Donald Trump has won 19 of the 32 contests so far in the Republican presidential primary race. He has a 250-plus delegate lead over Ted Cruz and is the only candidate with a plausible path to the 1,237 delegates he would need to formally become the Republican Party’s standard-bearer in the fall election.
Far from uniting behind Trump, however, the national party — or at least many of its leaders — continue to huddle in hopes of devising a plan to stop him. The latest: House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (Wis.) met with a number of major donors, including New York financier Paul Singer, on Thursday in Florida to discuss their options when it comes to Trump.
That’s a far cry from how the party treated Mitt Romney in 2012. As soon as it became clear that Romney had effectively put down the challenge from Rick Santorum, the party establishment rallied to his side. On April 25, 2012, the Republican National Committee declared Romney the presumptive nomineeand began coordinating its efforts with his.
It made a big difference — as evidenced by this chart from GOP consultantAlex Gage which compares Romney’s winning percentages state by state in 2012 with Trump’s performance to date.
Two things immediately jump out at me from the chart:
1. As soon as the RNC backed Romney, his margins jumped through the roof. Now, that’s not all because of the RNC. Romney had just come off victories in five states before he was tagged as the “presumptive nominee” and the race was getting very close to being totally over by the time the party committee stepped in.
2. Prior to the RNC’s involvement, Romney was averaging 43 percent of the vote in primaries and caucuses. Trump is averaging 35 percent. That’s a big difference.
Gage’s chart suggests two very different things. The first is that Trump is not consolidating support in any meaningful way just yet and is not matching the win margins of the last GOP nominee even as he continues to rack up wins. The second is that it seems relatively clear that if the party did decide to get behind Trump at this point, it would go a long way to helping him get to the 1,237 delegates he would need to be the party’s nominee.
That’s the question facing establishment Republicans today: Do they line up behind Trump now in hopes of managing him and making him more acceptable to a general electorate or do they continue to fight like hell to keep him from the nomination, running the risk by doing so that they could severely damage him and themselves for November?
The latter route appears to be the one that most establishment Republicans are taking. For now.