Donald Trump is building strength atop the polls, and with just a little more than a week until actual voting starts, there is some thought that he could sweep his way to the most decisive primary victory of all time.
Trump has been the Republican front runner since just after his official entry into the race last year, and for about the entire time there are pundits who have expected his lead to fizzle. The traditional wisdom was that one of the more established candidates like Marco Rubio or Jeb Bush would eventually take over and the voters’ fascination with Trump would fade.
That has not happened. Instead, Trump has continued to build his lead, both nationally and in the key early states of Iowa and New Hampshire. A new CNN/ORC poll released Thursday found that Trump leads Texas Senator Ted Cruz by a margin of 37 percent to 26 percent.
Now some pundits believe that Trump could end up sweeping all of the primaries, something that’s never been done by a non-incumbent.
“There’s a very real possibility that, far from those kinds of days of reckoning, Donald Trump could actually “run the table,’ ” noted Noah Millman of the Week. “Ironically, Trump not only could win — he could win more decisively than any non-incumbent Republican contestant for the nomination since the dawn of the modern primary system.”
— CNN (@CNN) January 21, 2016
— Dylan Byers (@DylanByers) January 21, 2016
Millman noted that a Cruz loss in Iowa could clear the field for Trump, allowing him to sweep South Carolina and the larger states that followed.
If Trump wins both Iowa and New Hampshire, and then goes on to win South Carolina and Nevada — as he is favored to do — he could very conceivably win every contest, or at worst lose a favored son state or two like Cruz’s Texas. Nobody has run the table like that — not Nixon in 1968, nor Reagan in 1980, nor Bush in 2000.
Donald Trump is even winning over previous skeptics. Nate Silver, the FiveThirtyEight pundit who had been hesitant to declare Trump the front runner in past weeks, is now much higher on Trump’s chances. While he noted that Trump’s support in Iowa is still soft and his ground game is inferior to Ted Cruz’s, Silver said Trump has defied all logic so far.
Despite being behind on “electability,” Trump has started to earn support from party elites. The governor of Iowa, Terry Branstad, said he wants Ted Cruz to lose in the state, and Bob Dole warned that it would be a disaster if Cruz won.
As Silver noted, there is no singular push for a candidate other than Donald Trump.
“Just as important, there are few signs that Republicans have much of a strategy for whom to back apart from Trump. Four ‘establishment lane’ candidates — Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, John Kasich and Rubio — are tightly packed in New Hampshire polls. That could potentially change before New Hampshire votes because of tactical voting. And whichever of these candidates perform worst in the early states will probably drop out.”
But there could still be some big difficulties for Donald Trump that don’t show up in the polls. As many have noted, Cruz has a more sophisticated campaign team in Iowa and a better get-out-the-vote effort, and a victory for the Texas senator could give him momentum toward New Hampshire and beyond. And Trump, for all his expertise in getting headlines and connecting with voters, is inexperienced when it comes to actually getting voters from their homes to the polls.
[Picture by Ralph Freso/Getty Images]