GOP crisis deepens as Trump solidifies his lead

Dallas Morning News, Editorial 

ct-trump-super-tuesday-video-20160301The fabled brokered convention, when no candidate arrives with a majority of delegates, has been the stuff of history books and cinema since 1952.

Today’s Republican Party might have to hope for one last hurrah. Donald Trump, incomprehensible as presidential nominee mere months ago, isn’t quite ready for his convention-closing photo op, but someone should start filling the balloons.

As many party leaders feared, Trump dominated the Super Tuesday voting. He won at least six more states, Alabama to Massachusetts, and declared himself “a unifier.”

In Texas, home-state Sen. Ted Cruz managed to hold off Trump for his first win since Iowa, but his strategy has long targeted Tuesday as his breakthrough moment, with a calendar in line with his hard-right evangelicalism. Instead, even with a solid win at home and another in neighboring Oklahoma, his path forward remains questionable.

More worrisome for GOP establishment types: That may be the only good news. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio contended enough to stay alive but no more. And Ohio Gov. John Kasich, this newspaper’s recommended choice, was a factor only in Vermont. The longer the anti-Trump vote is split, the more it works to the front-runner’s advantage.

Once an ego-driven novelty campaign, the Trump juggernaut is close to taking over the GOP with its combination of new converts and disenfranchised Republicans determined to overthrow all in its path. The Trump brilliance has been tapping into a well of angry voters weary of political correctness and politics as usual.

Trump remains far short of the 1,237 delegates he needs for the nomination, but he’s far closer than anyone might have imagined last summer.

Just to survive, Kasich probably must win Michigan on March 8 and his home state March 15, when the primaries become winner-take-all. Similarly, Rubio must win Florida on March 15.

The polling leader in all three states, of course, is Donald Trump.

If all those things happen, maybe — maybe — what’s left of the GOP establishment can get its wish and have the vote come down to the convention floor in Cleveland. Another path, similarly hard to envision, is that a Rubio, Kasich or even Cruz starts consistently and decisively beating Trump at the ballot box.

Most befuddling to GOP leaders is Trump’s ability to skip between the raindrops of what for anyone else might be disqualifying behavior. From Megyn Kelly to John McCain to barring Muslims and walling off the Mexican border to, more recently, quoting Mussolini or professing ignorance of the Klan … Precious little sticks with GOP primary voters.

That may not matter to his growing legion of fans, some clearly enthralled with reality-TV-come-to-real-life. If it matters to the rest of the GOP, wishing doesn’t make it so.

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