Now that Donald Trump has claimed a third straight commanding victory in Nevada on Tuesday, his path to the Republican nomination is all but assured, a thought that has scared the living daylights out of the party’s establishment leadership.
Yet there’s still a way to stop Trump, if GOP voters and donors coalesce behind Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, at least according to Larry Sabato, election prognosticator and director of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics.
“It’s going to be difficult, but it’s not yet impossible,” Sabato told TheWrap. “He’s the only one with enough support in the various factions of the Republican party to be able to unite those who are opposed to Trump.”
That theory seems to be gaining traction among the Republican establishment with party donors and elected officials flocking to Rubio with a fury over the last 48 hours, despite the Florida senator not having won a single primary or caucus.
But according to Sabato, it might be already too late. Trump’s decisive wins in New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada have already convinced some in the Republican party that he’s their nominee. On Wednesday, Trump scored his first two congressional endorsements from Rep. Duncan Hunter of California and Rep. Chris Collins of New York.
Not to mention, he remains at the top of polls both nationally and in most of the Super Tuesday states.
Trump needs just over half of the total number of delegates to clinch the Republican nomination. Most of the early March delegates are awarded proportionally. After March 15, it’s winner takes all. But Trump is already on a pace to have built up a sufficient lead by then. At that point, it would be all but impossible for anyone else to catch up.
Trump is so far ahead at this point, political site The Hill called his rivals’ chances “grim.”
“I’m not sure that they can stop Trump,” Sabato said. “The establishment Republican party has failed miserably. They still have a chance if they can unite behind one candidate.”
If they do, Sabato says, they should forget about Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.
“Cruz can’t do it. It’s over for Cruz. He failed where he had to succeed in South Carolina. He did poorly last night in Nevada.”
If Trump does end up winning the nomination, Sabato says the Republican party leaders will have no one to blame but themselves. He says the GOP was convinced that the Trump phenomenon would eventually fizzle once more candidates dropped out of the race. But that hasn’t happened.
“The GOP mistakenly believed that the support for Bush and some other candidates would simply migrate on mass to one of the anti-Trump candidates but that’s not how politics works,” adding that “every candidate has a certain percentage that would go to Rubio, a certain percentage that would go to Cruz and a certain percentage that would go to Trump.”