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Donald Trump’s rise and resilience is unique in our modern political history. He seems almost to be the default setting for the Republican primary voter.
If he screws up on television, a few supporters may leave him for a few weeks. If Ted Cruz spends millions on ads and has every endorsement in a certain state (say, Wisconsin), he might beat Trump in that one state. But then The Donald snaps right back to a dominant position.
In the past two weeks, Trump has made very little news — his handlers are keeping him off news interview shows, and he hasn’t made any major policy pronouncements. The media has been filled with inside baseball about Colorado, North Dakota, Wyoming, Rule 40B and the second ballot. And Trump has run very little in the way of paid media.
With his overwhelming triumph in New York Tuesday and leads in all five states set to vote a week later (Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, Rhode Island and Connecticut), it now looks like the billionaire will get the overwhelming share of the 267 delegates to be selected over this period, putting him less than 100 votes shy of 1,000 delegates. Trump needs 1,237 to take the nomination outright.
But things can change.
Cruz could get off the mat and win Pennsylvania, a state where 54 of the total 71 delegates are not bound and where the senator is doing well in the delegate selection process.
Or Cruz could win Indiana’s 57 votes and Nebraska’s 36.
If Cruz did that and parlayed his strength in the far West into wins on the Pacific Coast, he could block Trump and win on the second ballot.
But there is no denying that Trump is a force of nature, like magnetism or gravity; his grip on the Republican primary voter is so strong. He may have a 75 percent negative rating among America’s women, but there is not much gender gap in his primary vote. He does about as well among Republican women as he does with Republican men.
Republicans won the election of 2004 by bringing 10 million more (largely white) voters out than voted in 2000. Barack Obama won in 2008 by bringing out 10 million more blacks, Latinos and young people than voted in 2004.
Mitt Romney lost, in part, because 10 million white voters stayed home in 2012.
Trump can get them back. In the primaries, he has demonstrated a vote-getting power that is extraordinary. Without a field organization worth mentioning, he has pushed Republican turnout to a level 75 percent higher than it was in 2012. When all is done, about 33 million people will vote in the GOP primaries, up from 19 million four years ago. There’s the missing 10 million (or 14 million).
Can Trump’s ability to get his voters out and hold their support win in the face of his terrible national general election numbers?
That is the question.
The real estate mogul clearly has a 10-point problem. He runs 10 points worse among women against Hillary Clinton than Romney did against Obama. He is 10 points less favorable and 10 points more unfavorable than Clinton. And he loses to her by 10 in the RealClearPolitics average, 49 percent to 39 percent.
But, don’t count him out. Trump could still beat Clinton.
Who knows what the impact of the FBI investigation into Clinton’s State emails will be. Bernie Sanders has waged an antiseptic campaign on the issues without having the ill grace to bring up the subject — not to mention the Benghazi report.
And Clinton has such a propensity for making mistakes!
Trump could use his opposition to trade deals and his refusal to take super-PAC money to rally Sanders voters, who supported Bernie over the same issues.
The race ain’t over.