gov. Gary Herbert on Monday). Utah is known for its rebellious conservative bent at the grassroots level, with incumbent Senator Bob Bennett having been turned-out in favor of Lee at the state’s convention in 2010.

Conservatives mean business in Utah and they’re not afraid to challenge GOP frontrunners. The heavy advantage goes to Ted in this regard.

Trump’s hard times in Utah don’t end with the caucuses. If he ends up the eventual Republican nominee, he could conceivably lose there in November to Hillary Clinton…or even to Bernie Sanders.

Moving on to Arizona, the “experts” think Trump will probably pull off a victory in the Grand Canyon State and secure its 58 delegates in the winner-take-all primary, due mostly to his perceived tougher stance on illegal immigration – and because of early voting.

James Hohmann of the Washington Post writes, “Trump has very likely locked in a sizable lead when Rubio and others were still in the race. ‘In Maricopa, the state’s largest county, the number of early voters in 2016 is already nearly 90 percent of the county’s total GOP turnout in the primary four years ago,’ Politico reports. ‘Constantin Querard, Cruz’s Arizona state director, noted the campaign had gained momentum since Rubio dropped out but added, ‘We don’t know how much of a deficit we have to overcome.’”

Other populated areas of the state show similar early voting patterns. Certainly some of those votes went for Marco Rubio, so Trump can win overall with a somewhat smaller percentage.

Cruz will likely win handily the same-day voting as he’s been doing consistently of late, but the question is whether it will be enough to overcome the damage that’s already been done with early ballots.

Hohmann says there are five factors favoring Cruz in Arizona with same-day voters:
1. It’s become essentially a two-man race;
2. Cruz has a superior ground game;
3. It’s a closed primary;
4. Cruz has scored a bunch of late endorsements, and,
5. Cruz is still perceived as strong on border security.

Unlike in Utah, John Kasich doesn’t figure to cost Cruz many potential votes in Arizona.

If the Arizona election was put off another week, I’m guessing Cruz would have a greatly improved chance to win. As it is, if Ted somehow pulls an upset, he’ll carry a lot of momentum into Wisconsin in two weeks.

We’ll know more by tomorrow.

Mysterious unbound delegates might make all the difference in determining the nominee

While we may have an updated delegate total by Wednesday, we still won’t know with 100% certainty how the delegates themselves will vote once the party convenes in Cleveland in July for the GOP convention.

Technically speaking, delegates earned through the primary process are committed to vote for their candidate on the first ballot at the convention. But there are many who disagree on who must do what and state rules are often hazy on the subject, providing little guidance.

And that “haze” certainly goes for the so-called “unbound” delegates as well, who act somewhat like free agents floating around uncommitted. If no candidate reaches the magic 1237 number, those unbound people will become vitally important.

Jonathan Easley and Ben Kamisar of The Hill report, “Under Republican Party rules, delegates from states that hold presidential primaries must be bound by those results. Those delegates must back their candidate for at least the first ballot at the GOP convention in Cleveland in July.

“But many delegates — potentially close to 200 — are not bound by those rules.”

Needless to say, there’s a rigorous “recruiting” effort going on behind the scenes to sway these unbound delegates. Donald Trump has said many times recently that the candidate who goes into Cleveland with the most delegates deserves the nomination.

But for every person who might be swayed by such a proposition there are several others who see as their responsibility to the party to pick a candidate who will best represent them.

Most seem to agree it should be one of the candidates who’ve gone through the exhaustive campaign process, so it doesn’t appear that someone like Mitt Romney or Paul Ryan would be able to swoop in and steal the nomination. Party leaders certainly must realize such a move would be the end of the GOP as we know it.

Realistically speaking, it has to be Trump or Cruz. I think they too realize it will be one or the other.

Ted Cruz will be going to the convention with a significant amount of support and would be very deserving of the top spot on the ticket. His winning the nomination would be completely legitimate – and I’m guessing a lot of the Trump people would go along with it as well.

Trump has suggested there might be rioting if he goes into the convention with the most delegates but doesn’t come out the nominee. But either way, he won’t end up as the president no matter how much “unrest” happens amongst his backers. And the country will be in shambles.

If Trump truly loves America as he says he does, that’s not a result he would want to see.

Trump finally names his Foreign Policy team

Last week Ted Cruz released the list of people he’d be consulting in matters of foreign affairs and I noted at the time that Donald Trump had only said he’d consult with Senator Jeff Sessions -- and himself -- in determining how to steer America’s ship of State.

Trump’s taken a lot of flak over his lack of specifics throughout the campaign, perhaps nowhere more than in foreign policy.

Well, that’s all changed. Trump has finally produced a list of five folks who will serve as advisers in his administration, with more to come, apparently.

Nick Gass of Politico reports, “Those named by Trump include counterterrorism expert Walid Phares; Carter Page, a long-time energy industry consultant; George Papadopoulos (‘an oil and energy consultant. Excellent guy’); Joe Schmitz, a former inspector general at the Defense Department; retired Army Lt. Gen. Keith Kellogg, ‘and quite a few more,’ Trump told the editorial board at the meeting in downtown Washington, where he was accompanied by campaign manager Corey Lewandowski and spokeswoman Hope Hicks.”

I’m sure there will be a fair amount of analysis and commentary on Trump’s potential advisers in the coming days and weeks as the media researches the backgrounds of Trump’s people.

But seeing as they’re not exactly household names, I have to wonder whether they’re more like paper-advisers meant to get the media and conservatives off his back rather than people Trump will actually be consulting with on a daily basis.

From appearance, Trump looks to be the ultimate top-down decision-maker who values highly the opinions of few. He insulates himself behind people he perceives to be fiercely loyal – and it doesn’t take long to get into The Donald’s doghouse.

The frontrunner deserves credit for the gesture of releasing names but he also has to provide how they’ll be used. We want to know more about them, other than just name and title.

Confident Donald says he’ll easily get to 1237

Finally today, the ever confident Donald Trump thinks he’ll “easily” get the 1237 delegates needed to win on the first ballot.

Ben Kamisar of The Hill reports Trump said during a news conference on Monday, “I think we will easily make that number of the 1,237…

“We should make it pretty easily. So from what I'm seeing, we won't have to fight at a convention.”

He apparently toned it down later in his talk with reporters, but you get the idea.

I would never expect Trump to say anything different. He began his quest for the Republican nomination claiming he would “win everywhere” and has often stated that Americans will get tired of winning under his presidency.

The only problem is Ted Cruz has already shattered Trump’s “win everywhere” invincibility boast in seven states and figures to add at least one more today.

There’s no getting around it – Trump isn’t going to be able to talk his way into inevitability.

Today’s vote in Arizona and Utah should help make sure of it.

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