By Yigit Topcu
With a strong three win streak from New Hampshire to South Carolina to Nevada, Donald Trump now appears to be well on his way to win the Republican nomination. This, coupled with the exit of the establishment-favored Jeb Bush after his sluggish performance, has sent shockwaves throughout the mainstream and establishment wings of the Republican Party.
Senator Lindsey Graham, who once called Donald Trump a “jackass” and told him to “go to hell”, said after the Nevada results, “I’m running out of adjectives how bad I think Donald Trump is for the party and the country.” Karl Rove, an active political consultant to the Republican Party and former senior adviser to President George W. Bush, remained hopeful that “There is still time for the non-Trump GOP majority to coalesce around a single candidate”, adding “but not much”, and that failure to do so would mean for them “the same fate as Caesar.”
It seems like that single candidate is slowly emerging to be Marco Rubio. The Florida Senator’s disastrous blunder from a past debate where he repeated a rehearsed line almost five times in a row seems to have slowed him down tremendously, but not quite end his campaign. So far he has had the most endorsements out of the Republican Party, followed by Ted Cruz’s endorsements coming from the more conservative tea party Republicans, particularly in the House.
However it is difficult to say if Marco Rubio can build up that momentum: the damage to his reputation from the perception that he is a scripted amateur, coupled with his ties to the establishment, is not very likely to win over Trump’s supporters. Their anger with the Republican Party and Washington is over essentially those same characterizing attacks on Marco Rubio: anger and frustration over disingenuous politicians who are embedded into “the system” or “the establishment”.
Donald Trump meanwhile received his first endorsements from Congress on Wednesday. Representative Chris Collins of New York said Trump had “the guts and fortitude” to take on topics like North Korea, China and ISIS. Meanwhile Representative Duncan Hunter of California throw his support behind Trump, saying “We don’t need a policy wonk as president. We need a leader.”
This perhaps signals the beginning of a reluctant, at least partial, embrace of Donald Trump by the party whose primary he has essentially hijacked.
The numbers around endorsements and election results tells a clear story of this nomination process so far. Marco Rubio has more endorsements from Republicans in Congress than the rest of the GOP field combined. At the same time, as a result of his victories, Donald Trump now has almost twice the number of delegates than the rest of the GOP field.
Trump currently holds 82 delegates as of Nevada, while Ted Cruz comes in second with just 17, and Rubio in third place with 16.
If a different candidate had a lead this big and this point in the race, there would be no question who the nomination was going to. However, because a Trump nomination is something of a nightmare scenario for the mainstream Republican Party, this signal foretelling who the nominee will be is causing much more panic than assurance and acceptance.
While mainstream Republicans are throwing their unenthused support behind Marco Rubio, and Ted Cruz struggles to win over Trump fans (a group which he feels is similar to his own supporters), Donald Trump has been leading the field with major victories at the polls while Rubio wins the endorsements.
Unfortunately for the Republican Party, it is not the count of how many endorsements a candidate receives that wins the nomination.