Trump falters on Super Tuesday

The media talking heads are all agog chatting up Donald Trump’s “commanding victory” on Super Tuesday.  But they are wrong.  In fact, Trump fell seriously short.

While it is true that Trump won 7 out of the 11 states in contention on March 1, he won only 237 out of 562 delegates thus far awarded, for a score of 42%. 

Before Super Tuesday, Trump had 82 out of 126 awarded delegates, or 65%.  But after the smoke has now cleared, his new total is 319 out of 688, or 46%.  If his win ratio in future primaries can be limited to what he achieved on Super Tuesday, he will arrive in Cleveland with minority of delegates and will fail to seize the nomination.

Trump’s dramatic decline in performance occurred after only five days of serious attacks by other candidates.  There are another 13 days before the next round of major contests on March 15, and 100 days before the decisive 172-delegate winner-take-all California primary on June 7.  Trump is going to take a lot more battering.  Far from being hopeless, the chances for beating him are excellent.

To ultimately beat Trump, however, the Republican candidates must adopt the right tactics.  The wrong strategy, which unfortunately we saw up until the February 25 debate, would be for the genuine Republican candidates to strive to drive each other out of the race in order to gain a one-on-one match with the counterfeit intruder.  The right approach is for all direct fire against Trump.  If Rubio and Cruz want to have a real two-man contest, they need to ally against Trump and cut him down to size.  Then they can have their two-man race – against each other.  But the first priority of both needs to be to eliminate the menace of a Trump first ballot victory.

No candidate is going to do the others the favor of withdrawing from the national race.  But as the winner-take-all primaries of March 15 approach, they must rise to the occasion and withdraw from contention against each other in specific states.  Neither Rubio nor Cruz should campaign in Ohio.  Let Kasich take it and secure that state’s 66 delegates against Trump.  Neither Cruz nor Kasich should campaign in Florida.  Let Rubio take it and secure Florida’s 99 delegates against Trump.  Cruz has the best chance in Missouri, so he should be given a clear field there.  Responsibility for the remaining states should be divided along the same lines.

Any other strategy is insane.  It will be hard enough for Rubio to win Florida, without wasting energy in Ohio to help Trump beat Kasich there.  Instead of wasting resources helping Trump win Florida, Cruz should seize the moment to take the states not vital to Rubio or Kasich.  Instead of weakening themselves fighting each other everywhere, the Republicans need to focus their forces on their respective best territories, stay out of each other’s way, and make Trump spread his forces thin fighting them all on multiple fronts.

Returning to Super Tuesday, I have been searching for an analogy from military history.  The closest I can think of is the Battle of the Marne in 1914, with Cruz playing France, Rubio Britain, and Trump Germany.  In August 1914, the Kaiser’s armies were victorious everywhere.  They annihilated the Russians at Tannenberg in the east, beat the French in the battle of the frontiers, routed the combined Anglo-French forces in Belgium, and were pouring into France.  By early September, they were within a few miles of Paris, and total defeat for the allies seemed imminent.  But on September 5, the weary French, who had been retreating nonstop for two weeks, turned; took a stand on the river Marne; and, with British support, delivered a blow that halted the German onslaught.

The “Miracle of the Marne” did not win the war for the Allies, but it denied the Germans victory.  It took four more years of tough trench and naval warfare for the allies to win.  But eventually they did.

Vive la Marne.

Robert Zubrin is president of Pioneer Energy of Lakewood, Colo., and the author of The Case for Mars.  The paperback edition of his latest book, Merchants of Despair: Radical Environmentalists, Criminal Pseudo-Scientists, and the Fatal Cult of Antihumanism, was recently published by Encounter Books.